An even deeper look into the NBA D-League
Ever since the league expanded in 2005, the NBA has been able to use the D-League improve itself.
For starters, the D-League can be used for players who weren’t taken in the NBA draft. They are placed on a team and given some time to develop and see if they have the potential to move up.
The NBA also uses the system for rule changes and experimentation.
“They tried the basketball that the NBA rejected two years ago for half the season,” said Toros play-by-play caller Marc Hoenig. “That was in the D-League the entire previous year, more of a synthetic ball than the leather ball.”
The ball was later rejected due to numerous complaints over the grip and feel of the ball. A rule change hasn’t been shifted from the league to the NBA yet, but they continue to experiment with them for now.
Teams in the league also run the same scheme as their NBA affiliates. For players that are called up they have a large advantage within the system they have already been working in.
The D-League also gives opportunities to players who had retired or left the game of basketball but wish to return. These people can come to open try-outs and see where their luck (and skill) takes them.
For undersized players at their position, the league offers them a chance to continue playing.
“Well I think that a lot of these players kind of get typecast, and it’s a numbers game as far as their measurables and we see it in other sports as well,” said Hoenig. “You might have a guy whose 6-foot-6 who is a power forward where if he’s not 6-foot-9 the NBA is reluctant to look at him.”
They may not receive the large paycheck NBA players receive, but, they can continue to have a job they love.
But while it has all these positive effects for the NBA (and players within), it has its downsides as well.
Players can be called up by any NBA team, not just their affiliate. For players this is problematic being brought into a new team’s scheming system. For the D-League team it is also problematic because they can lose a player at anytime to anything in the NBA.
Which brings up another important point: players constantly leaving the D-League make team play, especially defense, difficult.
“You’re telling me I have ten days to work on defense and hold other teams to under 90 points a game because of it?” Toros Coach Brad Jones once asked.
League play is much higher scoring as a result. Players continually work on their shooting, dunking and post-up moves, while defense can’t be without the teammates around them.
And yet, maybe that’s a blessing in disguise. A coach who can gather the reigns of a team with constant changes has the makings of greatness.
“I tell everyone you should have to spend a year in the D-league being a coach if you’re going to be a good coach,” said Toros Coach Brad Jones. “Things are always in flux and there’s no standard so it really challenges you as a coach.”
It can be a difficult thing to grasp and work with, but coaches within the D-League hope to use it as motivation to move up.
“I think you have a difficulty in balancing a team philosophy at any level your at,” said Jones. “I coach in the summer, a 12 year old au team and I struggle with that, so as a coach you’re always concerned about that. Guys like playing together, having structure, some guys figure out that they have to prove they can be part of a winning team to go to the NBA and be part of a winning structure.”
The D-League has always been a great opportunity for everyone in it. They develop their skills and hope to move up just like anyone else in the world. Overall, the league was an excellent creation to help the NBA, the players, the coaches and all the other staff to improve. It has its flaws, even makes team play difficult at times, but it has been a vital aspect to the growth of the NBA. And it will only get stronger as more and more attention is drawn to it.