The Developmental League has been a half-assed and half-hearted attempt to provide a farm system for the NBA with about the results one would expect from such a poorly conceived half-measure. By trying to avoid the costs for each team to have a farm team the owners/league dodged maybe half the costs but created a system that best benefits neither the satellite teams, their host cities, the NBA clubs, nor the players. With affiliations in flux, marketing lines blurred, coaching inconsistent, allegiances mixed, and players concerned only for their cameo-for-a-call-up, none of the possible advantages are maximized and absolutely no one is served well.
Dateline: August 7, 2012––54 days until the start of training camp!
The best model, and the only one that makes any real sense, is for each NBA team to have a farm club over which it has complete control. It can coach players into their system, emphasize areas in which they expect to need help, bring players along at a speed to aid rather than retard their development, get a full return on monies invested, market and develop organizational allegiance, and build at least a minimal buffer against the whims of lady luck and the injured list. It would build a coaching assembly line as well as one for players. It would, or at least could, foster regional interest and fan base, expand promotional effects, and boost attendance and viewership. In fact it makes such obvious sense that one has to wonder why it didn’t start that way, or at least morph into this model straightaway.
Instead we have a constantly changing lineup of team affiliations, players with incentives only to pad their own statistics and exposure, coaches without a clear objective, and cities with little reason to be excited or to build an allegiance. The quality of basketball borders on terrible, often resembling an And-1 exhibition. Poor team play and rampant individual selfishness are the order of the day. The product is poor, the player improvement stunted, and the return on investment minimized. Considering the owners are supposed to be shrewd businessmen, this is a hellofa way to run an organization.
Rosters should be expanded to 19, with at least four and as many as six assigned to the D-League. Minimum salaries should be $200K with players assigned to the farm club paid one quarter of their NBA salary while on assignment. Every team should have a farm club with the training camp starting on the day the NBA regular season begins. Player movement between the parent club and the farm team should be unhindered so as to encourage movement permit/enable/encourage rehab assignments so veterans can work back into shape after injuries without languishing on the bench or pushing into re-injury situations.
The D-League season should end on March 15 with a short playoff, perhaps a single elimination tournament, over by April 1st when NBA active rosters would be expanded to 16. This would enable teams to rest veterans, many/most of whom are nursing nagging injuries by that time anyway, and provide a better product during the playoffs. Playoff rosters would return to normal size and active limitations.
The expanded D-League would provide team system continuity, a coaching pipeline, player development, referee development, regional involvement and allegiances, expanded marketing and community involvement campaigns, likely a better quality of basketball at both the farm and Association levels, and take pressure off colleges to serve as one-and-done basketball mills. Off-season promotional opportunities are enormous—Old Blood vs. New Red Cross blood drives, Sister City bowling tournaments with pro/”amateur” flights, Vets vs. Young guns golf tournaments, Over-25 vs. Under-25 fishing tournaments, Bash Night with the Celtics against the Red Claws in bump-bump cars. The additional costs would be minimal and the return on investment major. Nah, never happen, makes far too much sense.
Boston, and all points beyond