With controversy over the possibility of paying NCAA athletes still brewing, the solution to the issue of player harvesting for professional sports is already right under the NBA’s nose – its Development League.
The NBADL has already had its fair share of success stories, like Eric Bledsoe, Patrick Beverley, Gerald Green, Avery Bradley, Tony Wroten, and, hot off the press, Hassan Whiteside… The list goes on and on.
While these players didn’t necessarily become stars in the NBADL, they showed enough talent and enough potential to find their own niches on their own respective NBA teams, and some of them have found stardom. That is just what the D-League is about.
And with the emergence of many more ex D-leaguers making their names heard enough for NBA call ups (Justin Holiday, Elliot Williams, JaMychal Green, etc), it has proven valuable to NBA teams to have their own D-league affiliates.
For example, the Golden State Warriors purchased the Santa Cruz Warriors, a D-league team, to be their own source of young players and developing talent.
Players like Festus Ezeli, James Michael McAdoo, and Ognjen Kuzmic have gone back and forth with the Warriors NBA roster and the D-league team.
And just look how the Warriors are doing so far!
Ok, I am not saying those three players (who?) have had huge effects on the team, but the system is obviously working.
And while neither of those three players have had big, if any, success in the big leagues so far, it is not far off to think they can sometime in the future. Thats what NBA experience, getting time with real NBA players, and being coached by NBA coaches can do for you.
Having two to three young guys on the roster who don’t play much and are developing isn’t usually an option for contenders, but the Warriors can afford to train the younger players because of how well their senior players are performing.
This system will be implemented by many more teams in the future, as the D-league will continue to churn out productive role players and the occasional star.
I wouldn’t be shocked if within the next 5-10 years, we see 30 D-league teams, and each have their own big brother NBA team that utilizes them as more of an academy than a minor league team.
Currently, there are 18 teams in the D-league, and nearly all of them have a single NBA team that they are affiliated with somehow. Since cities like Erie and Bakersfield have teams, its hard to think that other, bigger (or basketball loving) cities, like Seattle, Trenton, or Kansas City, wouldn’t find a way to bring one to town in the near future.
As I mentioned earlier, these teams wouldn’t be just minor league versions of the professional teams, but it would also open an entire new dimension of younger people playing basketball.
These teams could start up new academies for basketball in their cities, replacing ( or joining alongside) AAU basketball and in some ways, college basketball.
The design would be something along the sorts of having basketball camps and training session for very young kids, and the higher the age, the higher the competitions. Eventually, the academy could have A teams, B teams, C teams, and so on, all training at the highest level possible, with a dream set on making the overall final roster of their NBA team.
The process would become a major way for NBA teams to find talent outside of the NBA draft and college basketball, which is looking very needed right now, especially with the controversy still going on as the NCAA struggling in the everlasting debate of paying the players.
The D-league system would not be a replacement for NCAA basketball and all of its great tradition. So many players that play college ball don’t plan on pursuing professional careers and are just doing it on the side of their education.
However, the recent craze in college basketball of one and dones, where college players stay for their freshman season and bolt to the draft, doesn’t look like it is going away soon.
These one-and-dones seem to irk NBA commissioner, Adam Silver, who has made efforts and investigated into the possibility of eliminating this from the game’s culture.
The D-league and its academy system would become a legitimate option for players who have the skills and have their sights set on the big leagues. The current system is broken, and this would be an alternative option for the guys who don’t have the time and don’t have the need to attend a year of school just to reach the NBA.