By: Anthony Sain
When it was announced that the Memphis Grizzlies would have single-affiliation partnership with the Iowa Energy of the NBA Developmental League, I like many was extremely excited. Having a D-League team where you can send your young players under contract to develop under continuity is an added bonus to a front office that has shown that is not shy about being innovative. Imagining Jordan Adams and Jarnell Stokes learning the concepts of “Joerger Ball” while away in Iowa as well as the ability to send non-contract players like Kalin Lucas, who was able to serve as an emergency “third point guard,’ sounded fantastic. This type of system also moved the NBA closer to resembling a relationship between the major league and minor league system that you see in baseball, which has the best minor league of all sports. Memphis would be joining the 16 other NBA teams that have one-to- one affiliation, which is more than half of the NBA.
When the Grizzlies ended their preseason, I for one was not surprised that no one from the Grizz preseason roster would be retained for the main roster. Even though Nick Calathes was out serving a suspension, there was no major need to add a contract and lose a roster spot for an emergency player. The Grizz opted to use Iowa Energy point guard Kalin Lucas, as an example of the benefits of D-League affiliation by bringing him back and forth as needed like in the case when several players were out with a stomach virus against Toronto earlier this season. Also brought up during that stint with Lucas was fellow former Grizzlies preseason teammate and Iowa Energy teammate Hassan Whiteside. Whiteside, a seven-foot center, who entered the 2010 NBA Draft after his freshman year after leading the nation in blocks, never panned out in his first NBA stint. He was drafted in the second round by the Sacramento Kings but also had stints in both Lebanon and China. Whiteside was of course signed by the Miami Heat where he has flourished, including a monster triple double that he had on Sunday evening in just 24 minutes, finishing with 14 points, 13 rebounds and 12 blocks in a victory against the Chicago Bulls. Whiteside then followed this game with a 16 point, 16 rebound game Tuesday night against Milwaukee. Seeing Whiteside flourish on another team after the Grizz not only invited him to camp, played him on the preseason roster, sent him to their own D-League team and brought him up to the main roster is frustrating and is the also the subject of this edition of Noise From The Sain Asylum as I take a look at how D- League Affiliation can be improved.
In order for the NBA Developmental league to serve as a true minor league system, all 30 NBA teams would need to have single-affiliation. Sending players back and forth to the D-League could get cumbersome if teams continue to have to share roster spots with several NBA teams. It is a clear advantage to have D-League teams with coaches that will be running the specific offensive and defensive sets that the parent team would like to see implemented. If a team were interested in developing their players under contract or a free-agent, it would help to know that the player is being groomed by coaches of their preference and liking. Although the Grizzlies were beneficiaries of landing James Johnson from the Houston Rockets D-League affiliate the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, the Grizz were on the unfortunate end of the D-League dilemma this season. Since Hassan Whiteside was not under contract, the Grizz did not own his rights and the Heat were able to obtain him in a similar fashion to the way that we obtained Johnson. In my opinion, NBA teams should be able to have rights to D-League prospects without having to burn a roster spot or have that player’s salary count against their salary cap. One way that I propose that this could be done is to allow teams to have an additional three roster spots for developmental players and a salary allotment of $2 million. This $2 million allotment could be used in whatever manner the team wants. If the team wants to pay one player $2 million to one player or spread it over three, it is up to them how to use the allotted salary. Something like this could open the door for more undrafted or wash-out players to choose the D-League over playing overseas, being that currently the D-League’s salary are laughable compared to what some players are getting overseas. 90 more possible players getting paid at a comparable rate to what they are making overseas would solidify the D-League even more. Changes like I have described will definitely not happen overnight but I am definitely in favor of seeing teams being able to maximize their affiliation with the developmental league using concepts like the ones that I have listed. Here’s to hoping that the Grizz can hide their next big thing out in Iowa just a tad bit longer.
The Sain Asylum
The Sain Asylum