by Charlie O. Mallonee
“One and done”draftees create a need for more NBA player development
The day of the four-year college player becoming a number one draft choice in the NBA is over for the foreseeable future. The NBA considered seeking a change in the next CBA to change the minimum draft age requirement from 19 to 20-years old. That would create a “two and done” environment where the players had more experience and more would be known about their skills. Rumors coming out of the Collective Bargain Agreement negotiations indicate that the league has dropped its move to make that change.
NBA teams are having to invest big money in young, unproven players (and rumors indicate the rookie scale is going to increase in the next CBA) and have to then develop their skills. There are a few players like Cousins, Wall, Rose, Davis and Anthony that step into “the Association” and have an immediate impact, but they are the exception.
The majority of “one and done” players need development to become NBA ready. That requires playing time. Enter the NBA D-League. There are 22 teams (15 owned by NBA teams) that are dedicated to the development of basketball talent just as minor league baseball works to develop players for the Major Leagues.
The D-League has grown in number of teams and in its importance of developing talent
The D-League was established in 2001. At the time, it had an independent competitor in the Continental Basketball Association which has since become extinct. The league was a place for undrafted, free agent talent to keep playing in hopes of being seen and signed by an NBA team. It was also a spot for players waived by NBA teams to try to work themselves back into “the Association”.
Now the role of the league has changed. Every NBA team has 15 players on its roster. Two to three of those players are rookies who need playing time. Unlike baseball where there is a complicated options system, the NBA allows free movement of players on the roster between two leagues. A player can be on the Sacramento roster and go play in Reno and then come back to the Kings the next day.
Teams can draft international players and develop them here
Let’s use the Kings as an example. This year they drafted 19-year old Georgios Papagiannis from Greece. In years past, Papagiannis would have remained in Europe to get playing time to develop until the Kings thought he was ready to contribute at the NBA level.
Now that the Kings own the Reno Bighorns, they have Papagiannis assigned to the D-League where he can develop under the watchful eye of Peja Stojakovic, vice president of player development for the Kings and general manger of the Big Horns. Papagiannis will learn the system he will play in at the next level, and if needed by the Kings, he just two hours away in Reno.
It’s all about playing time
There is nothing that can substitute for actual playing time. That’s why forward Skal Labissiere, guard Malachi Richardson along with center Papagiannis were sent to the Bighorns. None of these three youngsters would have seen the floor in Friday night’s game between the Kings and Portland. They do not have the experience to compete and contribute in that type of intense game.
That is the value of the D-League. These three players will receive priority playing time that will speed their development and increase the chances they will become valuable, productive assets for the Sacramento Kings.
The Bighorns season opens on Sunday
The Bighorns open the 2016-17 season on Sunday on the road in Texas against the Rio Grande Valley Vipers – the D-League entry of the Houston Rockets. Tipoff is scheduled for 4:00 PM PST and you can watch the game live (and for free) on the NBA D-League Facebook page. Beginning in January, games can also be seen on NBA.TV and ESPNU.
Darrick Martin is the first-year head coach of the Bighorns. He was a radio analyst for the UCLA Men’s Basketball Radio Network last season. Prior to that, he spent three years as an assistant coach on Steve Lavin’s staff at St. John’s University.
Martin played point guard in the NBA for 13 years. He was a member of the Sacramento Kings two seasons from 1999 to 2001. Martin also played for Minnesota, Vancouver, Los Angeles Clippers, Dallas and Toronto.
Martin joined the staff of Minnesota Timberwolves as an assistant coach and player development specialist after his retirement as a player.
A UCLA alumnus, Martin played four years for the Bruins for head coach Jim Harrick.
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