by Charlie O. Mallonee
In talking or reading about players in the NBA D-League, you will often come across different designations for players. For example, Lamar Patterson who was the leading scorer for the Reno Bighorns on Sunday is listed as an “affiliate player of the Sacramento Kings”.
What does that mean? There are several categories of player in the D-League, so let’s try to work our way through the basics.
NBA Affiliate Player
As NBA teams waive players in the preseason, they have the first opportunity of signing those players to their D-League affiliate.
Teams can designate up to four “affiliate players”. These player remain free agents in the NBA and those players are free to sign with any of the 30 NBA organizations. The affiliate status allows teams to keep players they like learning their system should the need arise for a player at the NBA level.
Only 22 teams can have affiliate players because not all teams have a dedicated D-League team associated with their organization.
Lamar Patterson and second-round draft pick Isaiah Cousins are affiliate players with the Kings who are playing for the Bighorns.
NBA D-League teams retain the rights to any player who has played for that team within the last two seasons – as long as the team has not released that player.
The Bighorns have two returning players – forward Kadeem Jack and guard Mark Tyndale.
NBA organizations can assign players with three years or less service to their D-League affiliate an unlimited number of times. Unlike baseball with the its complicated options rules, NBA can move players up and down as often as they see fit.
For example in 2014-15, 56 different players were assigned to D-League teams a total of 195 times. Because most the development teams are in close proximity to the parent clubs, free movement between the organizations is very feasible.
The Kings have three players assigned to Reno in this designation: forward Skal Labissiere, center Georgios Papagiannis and guard Malachi Richardson.
NBA Draft Rights Players
These are affectionately known as “domestic draft-and-stash” players. The “draft rights player” rule allows D-League teams to directly acquire players from their NBA parent team’s draft list bypassing the usual D-League player selection processes.
The Oklahoma City Thunder was the first team to use this rule in 2012 when they selected Josh Huestis from Stanford in the first round for the purposes of sending him to the D-League.
NBA Draft-Eligible Players
These are players who are eligible but have not entered the NBA Draft. They can instead enter the NBA D-League and keep their NBA Draft status.
If a player signs with the D-League before the season, he is eligible to enter the D-League Draft. If the player signs mid-season, he is available to D-League teams through the wavier pool claiming process.
NBA Draft-Eligible players cannot be called up by NBA teams. This the only category of players in the D-League that has that limitation.
Players who have used the route to eventually enter the NBA are: P.J. Hairston – who is back in the league with the Vipers, Thanasis Antetokounmpo and Glen Rice,Jr.
Local Tryout Players
These are my favorite players. Guys who have not given up the dream and believe if given the chance, they can make it happen. D-League teams can invite up to five players from their open tryouts to join their training camps.
Jonathan Simmons who played college basketball at Houston attended an open tryout for the Austin Spurs in 2013. He was added to the San Antonio Spurs roster in 2015 and is now a major component of their second unit this season.
Other ways to make the D-League
- D-League Draft: around 200 players are signed by the league in put into a draft pool. Approximately half of these 200 players are selected on Draft Day.
- Free Agents: there will be an influx of free agents hitting the market for the D-League as winter approaches. Players will be returning to the country from playing overseas and there will be NBA players who been released who are trying to work their way back into the league. These players are selected by the D-League teams on a rotational wavier system.
Information supplied by dleague.nba.com was used in the writing of this article