For years, the conversation surrounding the NBA Development League has focused on the “30 for 30” goal: 30 NBADL affiliates for 30 NBA parent teams.
In the minor league’s 16th season, that goal has taken a major step toward becoming a reality.
When the season tips off, there will be more than 200 prospects vying for a Call-Up, dozens of NBA players displaying their talents while on minor-league assignment, and a Showcase in January on the horizon.
But above all, there will be 22 NBA D-League teams taking the court across the country, each singly affiliated with an NBA franchise.
Here are 10 other storylines to follow during the 2016-17 season:
Five New Teams Make Their Debuts
The Bulls, Hornets and Jazz now have affiliates to call their own. The Jazz and Suns now have affiliates within arm’s reach of their NBA homes.
Five new teams will highlight the NBA D-League slate from now until April: the Greensboro Swarm (Charlotte), Long Island Nets (Brooklyn), Northern Arizona Suns (Phoenix), Salt Lake City Stars (Utah) and Windy City Bulls (Chicago).
Who Will Be the Next Impact Call-Up?
The list of prospects who’ve risen through the NBA D-League ranks and made a splash at the next level grows by the year, and sometimes by the month. So the natural question when it comes to the action on the court is… Who’s Next?
Which NBA Players Will Appear on Assignment?
NBA teams are utilizing their affiliates more than ever before, as evidenced by the all-time high 68 players assigned to the NBA D-League 321 separate times last season.
That group of assignees included Spurs spark plugs Jonathon Simmons and Dewayne Dedmon, young Rockets Montrezl Harrell and KJ McDaniels, and breakout 2015 rookies Norman Powell and Josh Richardson.
Assignments are already coming at a rapid rate this season, and it’s looking like intriguing rookies Dejounte Murray (Spurs), Derrick Jones Jr. (Suns) and Henry Ellenson (Pistons) will be among the NBA talents to watch.
Which Rookies Are Ready to Take Over?
Training camps aren’t the end of the road for a select group of players each season. By rule, NBA teams can retain up to four players they waive during training camp on their NBA D-League affiliates. Many of those players are undrafted rookies from June’s NBA Draft.
Among the candidates to make noise this season are Yogi Ferrell (Indiana/Long Island Nets), Gary Payton II (Oregon State/RGV Vipers), Wayne Selden (Kansas/Iowa Energy) and Anthony “Cat” Barber (NC State/Delaware 87ers).
Who Will Be the Next YouTube Sensation?
Two years ago, Brady Heslip entered his rookie with the Reno Bighorns as a relatively anonymous, 6-foot-2 shooting guard out of Baylor. Two games into his pro career, he had scored 78 points — including 20 three-pointers — in 53 minutes of action and in the process become an internet sensation.
Heslip is back in his native Canada for a season with Raptors 905 and ready to turn more heads. Aquille Carr, Kiwi Gardner, Pierre Jackson and others have made similar waves on social media in seasons past. Who will deliver the most made-for-YouTube highlights?
The Domestic “Draft and Stash”
NBA fans are used to their teams selecting players later in the draft with the idea of stashing them overseas. The domestic “draft and stash” — adding those players to the D-League roster — has become an alternative for several franchises. (The NBADL’s Draft Rights Player rule ensures that teams have exclusive D-League rights to the players they draft.)
Three players selected in the second round of this year’s NBA Draft fall under this umbrella: No. 56 pick Daniel Hamilton, who was traded to the Thunder and will play for the OKC Blue; No. 58 pick Abdel Nader (Celtics/Maine Red Claws); and No. 60 pick Tyrone Wallace (Jazz/Salt Lake City Stars).
Coach Jerry Stackhouse — And Other Fresh Faces on the Sideline
One of the 13 new NBA D-League head coaches hired this offseason? Two-time NBA All-Star Jerry Stackhouse, who assumes the helm of the Raptors’ affiliate after a season as an assistant in Toronto. Joining him on the sidelines will be Nikki Gross, the league’s third-ever female coach and the only one still active.
Former NBA players Coby Karl (L.A. D-Fenders), Darrick Martin (Reno Bighorns) and Rex Walters (Grand Rapids Drive) were also among the new crop of hires.
Next Team in Line?
With 22 teams in tow, the countdown to “30 for 30” is on. While the season plays out on the court, keep another eye on the off-the-court happenings as the eight remaining NBA franchises look to claim their stake in the NBA D-League.
Angloa (Yannick Moreira), Argentina (Patricio Garino), the Congo (Gracin Bakumanya), French Guiana (Livio Jean-Charles), India (Satnam Singh), Jamaica (Vashil Fernandez), Lithuania (Egidijus Mockevicius), Senegal (Mamadou N’Diaye) and Serbia (Nikola Jovanovic) are among the countries represented on this year’s rosters to parallel the NBA’s international flavor.
As the NBA’s research and development arm, the NBA D-League serves as a laboratory for ways to improve the game. This year, games will include experimental rules such as the “reset timeout,” the shot clock resetting to 14 seconds after offensive rebounds, and a 75-second limit on the duration of instant replay reviews.