For five days this week, NBA eyes will shift to the NBA Development League.
Teams can begin signing players to 10-day contracts on Jan. 5; the NBA D-League Showcase, the minor league’s premier in-season scouting event, takes place from Jan. 6-10.
It’s the one time of year when all 19 NBADL teams and all 200+ prospects will be playing in one location — Santa Cruz, Calif., for the second straight year — and the one time representatives from all 30 NBA teams will be in attendance.
Here are 10 things to know heading into the 12th annual Showcase.
1. For the first time ever, each NBA D-League team is singly affiliated with an NBA franchise.
The 30-team, 30-affiliate model is slowly but surely becoming a reality, especially with three more single affiliates on the way in 2016-17 (read about them here).
For now, 19 NBA teams have their own minor-league affiliates. (The other 11 can assign players to the Development League through the flexible assignment system.) That doesn’t give them exclusive access to the prospects who have signed NBA D-League contracts, however; most players in the league are free agents available for any NBA team to sign.
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2. NBA teams are assigning players to the Development League at a record rate.
Organizations are utilizing the minor league to develop their young talent more than ever. A player has been assigned to the NBA D-League more than 160 times so far this season; last year’s 195 assignments in the 2014-15 season was an all-time high.
Six rookie first-round picks have spent time in the NBA D-League, including No. 14 pick Cameron Payne (Thunder/Blue), No. 16 pick Terry Rozier (Celtics/Red Claws) and No. 21 pick Justin Anderson (Mavericks/Legends).
3. Four high-scoring guards have stood out among this year’s crop of prospects.
Among Call-Up-eligible players, Elliot Williams, Sean Kilpatrick, Jimmer Fredette and Erick Green — ranked Nos. 1-4 by NBADLeague.com’s Prospect Watch panel — will get long looks this week.
They also make up the top four in the league in scoring, though NBA teams are traditionally searching for role players who can fill specific needs. This year’s upside plays include bouncy forwards Ronald Roberts and Vince Hunter and emerging point guard Xavier Munford.
4. Six NBA Draft picks are being stashed in the NBA D-League as rookies.
The Nos. 44, 48, 51, 52, 53 and 55 picks in this past June’s draft signed NBADL contracts to gain a year of seasoning with their NBA team’s affiliate: Andrew Harrison (Grizzlies/Energy), Dakari Johnson (Thunder/Blue), Tyler Harvey (Magic/BayHawks), Satnam Singh (Mavericks/Legends), Sir’Dominic Pointer (Cavaliers/Charge) and Cady Lalanne (San Antonio/Austin Spurs).
Under-22 Kentucky alums Harrison and Johnson have had their moments, Lalanne has risen up the Prospect Watch ranks with Austin, and Harvey recently made a splash by hitting six straight threes in less than five minutes to erase a 21-point deficit.
(These six can only be called up to the team that owns their NBA Draft rights. Read about the rule here.)
5. Expect Call-Ups to come fast and furious this season.
Two deadlines at this time of year make NBA rosters more fluid: Jan. 5, when teams can begin signing players (most of them NBA D-Leaguers) to 10-day contracts; and Jan. 10, when all NBA contracts become guaranteed for the remainder of the season.
Four NBADL prospects have been called up this season. Four were called up during last year’s Showcase — among the eventual record total of 47.
A host of current NBA players have proven themselves on this stage over the past 11 years, from Rockets big man Clint Capela and Kings guard Seth Curry a year ago to Jazz center Rudy Gobert and Timberwolves forward Shabazz Muhammad the year before that, to Heat center Hassan Whiteside in 2012 and ’13, Hornets guard Jeremy Lin in ’11 and Mavericks guard JJ Barea back in ’06.
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