After 16 seasons as the NBA Development League, the NBA’s official minor league has ushered in a new era.
The NBA G League has arrived, and this fall will tip off with an all-time high 26 teams — each singly affiliated with an NBA franchise.
While the rebrand makes it official, the league’s history has been defined by sweeping change and close ties with its big-league partner. Here are 10 things to know about the NBA G League:
Rapid expansion has the league on the cusp of the “30-for-30” model.
The burning question surrounding the NBA’s minor league has followed it for the past several seasons: When will each NBA team have its own affiliate?
Momentum continues to gain each season in that ideal 30-for-30 direction in which the NBA G League would become a true farm system for the Association.
The league has added nine teams over the past two years alone — including four new franchises heading into the 2017-18 season (Bucks, Clippers, Hawks, Magic) — after featuring between 16 and 19 teams from 2008-16. That expansion has largely consisted of NBA team’s fully owning and operating their affiliates. The days of multiple NBA franchises being affiliated with the same minor-league team ended in 2016.
|Number of NBA G League Teams By Season|
The NBA G League’s imprint on the NBA has never been larger.
When the 2016-17 NBA regular season ended in April, nearly half of its players had spent time in the NBA G League. NBA rosters on average featured six NBA G League alums.
The list of NBA contributors, from borderline All-Stars to Cinderella rotation contributors, grows every season. Hassan Whiteside, Rudy Gobert and CJ McCollum remain among the best to ever play in the NBA’s official minor league. Others like Seth Curry, Jonathon Simmons and Yogi Ferrell emerge every season after developing in the minor-league system.
Players are moving between the two leagues more than ever.
With NBA teams now in complete control of their minor-league affiliates — not to mention being positioned close geographically — the process of assigning young talent to the NBA G League has become seamless and part of everyday NBA life.
An all-time high 92 NBA players were assigned this past season. And it wasn’t just roster-filler players: 16 of those players were first-round picks in last year’s NBA Draft.
On the flip side, there are NBA G League prospects fighting for spots at the next level; for the sixth straight season, more than 30 prospects earned Gatorade Call-Ups.
Gatorade and the NBA will work hand-in-hand in the NBA G League.
As the first entitlement partner for a U.S. professional sports league, Gatorade has significant stake in the new-look league.
From the league’s official press release upon the announcement of the partnership in February:
“Gatorade will incubate its latest product and equipment innovations into NBA G League locker rooms, and teams will have the opportunity to collaborate with Gatorade to help players maximize their athletic potential and oncourt performance.
Through the Gatorade Sports Science Institute (GSSI), the sports fuel company will collaborate with the NBA G League on programs to enhance player sports performance and recovery.”
But the league has long served as the NBA’s research-and-development laboratory.
The NBA’s official minor league had acted as the testing ground for both the NBA as a whole and individual teams.
The league has experimented with rule changes, teams have experimented with playing styles and analytics, and all involved have used the NBA G League as a place to train future NBA personnel in all positions.
Expect that role to only expand during the NBA G League era.
One of those innovations: All non-nationally televised games stream on Facebook Live.
You don’t have to look far to watch an NBA G League game. Beginning last season, the league began streaming all games — with the exception of nationally televised games — on Facebook Live.
With each team playing a 50-game schedule, you can watch more than 300 games on the NBA G League Facebook page.
The minor league was ahead of the curve in the pace-and-space era.
Before “pace-and-space” and “positionless basketball” were known terms among basketball fans, NBA G League teams adopted new-age hoops, often taking run-and-gun to the extreme.
As recently as the 2014-15 season, more than half of the NBA D G League’s teams (10 of 18) played at a pace faster than 100 possessions per 48 minutes compared to just one NBA team; NBADL teams averaged 26 three-point attempts per game compared to 22 for NBA teams that season.
This past season, nine NBA teams surpassed the 100 possessions per 48 minutes mark, and teams across the Association shot threes at record rates — 27.0 per game on average.
Coaches have developed in the minor league, too.
It’s not just players training for the next level in the NBA G League. More than 70 NBA coaches through the years have previously served as NBA G League coaches. Four NBA head coaches — Los Angeles’ Luke Walton, Phoenix’s Earl Watson, Sacramento’s Dave Joerger and Utah’s Quin Snyder — once patrolled the NBA G League sideline.
In April, the champion Raptors 905 was led by a familiar face and potential rising star in the coaching ranks: former NBA All-Star Jerry Stackhouse.
Just like the NBA, the NBA G League has gone international.
Among the countries represented in the minor league in recent years: Cuba (Ismael Romero), France (Axel Toupane), Germany (Tim Olbrecht), Greece (Thanasis Antetokounmpo), India (Sim Bhullar & Satnam Singh), Mexico (Jorge Gutierrez), Japan (Yuki Togashi) and the Philippines (Japeth Aguilar & Bobby Ray Parks).
Bhullar and Singh in particular served as pioneers as the first player of Indian descent to reach the NBA and the first India-born NBA Draft pick, respectively.
January is prime time for the NBA G League.
The NBA G League’s marquee event, Showcase, takes place every January, bringing every team together to play in front of player personnel executives from all 30 NBA franchises. The event coincides with the date when NBA teams can begin signing players to 10-day contracts.
Past participants include: Heat center Hassan Whiteside, Rockets guard Patrick Beverley and center Clint Capela, Jazz center Rudy Gobert, Nets guard Jeremy Lin, Celtics guard/forward Gerald Green and forward/center Amir Johnson and Mavericks guards Seth Curry and JJ Barea.