After the NBA G League’s announcement of the new Select Contracts and professional path coming in 2019-20, NBA G League President Malcolm Turner spoke with NBAGLeague.com to further explain how Select Contracts work and what the professional path entails.
NBAGLeague.com: What spurred the NBA G League to pursue a new route to the NBA that included Select Contracts and the professional path?
Malcolm Turner: Launching this professional path is truly a function of where this league is in our growth trajectory. We’re in striking distance of our early goal of 30 [affiliates] for 30 [NBA teams]. The fact that now all of our teams are one-to-one affiliated with an NBA team really helped enable this next step in our progression.
We’re a league that has accommodated players who have different journeys on their road to the NBA. We have created different pathways within our own league — whether you’re a G League contract player, an affiliate player or you’re a two-way player — and this is the next step in recognizing that there’s a unique pathway for this particular class of player. We’re excited to announce this professional path via the Select Contracts that will be available for elite athletes who are eligible for the G League, but not yet NBA Draft eligible, and who have an interest in more immediately beginning their professional careers.
Which prospects will receive Select Contracts?
Our focus will be on elite athletes. Talent evaluation is inherently a subjective process, and while there are rankings that can help inform that process and assessment, the working group we’re putting together will really be key in this whole process. That group will be charged with identifying appropriate, eligible, elite talent, not only in terms of on-court performance and potential, but also in terms overall readiness for the G League. In addition to identification, that working group will really help us monitor the rollout and execution of this professional path; we’re expecting that we’re all going to learn a lot together.
We have tried to create a pathway that is thoughtful and responsive to the basketball community’s call for an alternative option for players who are seeking to more immediately begin their professional careers. But we also recognize that there’s a lot that goes into who is actually ready for this league, so that working group will be charged with developing its own framework and lens for eligible players.
As part of the working group, we will hire a program manager who, in partnership with the working group, will be responsible for educating and informing the appropriate pool of prospects, their families and other advisers on the G League’s professional path, what it is, and how it works.
Is there a timeline for the program manager search? What type of person are you looking for in that role?
It’s a matter of weeks, for sure; in short order, we’ll be able to share more details. We’re looking for someone who is knowledgeable, astute and aware of the ins and outs of the NBA business, but also someone with a passion for development. We recognize that the professional path and what it stands for and who’s eligible for it represents a unique transition for our business. I think NBA perspective and pedigree matters, but also an understanding of the unique needs of this particular type of player transitioning to the professional game. I think that’s what you’ll see reflected as key qualities with our program manager.
Who do you expect to be a part of the working group?
We’re in the process of putting that group together. Part of my answer is, “Stay tuned,” but in general, we’re tapping basketball development resources and talent evaluators to really help us assess the available pool of candidates. We’ll also have a chair for that group, but we’re still in the formative stages of putting that group together.
How will players who choose the Professional Path be acquired by an NBA G League team?
For those players who come in under the Select Contract, we will develop an allocation system for interested teams; there will be some form of lottery or draft-type system that will take place in advance of the start of the season, separate from the traditional G League Draft, and then they’re a part of G League team rosters. They’re a part of practice, a part of games and the on- and off-court development that takes place. That’s an example of an execution detail that we’re still constructing and fine-tuning. More to come on that…
What is the length of the Professional Path?
Immediately after their season in the NBA G League, the player becomes NBA Draft-eligible and enters the NBA Draft. But even in advance of the player allocation process, we are building in a calendar of basketball development opportunities that will start during the summer. We will look to mine the breadth and depth of the NBA’s system of basketball development infrastructure to create opportunities for participants under Select Contracts as part of our professional path.
We’re in the process of putting those platforms and processes together, but there’s plenty of obvious starting points where we can activate, like the Summer League platform and our footprint on NBA Academies. There are key partner opportunities, too: We are the NBA G League, and Gatorade has been our league partner. The Gatorade Sports Science Institute and their work with world-class athletes on topics of nutrition, hydration, recovery and training could create interesting opportunities, as well. — especially in the summer leading up to the draft process and ultimately the start of the G League season.
Would the Select Contract prospect play in Summer League?
Not in Summer League, no. We envision creating specific, basketball development workout opportunities in and around the Summer League infrastructure. We can create similar development opportunities across our NBA Academies footprint, too, as well as orientation opportunities for families. On-court development will be the more forward-facing thing you’ll see, but there will be a lot of things off the court that we think are equally important to facilitate this transition to the G League and NBA systems.
How many players will be offered Select Contracts next season and beyond?
That will be the task of the working group. We’re focused on developing a thoughtful and responsive option for this group of players and we feel like we’re really answering the basketball community’s call for the NBA to enhance its G League offering. We believe we’ve done that. Candidly – we’ve been focused less on numbers and more on readiness. We may have a handful of players participate in this program, we may have more than that. The bottom line is, we’re ready for them.
Having said that, we also expect that we’re going to learn a lot, as well. We have the ability to adjust, adapt, fine-tune and add to the program as we learn more about potential interest in this platform and other feedback we receive. We don’t come at this as if we have all the answers to the test. We’ll be quick and nimble in adjusting and adapting as we roll this platform out with the overriding objective to facilitate and accelerate transitions to the NBA.
How important is the off-the-court piece of the professional path?
The NBA G League’s professional path is a comprehensive one – it was designed specifically with this population of players in mind and it includes robust academic scholarship opportunities as well as other programmatic elements for life skills and post-basketball development. We are committed to helping players achieve at a high level across disciplines – not just on the basketball court but in their lives and careers after their playing days, too.”