TSP Andrew: I have another article by a Trade Street Post fan. Regg Gallant Jr. is offering up a very intriguing idea to make the D-Leage much more functional and usable by all of the NBA, creating a better product on the court for all teams. You gotta read this. I enjoyed it and I hope you do too.
As we near the end of the David Stern empire in the NBA, and we begin to look at the beginning of a new saga under Adam Silver, some things haven't changed a bit:
1) Kobe is still pretty good.
2) LeBron is also pretty good.
3) Cellar-dwelling teams are frequently in the cellar.
So what if I were Commissioner? What would I do? Read on Bobcats fans.
Enter our beloved Charlotte franchise, which in its 9 year history has had only one playoff appearance, a Rookie of the Year (Emeka Okafor), its fair share of draft misfortune/stupidity, and the worst basketball season to ever be played in the NBA. It's safe to say that the Bobcats (soon to be Hornets!!!!! get excited!) are and have been a cellar-dweller when it comes to the NBA.
As fans, we are supposed to love and support our team through thick and thin, and if you're still a Bobcats fan, you've definitely accomplished that already. We've gone through 9 years of some pretty terrible hatred from the basketball gods, and it's hard to see your team struggle as much as it does. I really don't get how Billy Crystal made it through the last century as a Clippers fan, because this much disappointment is as excruciating as it is emotionally-draining.
So after the Bobcats came out and said that they want to focus on player development and building a solid team through the draft--a plan of which the verdict is still out, as we're only in year 2 of the effective rebuild--I wasn't surprised. Rich Cho was hired, and that became our mantra. While building through the draft has always been a key strategy for most GMs of successful teams, Oklahoma City's rapid success has spurred more teams to place an emphasis on stockpiling assets (draft picks) and young, unproven talent.
On the surface, there's no real problem there. When the Spurs picked Tony Parker, it was waived off as laughable considering that there was little focus on intentional players at the time, but after being thoroughly developed, he was able to become a contributing player on a championship caliber team in no time. And in recent years, it seems as though more and more first-round picks are selected with expectations that they will be contributors on day one.
I used the Tony Parker reference to say this: most contributing players need time to develop into contributing players.
You get your LeBrons.
You occasionally get your Kyries.
And you even have your Damian Lillards from time to time.
But a majority of the time, a drafted player will not be able to contribute on day one simply because they have never played in the NBA before.
Player development in the NBA tends to take a backseat to expectations. As we near the draft, 60 players will enter the NBA family. Out of those 60, the top 14 selected will be expected to show up to their teams and instantly be able to put more Ws in the win column.
I personally view that as flawed logic, and most of the other major sports leagues tend to as well.
I'm not a huge baseball fan by any means; I played tee-ball once when I was 5 and I've been to about 2 Braves games in my life, but I do know this: the MLB and its teams give their players an actual chance to develop and mature into reliable professional baseball players.
The minor-league system in the MLB has to be one of the best talent farming systems of all sports. Before even joining his team, a player spends time in the minor-league for a few reasons:
1) The talent is better than it was in college.
2) The expectations placed on the player don't affect how his stats are viewed (such as, being viewed as a "bust" very early in his career).
3) Most players just simply aren't ready to play in the MLB instantly.
Baseball is baseball, and basketball is basketball--I understand that--but it'd be though to think that some of these principles wouldn't apply to the NBA today; especially in the era of "one-and-dones". We see more and more players, unproven and raw by most standards, taken in the top 14 picks with the expectation that they're the next LeBron James of sorts.
I have a theory that players will get better as they are offered more time and chances to play. Right now, most teams in the NBA likes to rush players into the league, and either let them play restricted minutes due to their unpolished game or write them off after not living up to expectations in a season or two. When players are able to play thoroughly without the fear of repercussions, they tend to become better players because of it. The two best examples that come to mind regarding this are Kawhi Leonard and George Hill. These are two players who were mistake-prone early in their careers, but after being given a true chance to play through their mistakes and learn all the caveats of the game, they have both turned into solid contributors on very sound teams.
But teams like Charlotte, stuck in the cellar and desperate for wins in any way, shape, or form, will generally be hesitant to allow that to happen. In which case, I have a theory for a revamped D-League system that will allow the NBA to mimic/emulate the same talent-developing success that the MLB has had. By improving player development, bad teams will be able to not only get better faster, but they'll also be able to retain that talent better as well. You'd also be bringing in players who are able to contribute more readily as opposed to expecting them to instantly dominate.
Here are the basic foundations of the theory:
1) Eliminate the One-and-Done.
This seems to be the root of all of the problems that struggling teams in the lottery face.
If you look through history, and players who were able to make an impact in their first few years in the league, a majority of those players came to their team after spending around 3 years in college. You have your phenoms in LeBron and Kevin Garnett, but a majority of young players are nowhere near as polished as they were coming out of high-school, and at that, one year removed from a college career. Even Kobe Bryant needed some time to become Kobe Bryant.
This would also help out the college game, and we'd be able to more fairly assess players coming out of college. Players with even 2 years of college experience are more polished and developed than a one-and-done, and you could expect scouting reports on them to be more accurate given a larger sample size.
Here's how draft eligibility could be set:
The only way that a player would be allowed to enter the draft would be:
•Right out of high-school (age 18)
•At least 2 years of college experience (age 20)
With that being said…
2) Required D-League Participation based on Age
If the one-and-done rule was eliminated, and high-school players were allowed to enter the draft, I'd like to see them spend some required amount of time in the D-League before coming up to the NBA. To make this more player-appealing, there could be some type of re-worked rookie pay-scale, or maybe D-League salaries for drafted players aged 18-19 could be higher than the average salary. Then, by the time they join their NBA team, they can begin collecting the normal NBA salary.
This, of course, would be all up to the team that drafted the player, and like I said before, a re-worked pay-scale would be great for this. Where a player would make less in his first season for playing in the D-League for a required time, he can make more on the back end of a contract. Call it an incentive if you'd like.
The 20+ year old would be offered the same D-League incentive, but they would not be required to play in the D-League. That would be up to the team's discretion.
The idea is that players would be able to play in the D-League against NBA-level talent. Even though it's the D-League, I'm willing to bet that as a whole, the talent level there is higher and more NBA-like than any NCAA conference. Most of the guys in the D-League could be offered a spot on the end of an NBA bench at any point in the season, which still makes them better than a majority of the NCAA. The D-League gets a bad rep for talent, but truthfully, it really isn't as bad as it seems. With a wider talent pool (18-19 year olds required to play; more 20+ year olds from college going straight to the D-League), it could only get better.
3) Every Team has its Own D-League Team.
This might be the most important part of my theory.
Right now, there are not too many teams that have their own D-League affiliate, which has a great impact on how players on the team are developed, and how the team operates. There are some cases where 3 NBA teams can all share the same D-League team. Think about that: 3 different and competing teams all having an input and say on how a development team should operate, and how they should develop players.
It's an idea that saves money for the league, but it practically kills the ability to effectively utilize and maximize the resources at hand.
The idea that I have would treat D-League affiliates in a sense that NFL rosters treat practice-squad players. These players are still part of the team, and they'll show up on a roster, but when it's game-time, only the select 12 will dress-out and sit on the bench.
Some ideas along the lines of:
•Each team has a max roster of 23
•Players outside normal 15 designated as "Reserve" or "D-League" will play in the D-League
•D-League continues to be its own league with games and practices
•Teams are able to sign a FA and retain his rights, even if designated on D-League roster.
This allows for teams to have more control over how their D-League affiliate works and operates, and front offices will also be able to dictate what kind of players are on the team. It will also be easier for teams to retain player rights, as there will be more roster spots for the acquisition of prospects/players. The main idea though, is increasing the perceived talent level of the D-League to make it a more desirable place for players.
With all the hype that surrounds some high-school players and top prospects going into college, would it really hurt them to play in a NBA-style league with NBA-level talent for a short period of time before making the full jump into the NBA? This would let teams see more of their game against better competition, and it would also ease the pressure that they'd face should they enter the league at 19 years old, expected to carry a franchise.
Again, this is just a thought for a revamped farming system in the NBA. There are a lot of arguments as to why this would or wouldn't work, and this idea surely has some kinks in it; but I do this mainly to pose this question:
How can the NBA develop young talent faster?