Yesterday afternoon, the New Jersey Nets announced that for the 2011-12 NBA season, they would be entering into a single affiliate partnership with the D-League’s Springfield Armor. What this means is that the Nets will have total control of the basketball operations for the Armor, while the current local ownership would be in charge of selling tickets, sponsorships and reaching out in the community. Within this framework, the Nets would draft the Armor’s players in the D-League Draft, would decide who to sign to the roster and would also appoint the Armor’s front office and coaching staffs. There is only one other affiliation like this currently in the NBA, as the Rio Grande Valley Vipers are a single affiliate for the Houston Rockets.
This move makes a lot of sense for the Nets. After years of neglecting scouting and player development as key components of their organizational philosophy, this move shows that Mikhail Prokhorov and his team are committed to investing in the resources needed to field the best possible team. The Nets are one of the youngest teams in the NBA, and currently have three rookies on their roster in addition to the most draft picks in the NBA over the next three years. With the number of picks the Nets have in the near future, they won’t be able to keep all those players on their roster, so having them play in Springfield where the schemes, coaching philosophy and terminology will be exactly the same as in New Jersey, will be a huge plus.
Personally, I believe that the future of the D-League lies in these single affiliate agreements. If the D-League truly wants to market itself as the NBA’s minor league, it should work hard to have a 30-team league with each NBA franchise running the basketball operations of one D-League franchise. This would encourage NBA teams that haven’t really utilized the D-League to this point to do so, and would create much more interest in the D-League as a whole. To generate even more attention, it would be smart for each D-League affiliate to be within a few hours of their NBA team, so that they have somewhat of a built-in fan base that can help drive attendance and revenue.
Yesterday, I took part in a conference call featuring Billy King (GM of the Nets), Dan Reed (President of the D-League) and Mike Savit (owner of the Armor), and here’s the interview:
Do you think with the rise of single affiliate agreements in the D-League many players who would have played overseas in the past will stay and play in the D-League knowing that the exposure they have to NBA scouts is unparalleled in Europe?
Dan Reed: I think it definitely does help, but it is hard to pinpoint any one factor that has led to the increase in the talent of the D-League. It is not any one factor, but a combination of factors that has led to our success in producing NBA players â€“ whether it be single affiliations, looking at the past success of our players like Aaron Brooks, Hasheem Thabeet or Reggie Williams. Twenty percent of NBA players have D-League experience, so I think it’s a combination of things that is attracting top-flight players to the D-League. We also have coaches and GMs that got their start in the D-League like Dell Demps, now with the Hornets, and showing the caliber of coaching we have, but these single affiliations certainly help.
When hiring a coach or GM to run the team, will the Nets look to hire people who they believe could ultimately end up as a front office type or coach with the Nets? Can Springfield also be used as a training ground for coaches and executives the organization is high on?
Billy King: Absolutely. A lot of coaches get their start in the D-League, and since they will be running our schemes, there is definitely the possibility that they will end up in New Jersey with the Nets one day. Also, the front office types will be very close to myself and our staff, and if they do a good job, we certainly can bring them up to the Nets and then train the next batch of coaches in Springfield.
After a poor season last year (7-43 record), what similarities do you see between the Armor and the Nets? Both had very poor seasons, and now are under new leadership, so what are the biggest benefits in your opinion for the Armor from this agreement?
Mike Savit: It can only help. The basketball operations end of it is not our expertise, and that is why this is such a perfect marriage, because we are bringing two separate entities together with expertise in their given areas. It will improve our coaching, the caliber of players we get and our on-court performance. People are always looking for negatives when any deal takes place, but this is as positive as positive can be from my perspective. It basically allows our organization to do what we do best, selling tickets, selling sponsorships and taking part in the broader community, while we leave the basketball operations to experts. Being involved in minor league baseball, this is kind of how it works there, and it’s worked that way for 100 years. And it will work in the D-League.
Why did the Nets decide to do this now?
BK: It allows us to run Avery‘s system, and to develop young talent on the floor. We can send our young players there who can grow comfortable in the system, so when we call them up, they will be comfortable playing in our system and can contribute immediately. Tons of control over the roster, allowing us to really maximize our D-League experience. We will draft the players in the D-League Draft, sign guys we want and be able to send some of our rookies down there to get playing time.
How does this fit into the organization’s philosophy on scouting and development?
BK: Every player will know what they are doing. It will be a fertile ground to develop young players, and we can sign players we think can fit in with our system to Springfield and see how it works out. Avery has a ton of complex terminology in his defensive system, and that terminology will be used in Springfield. There will be close contact with our coaches and their coaches to ensure we are on the same page.
Does it make you more comfortable sending guys down when it’s your own team?
BK: Those coaches coordinate with our coaches and can work with guys on specific skills we want them to develop, so knowing that those coaches know exactly what we want and how we expect things to be done in New Jersey is very comforting. It will make us less reluctant to send guys down, since Springfield will basically just be an extension of our organization in New Jersey.
What do you think? Is this the wave of the future?
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