The D-League will expand to add a one-to-one affiliate of the Bulls for the 2016/17 season, the league and the Bulls formally announced via press release. The Bulls will own the team outright, running its basketball operations as well as the business side. The affiliate will be based at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates, Illinois, a Chicago suburb. The team is the third that’s set to join the D-League for next season, when the minor league is poised to swell to 22 teams, all of which will be affiliated directly with an NBA parent club. The Hornets and Nets are the other NBA teams starting up their own D-League affiliates next season.
“We’re extremely excited for the valuable investment the Bulls are making by owning and operating an NBA D-League franchise,” Bulls executive VP of basketball operations John Paxson said in the team’s statement. “While it will ingrain our brand more deeply in the surrounding communities, it will also strengthen our team on the court. Our younger players will have a place close to home to grow and mature while playing within a developmental platform that is consistent with Bulls basketball.”
Formal news about a D-League team in Chicago has been expected since the team acknowledged its plans late last month, as Eric Peterson of the Daily Herald detailed. The team won local government approval in Hoffman Estates this week, though a lease agreement still must be finalized.
Still, the Bulls seemed an unlikely candidate to jump into the D-League game before news of their plans emerged. They haven’t made any D-League assignments since 2013, when they twice sent Marquis Teague to the affiliate they used to share with multiple other NBA teams. Before that, their last D-League assignment took place in 2010. The addition of the Bulls affiliate leaves the Hawks, Nuggets, Clippers, Bucks, Timberwolves, Pelicans, Trail Blazers and Wizards as the only NBA franchises without D-League teams that are either already in operation or in place for next season.