Prior to this season, the rules for D-League assignments were relatively restrictive. Players with two or more years of NBA experience couldn't be sent to a D-League affiliate without their consent, teams were only permitted to have two players on assignment at once, and players couldn't receive more than three assignments in a single season.
All those rules have been modified at least slightly this season, making it easier for teams to use their D-League affiliates as a sort of minor-league system for young players to earn more minutes and more experience. The most notable change came in making the number of D-League assignments unlimited, meaning that a team with a strong geographical proximity to its D-League affiliate can send a player down for a game or two and quickly recall him. As our list of D-League assignments and recalls shows, a number of teams, including the Warriors, Cavaliers, and Spurs have employed that approach with multiple players this season.
Also as a result of the new rules for assignments, a number of young prospects, such as the Rockets' Terrence Jones and the Thunder's Jeremy Lamb, saw enough time with their respective clubs' D-League affiliates to earn D-League All-Star spots last month.
In the first year with the new D-League assignment rules in place, here are the teams that have taken advantage most often, assigning more than two players to the D-League this season:
- Rockets: 7 (Patrick Beverley, Tyler Honeycutt, Terrence Jones, Scott Machado, Donatas Motiejunas, Greg Smith, Royce White)
- Thunder: 5 (Reggie Jackson, Perry Jones III, Jeremy Lamb, DeAndre Liggins, Daniel Orton)
- Cavaliers: 4 (Kevin Jones, Jon Leuer, Samardo Samuels, Josh Selby)
- Spurs: 4 (Aron Baynes, Nando De Colo, Cory Joseph, Kawhi Leonard)
- Trail Blazers: 4 (Will Barton, Victor Claver, Joel Freeland, Nolan Smith)
- Knicks: 3 (Chris Copeland, Amare Stoudemire, James White)
- Lakers: 3 (Darius Johnson-Odom, Darius Morris, Robert Sacre)
- Warriors: 3 (Kent Bazemore, Malcolm Thomas, Jeremy Tyler)
Interestingly, all eight teams that have assigned more than two players to the D-League this season have single-affiliate relationships with those D-League clubs. For example, while D-League teams like the Bakersfield Jam and Fort Wayne Mad Ants act as an affiliate for four different NBA squads, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers are only associated with the Rockets.
It's not a coincidence that NBA teams with their own D-League affiliates are the ones taking advantage of those affiliates most often. Those NBA clubs have a stronger influence over the coaching and development that takes place on their D-League affiliates, so sending a player on an assignment isn't necessarily just a matter of giving him extra minutes — those D-League teams can also coach players in a way that reflects the strategies or philosphies of the NBA club.
Here are the players that have received the most D-League assignments this season: