D-League Assignments

D-League teams stocked their rosters through last night’s draft, and soon NBA teams will be adding more players to D-League lineups. Last year, rules were adjusted to allow NBA clubs to make an unlimited number of D-League assignments, and they took full advantage, as our lengthy list of 2012/13 assignments and recalls shows. The same rules are in place again this year, so once the D-League season gets underway, rare will be the day when players aren’t being shuttled back and forth between the NBA and its junior circuit.

The players that NBA teams assign to the D-League aren’t quite like other D-Leaguers. NBA players receive their full salaries while on D-League assignment, whereas the D-Leaguers without an NBA contract receive paltry annual earnings that topped out at around $26K last season. Still, a D-League assignment could wind up costing an NBA player, since performance in the D-League doesn’t count toward any incentive clauses built into an NBA contract. So, for instance, say Anderson Varejao is injured at some point this season, and he plays a few rehab games with Cleveland’s D-League affiliate, the Canton Charge. None of the numbers Varejao might put up in Canton would count toward the $250K in performance incentives built into his deal with the Cavs.

Of course, Varejao would be a rare case as a long-tenured NBA player on a D-League assignment. Most NBA players in the D-League have fewer than three years of experience. That’s in part because NBA teams want to give their young players some extra seasoning, as the “D” in D-League stands for development, after all. Yet players in their first, second or third NBA seasons are the only ones NBA teams can unilaterally send down to the D-League. Otherwise, they must get the consent of the union as well as the player. Still, it’s not uncommon for a team to send a veteran player to practice with its D-League affiliate without making the formal assignment necessary for the player to appear in a D-League game.

Once a player has been assigned to the D-League, he can remain there indefinitely. He may also return to the NBA team the very next day only to once more find himself in the D-League hours later. That’s what happened multiple times for a few Thunder players last season, as Oklahoma City made frequent use of its one-to-one affiliation with the nearby Tulsa 66ers. The Thunder are one of 14 NBA teams that either owns a D-League team outright or operates the affiliate’s basketball operations in a “hybrid” partnership with a local ownership group. Teams that have these arrangements can set up a unified system in which the D-League club runs the same offensive and defensive schemes and coaches dole out playing time based on what’s best for the parent club. That gives these NBA teams an advantage, so it’s no surprise that a growing number of them are striking up one-to-one affiliations — last year, only 11 teams had such an arrangement.

That leaves the other 16 NBA teams to share just three D-League squads, which will make for a tight squeeze. D-League teams are allowed to expand their rosters to accept players on assignment from their NBA affiliates, and if there’s still no room, an NBA team would be allowed to send a player to a D-League team with which it’s not affiliated.

For more on the D-League, check out our list of affiliations for this year and bookmark https://www.hoopsrumors.com/nba-d-league/ to track the latest news about NBA players in the D-League.

Note: This is a Hoops Rumors Glossary entry. Our glossary posts will explain specific rules relating to trades, free agency, or other aspects of the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. Larry Coon’s Salary Cap FAQ was used in the creation of this post.

This post was initially published on November 7th, 2012.

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