D-League Assignments Via Unaffiliated NBA Teams

The D-League appears well on its way to having one affiliate for each of the 30 NBA teams, with 19 D-League teams in operation this year and the Hornets, Nets and Bulls all having formally announced the addition of one-to-one affiliates for next season. Still, the D-League isn’t there yet, and an awkward situation exists in the meantime for NBA teams without one-to-one affiliates who’d like to send players on D-League assignment. This is the first season in which no D-League team is a shared affiliate, meaning that NBA franchises that used shared affiliates to send players to the D-League in the past now have to use some other NBA team’s one-to-one D-League partner.

It’s no shock to see the Hawks sending players to the affiliate of the Spurs, given the close ties between the organizations. Atlanta has sent three players to the Austin Spurs this season. The Hawks also sent players to Austin last year, when the policy of having NBA teams make assignments to another franchise’s one-to-one affiliate first came into use as a means to prevent crowding on the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, who were the last shared D-League affiliate before the Pacers took them over this season.

Other connections are also at play. Suns GM Ryan McDonough and Clippers coach/executive Doc Rivers worked together on the Celtics, so that helps explain why the Clippers have sent two players to Phoenix’s affiliate this year. The Clippers have also sent former Michigan State mainstay Branden Dawson to the Grand Rapids Drive, the Michigan-based affiliate of the Pistons.

The affiliate of the Cavaliers has taken assignments from more NBA teams than any other D-League club, accepting players from the Bulls, Hawks, Bucks and Clippers. Thus, the Cleveland organization has had a close look at some developing talent from around the league, perhaps giving the Cavs a subtle edge for the future.

The process isn’t exactly straightforward for NBA teams without affiliates to find a team for their assignments. NBA teams making assignments to another franchise’s affiliate must notify the D-League of their intention to assign a player, and the league reports back to the team after identifying the affiliates willing to take the player. The NBA team has its pick if multiple D-League clubs volunteer, but if no D-League team raises its hand, the D-League picks an affiliate at random. Rivers made it clear that the Clippers do some advance work, calling around to identify teams that want to receive the assignment, presumably before the D-League gets involved.

It requires some extra effort, but NBA teams without affiliates have nonetheless made several assignments this season. Here’s a look at each of them, sorted by the affiliates that have taken them on, with an assist from the D-League assignment/recall log that Eddie Scarito compiles for Hoops Rumors. Note that some players appear more than once, since their NBA teams have assigned them to multiple D-League clubs:

Austin Spurs (San Antonio Spurs affiliate)

Canton Charge (Cleveland Cavaliers affiliate)

Bakersfield Jam (Phoenix Suns affiliate)

Grand Rapids Drive (Detroit Pistons affiliate)

Westchester Knicks (New York Knicks affiliate)

Idaho Stampede (Utah Jazz affiliate)

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