More NBA teams than ever have their own D-League affiliates in 2016/17, with three expansion D-League clubs joining the mix this year to bring the league’s count to 22 total teams. The NBA’s other eight teams can still send players to the D-League using the flexible assignment rule, but they may not be as inclined to do so as the clubs that operate and control their affiliates.
As expected, during the first month of the D-League’s season, the NBA teams most frequently assigning and recalling players from their affiliates generally met two criteria:
- They have young players on their roster who aren’t necessarily ready for regular NBA minutes, or can’t crack the NBA rotation.
- They’re geographically adjacent to their D-League affiliates, making it easy to send a player down for a practice, then recall him later in the day.
As Anthony Puccio of NetsDaily wrote last week, no team has taken advantage of the close proximity of a D-League affiliate quite like the Nets, who are temporarily sharing venues with the Long Island Nets, their new D-League squad. Long Island’s new building won’t be ready until the 2017/18 season, so when both teams are playing at home, it’s very easy for Brooklyn to send players back and forth between the NBA and the D-League. Chris McCullough has been the player most frequently affected, having already been assigned to Long Island nine times this season.
Like the Nets, the Raptors have a D-League affiliate that plays nearby — the Raptors 905 are based in Mississauga, a city in the Greater Toronto Area. And like McCullough with the Nets, Bruno Caboclo has been shuttled back and forth nine times between the NBA and D-League already this season, as Toronto takes advantage of having its D-League affiliate in the area.
While many NBA teams have established D-League teams – or relocated them – to ensure that sort of geographical proximity, not every club has done so. The Heat, for instance, might be more willing to assign and recall players from their D-League club more frequently if it wasn’t located in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The distance between American Airlines Arena and the Sanford Pentagon (where the Skyforce play)? Over 1,800 miles.
Here are the players with the most D-League assignments early on in the 2016/17 season:
- Bruno Caboclo, Raptors (9)
- Chris McCullough, Nets (9)
- Dejounte Murray, Spurs (7)
- Josh Huestis, Thunder (6)
- Marshall Plumlee, Knicks (5)
- Fred VanVleet, Raptors (5)
- Bryn Forbes, Spurs (4)
- Demetrius Jackson, Celtics (4)
- Ron Baker, Knicks (3)
- Henry Ellenson, Pistons (3)
- Michael Gbinije, Pistons (3)
- A.J. Hammons, Mavericks (3)
- Aaron Harrison, Hornets (3)
- R.J. Hunter, Bulls (3)
- Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Sixers (3)
- Maurice Ndour, Knicks (3)
- Georgios Papagiannis, Kings (3)
- Kyle Wiltjer, Rockets (3)
Information from RealGM.com was used in the creation of this post.