Two NBA teams have made major announcements this afternoon regarding their partnerships going forward with D-League affiliate. The Grizzlies, who are affiliated with the Iowa Energy this season, have acquired an expansion NBADL franchise which will be owned and operated by the Grizz. According to Michael Wallace of Grizzlies.com, Memphis’ new D-League franchise doesn’t yet have a name, but the team will play its home games at the Landers Center in Southaven, Mississippi.
“It’s a complete game-changer,” said Grizzlies EVP of basketball operations John Hollinger. “Our affiliation with Iowa has been very effective for several years, both in terms of player development and basketball ops to both cities. To operate our own D-League team in your backyard – the direct access to the development process of our player talent – makes the process so much more efficient.
Meanwhile, with the Grizzlies set to end their partnership with the Energy, the Iowa franchise will be bought and controlled by the Timberwolves, who had been without a D-League affiliate up until now. While the acquisition isn’t officially finalized, an agreement is in place between the two sides, as the Wolves announced today in a press release.
“We’re thrilled to bring the Iowa Energy into the Timberwolves family,” said Wolves owner Glen Taylor. “It’s great knowing that we can develop our young players so close to home and enjoy all the other benefits that come with owning a D-League team. We look forward to growing our relationship with the greater Des Moines area, the state of Iowa and basketball fans across the Upper Midwest.”
The D-League continues to grow each year as the majority of the NBA’s 30 teams move toward controlling and operating their own affiliates. In addition to expanding the number of NBADL teams, NBA clubs have increasingly been focused on making their affiliates more geographically accessible — NBA teams whose affiliates play nearby – like the Nets and Lakers – have been able to make certain players active for both NBA and D-League games in the same day at times this season.
Unlike some of those teams, the Grizzlies haven’t used their D-League affiliate to frequently assign and recall players this season, since the Energy’s Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines is located more than 600 miles from the FedEx Forum in Memphis. Memphis’ new NBADL affiliate will be located about 20 miles away, while the Wolves will be located less than 250 miles from their new affiliate in Iowa — still a trek, but not nearly as significant as the distance between Des Moines and Memphis.
Today’s announcement ensures that there will be at least 23 teams in the D-League next season, and a recent report from Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com suggested that the league expects at least one more new franchise for the 2017/18 season.
The Hawks, Nuggets, Clippers, Bucks, Pelicans, Trail Blazers, and Wizards are the remaining seven teams without an affiliate lined up for ’17/18, though Atlanta will control and operate its own team by the 2019/20 season and the others are reportedly exploring their options.
NBADL teams figure to be more important than ever beginning next season, since the NBA’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement will permit teams to sign two players apiece to two-way contracts. NBA teams will be able to freely shuttle players on those two-way deals back and forth between the NBA and D-League, paying them at one rate in the NBA and at a lesser rate in the NBADL.