Heading into next season, the Pelicans are expected to be one of five NBA teams without their own D-League affiliate. However, that won’t be the case by the following year. The Pelicans announced today in a press release that they intend to launch their own D-League affiliate to begin play for the 2018/19 season.
According to the announcement, the Pelicans haven’t yet decided on a home for their D-League squad, which will be owned and operated by the franchise. The organization will send a Request for Proposal to 11 cities, including seven in Lousiana. The other four cities that could be in play for New Orleans’ D-League affiliate are in Mississippi (two), Alabama (one), and Florida (one).
“Our goal is to establish a Development League team in nearby proximity to our home base of New Orleans,” Pelicans owner Tom Benson said in a statement. “I have been very impressed with the growth and structure of the NBA Developmental League. It is a wise and necessary investment into the future of the Pelicans. The team will provide us with a better platform of developing our younger players and staff.
“It also will allow us the opportunity to widen the spectrum of fans that come in contact with our organization on a regional basis. In addition, it will provide us with the opportunities to further promote the game of basketball and further our community support to the region. This will be a very significant addition for a city near us as it will add global exposure and bring professional basketball to their town.”
Without a D-League affiliate of their own, the Pelicans have used the NBADL sparingly this season. Rookie big man Cheick Diallo has been assigned to the D-League several times, but the flexible assignment rule has resulted in him spending time with the Greensboro Swarm (Charlotte’s affiliate), Austin Spurs (San Antonio), and Long Island Nets (Brooklyn). A local, one-to-one affiliate will allow the Pelicans to better develop their young players in the future.
With the Pelicans poised to operate a D-League club, the only NBA teams without an affiliate – or a plan in place to add one – are the Nuggets, Clippers, Trail Blazers, and Wizards.
Of course, it’s also worth mentioning that by the time the Pelicans’ D-League affiliate launches, the league will have been re-branded as the G-League. You can read more on that story right here.