The NBA G League – known as the D-League before a sponsorship deal was struck with Gatorade – continues to expand as the 2017/18 season approaches. A record-high 26 NBA teams will have direct, one-to-one relationships with G League squads this season, with most NBA clubs owning and operating their own affiliates.
That leaves just four teams without affiliates for the 2017/18 season. That doesn’t mean those four clubs aren’t allowed to assign players to the G League — the flexible assignment rule allows teams without an affiliate to assign players to other G League teams. Still, those clubs are at a disadvantage in a handful of ways.
NBA teams that control their own affiliates have hand-picked coaches to help develop their young players, and can ensure that the same systems are taught in both the NBA and the G League. When a team without an affiliate assigns a player to the G League, that player could end up with a different squad each time and won’t have the same sort of support system. Last season, for instance, Pelicans rookie Cheick Diallo spent time with the Austin Spurs, Greensboro Swarm, and Long Island Nets on various assignments.
Additionally, teams without a G League squad won’t have the opportunity to designate affiliate players when the regular season begins. Those affiliate players aren’t technically under control of an NBA team, but they often stick with a club’s G League squad after spending the preseason with that club.
Here are the four NBA teams without a G League affiliate for the 2017/18 season:
- Candidates for assignment: Malik Beasley spent some time in the G League last season and could do so again in 2017/18. 2017 first-rounder Tyler Lydon may also see some G League action, since Denver has a pretty deep roster and may not have room for him in the rotation.
- Two-way players: Torrey Craig, SF; Monte Morris, PG
- Timeline for affiliate: A report from October 2016 suggested the Nuggets were eying a possible G League affiliate for the 2017/18 season, but it didn’t happen. It’s clearly on the club’s radar, and I’d be surprised if Denver doesn’t have an affiliate in place within the next couple years.
New Orleans Pelicans
- Candidates for assignment: As noted above, Diallo was a regular in the G League last year. He’s still raw and could see assignments again this season. Rookie guard Frank Jackson may also see G League action if he doesn’t crack the backcourt rotation in New Orleans.
- Two-way players: Charles Cooke, SG; Jalen Jones, G/F
- Timeline for affiliate: The Pelicans have reportedly narrowed their search for a G League home to two cities: Shreveport, Louisiana and Pensacola, Florida. The plan is to get a G League franchise in place for the 2018/19 season.
Portland Trail Blazers
- Candidates for assignment: The Blazers added a pair of rookies in this year’s draft, snagging Zach Collins and Caleb Swanigan. Both guys have the potential to make an impact in year one, but could be sent to the G League if they don’t earn regular minutes out of the gate. Jake Layman is also a candidate to return to the G League this year.
- Two-way players: C.J. Wilcox, SG
- Timeline for affiliate: There have been no clear indications that the Blazers will have an affiliate ready to go for 2018/19. It’s hard to imagine the franchise will remain on the sidelines for too much longer though.
- Candidates for assignment: If players like Sheldon Mac, Carrick Felix, or Daniel Ochefu make the opening night roster, they’ll be candidates for G League stints. Otherwise, this is a roster heavy on veterans — Chris McCullough might be the only other viable option for an assignment.
- Two-way players: Devin Robinson, SF; Michael Young, F
- Timeline for affiliate: The Wizards intend to set up a very local affiliate in time for the 2018/19 season, according to a June report.