In recent years, the NBA has gradually moved closer to establishing a 30-team G League, with each NBAGL club directly affiliated with an NBA franchise. During the 2019/20 season, 28 of the NBA’s 30 teams had their own affiliates — the Trail Blazers and Nuggets represented the only outliers.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic and a handful of other factors, that march toward a G League full of 30 NBA affiliates has taken a detour in 2020/21.
The G League has introduced one franchise, the G League Ignite, that’s not affiliated with any NBA team, with another unaffiliated squad on the way for 2021/22, when the Capitanes de Ciudad de Mexico are expected to enter the fray.
Meanwhile, the Pistons purchased the Suns‘ G League affiliate and will relocate the team to Detroit in ’21/22, leaving Phoenix without an affiliate of its own. However, neither the Pistons nor the Suns will have an NBAGL squad in action in ’20/21 anyway, since the revamped G League season at Walt Disney World will only include 17 of 28 affiliates.
Here’s the full list of the G League affiliates who will be participating in the 2020/21 season:
- Brooklyn Nets: Long Island Nets
- Charlotte Hornets: Greensboro Swarm
- Cleveland Cavaliers: Canton Charge
- Golden State Warriors: Santa Cruz Warriors
- Houston Rockets: Rio Grande Valley Vipers
- Indiana Pacers: Fort Wayne Mad Ants
- Los Angeles Clippers: Agua Caliente Clippers of Ontario
- Memphis Grizzlies: Memphis Hustle
- Minnesota Timberwolves: Iowa Wolves
- New Orleans Pelicans: Erie BayHawks
- Note: The Washington Wizards will be sharing the costs and operations of the BayHawks this season.
- New York Knicks: Westchester Knicks
- Oklahoma City Thunder: Oklahoma City Blue
- Orlando Magic: Lakeland Magic
- Philadelphia 76ers: Delaware Blue Coats
- San Antonio Spurs: Austin Spurs
- Toronto Raptors: Raptors 905
- Utah Jazz: Salt Lake City Stars
This group of teams will be joined by the unaffiliated Ignite, whose roster is made up partly of NBA prospects who chose to play in the NBAGL (rather than attend college) before entering the draft, and partly of G League veterans who will serve as mentors to those young prospects.
Here’s the full list of G League franchises that won’t be in action this season:
- Atlanta Hawks: College Park Skyhawks
- Boston Celtics: Maine Red Claws
- Chicago Bulls: Windy City Bulls
- Dallas Mavericks: Texas Legends
- Detroit Pistons: Grand Rapids Drive
- Los Angeles Lakers: South Bay Lakers
- Miami Heat: Sioux Falls Skyforce
- Milwaukee Bucks: Wisconsin Herd
- Phoenix Suns: Northern Arizona Suns
- Sacramento Kings: Stockton Kings
- Washington Wizards: Capital City Go-Go
This would have been the last season that Grand Rapids was the Pistons’ affiliate and Northern Arizona was affiliated with the Suns. The Northern Arizona franchise will be relocated for 2021/22 and will become the Motor City Cruise, the new affiliate for the Pistons.
The Grand Rapids franchise reportedly hopes to remain in the G League as an unaffiliated team. Theoretically, an NBA club without an affiliate could enter into an agreement with the Drive, but the location wouldn’t be very geographically convenient for the Suns, Trail Blazers, or Nuggets.
Additionally, the plan is for Mexico City’s Capitanes to enter the G League in 2021/22, with the Erie BayHawks (the Pelicans’ affiliate) relocating to Birmingham, Alabama for the 2022/23 season.
If the Suns, Trail Blazers, and Nuggets look to establish affiliates in the coming years, we could eventually see a G League that features upwards of 32 teams. For this season though, barely over half that number will be in action when the NBAGL regular season schedule tips off on February 10 at Disney World.