Unless you have been under a rock, you’ve noticed the recent trend of NBA franchises buying or starting teams in the NBA D-League. What was once an afterthought or punchline in basketball circles has now transformed to a well respected development league where NBA teams can not only find talent, but develop their prospects and rehab players. With no draft picks to depend on for the near future, the Brooklyn Nets are adding a D-League team at the perfect time.
Head coach Kenny Atkinson has long been a fan of the D-League given his San Antonio, by way of Mike Budenholtzer, upbringing. Early in the preseason, Atkinson praised the D-League and previewed how he plans to use it this season.
“We’re going to use the D-League as a tool, we want to use that,” Atkinson said after a calm Nets Sunday practice. “Like to me as a coach it doesn’t have a negative stigma, it has a positive stigma. Anyway we can use it in any scenario, for our young guys, for our guys who have been out and building them up again. I’m a big believer in the D-League, I think it’s a great tool for development.”
With guys like Isaiah Whitehead, Yogi Ferrell, Beau Beech, Egidijus Mockevicius, and Anthony Bennett all getting some type of guaranteed money from Brooklyn but not being ready/able to crack the rotation, having the D-League is a great way to keep an eye on your investment while also creating an environment for them to thrive in.
The D-League is also a great place for teams to slowly reintroduce players back into basketball. Teams like the Boston Celtics have done this with players like Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart via the Maine Red Claws or more recently when the Detroit Pistons had Brandon Jennings playing in Grand Rapids with the Drive following injury. Even this season, the San Antonio Spurs had NBA champion Danny Green practicing with Austin to get him more ready for the season.
Atkinson plans on taking advantage of how close his affiliate will be. For both player development and rehab, he will use the fact that they are going to be in the same building to start the season, and then be within a short drive to team facilities when they open.
“When they’re in Long Island at the Coliseum they’re be a step away from us. For their coaches that have been around, they’re in our staff,” Atkinson said (with a laugh) of the Nets’ D-League affiliate coaches. “They’ve been with us every day, were with us in summer league, now they’re in all our meetings from a coaching standpoint. We’re going to be synchronized on both levels which I think will help. If Isaiah, or if Chris, or if some goes down there, this makes sense, we’re not sending them to Fort Wayne or Austin.”
As guys like Hassan Whiteside, Kent Bazemore, Tyler Johnson, and Jonathon Simmons keep emerging from the D-League to contribute in major ways for winning teams, keeping a close eye on who is on the roster in Long Island will be key this year. If you still aren’t sold, our very own Sean Kilpatrick was plucked from the D-League where he was an All-Star. The talent is there if you know how to look for it and assess it, and I believe that Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson know how to do both.