by Matthew Brennan, NBA D-League.com
The NBA D-League is poised to enter a new season after an offseason of growth. Since the Iowa Energy defeated the Rio Grande Valley Vipers in the Finals to close out the 2010-11 season, several developments have taken place to demonstrate added interest and involvement in the league from NBA teams. Listed below are some of the major changes that will be taking effect for 2011-12, and some key numbers from last season.
- Of the 16 teams that will play in 2011-12, the NBA D-League now has nine teams with single affiliations with NBA teams, up from four this past season. The Dakota Wizards will now be affiliated with the Golden State Warriors, while the Cavaliers will be affiliated with a team in Canton, Ohio. The Los Angeles D-Fenders will also return as affiliate of the Lakers after not playing last season. Single-affiliated teams that return from 2010-11 include the Austin Toros (Spurs), Rio Grande Valley Vipers (Rockets), and Tulsa 66ers (Thunder). In addition, two more teams will begin hybrid-affiliation partnerships next season in Erie (Knicks) and Springfield (Nets).
- On Thursday, the Cleveland Cavaliers became the fifth NBA team to purchase an NBA D-League team. They bought the New Mexico Thunderbirds and are moving them to Canton, Ohio, to begin play this season. The Cavaliers join the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Lakers, and Golden State Warriors as teams that own an NBA D-League team. The Warriors also joined the ownership ranks this offseason after taking control of the Dakota Wizards, one of the league's longest-tenured franchises. The Los Angeles Lakers also return to NBA D-League action this season with the D-Fenders, who did not play in the 2010-11 season but will be back this year.
- Along with Golden State's recent purchase of Dakota and the Nets and Knicks agreeing to single affiliation hybrid agreements, the face of the NBA D-League is literally changing before our eyes as more and more NBA teams see greater value in the league. 23% of the players in the NBA have seen time in the NBA D-League, up from 20% at the conclusion of last season. All 30 NBA teams had at least one player on their roster with NBA D-League experience, and several NBA D-League alums played vital roles in the 2011 NBA Finals between the Dallas Mavericks and the Miami Heat.
- During the 2010-11 season, 25 NBA teams assigned 37 first- and second-year players to develop with their NBA D-League affiliates. Of those 37 players, 18 were first-round NBA Draft picks from 2009 and 2010, while six were lottery picks. 45% of the players selected in the 2010 NBA Draft played in the NBA D-League this season.
- The NBA Development League (NBA D-League) closed out a record- setting 2010-11 regular-season that featured an all-time high 37 NBA players assigned from a record 25 NBA teams and a total league-wide attendance of 1,125,583 fans, up 7.9% from last season.