Behind The Scenes At the 2006 D-League Draft

By Matt Wurst, NBADLeague.com

SECAUCUS, Nov 2, 2006 -- If you need physical proof at just how far the NBA Development League has come since 2001, look no further than the sixth annual NBA D-League Draft held tonight at the NBA Entertainment Studios in Secaucus, New Jersey.

Growth and progress are two words often associated with the D-League as we have seen a fledgling league evolve from six teams to eight teams last season to 12 teams for the upcoming season. NBA scouts and general managers took notice and began calling up and signing dozens of players each season. Then the league introduced an affiliation system last year between NBA and D-League teams and 35 former D-Leaguers are currently on NBA rosters.

Inside the league Draft war room.

"We are growing, but we want to grow strategically," D-League President Phil Evans said. "Expansion is in our future, but we want to make sure we have the right ownership groups, the right cities and the right arenas. The affiliation system is taking us in the right direction. It will take a few years to get there, but we will get there."

It is therefore only natural that the annual Draft has joined the ranks of the NBA Draft Lottery and the WNBA Draft as the major events that now take place at NBA headquarters and broadcast for the world to view. For the first time in league history, coverage of the first three rounds aired live on NBA TV.

Just last season, the Draft took place on a conference call out of the D-League offices in Greenville, South Carolina with teams calling in and making their picks. Tonight's event took slightly more work to orchestrate. After all, live television requires a bit more coordination. All of the preliminary planning was meticulous and flawless, from the investigative research and signing of more than 140 players to making sure that each team has a mute button on the speakerphone at their respective draft locations (and assuring that everyone keep the button muted when not officially speaking). All D-League personnel involved in the Draft were on the line as roll call was taken at precisely 8:35 p.m. ET. Each team then designated a draft spokesperson who announced the team's selections.

On the air, NBA TV host Rick Kamla hosted the pre show. He chatted up such guests as Evans, NBA Vice President Stu Jackson and D-League Vice President of Basketball Operations & Player Personnel Chris Alpert.

"This is the start of a professional career for many of these players," Jackson said. "It is exciting. In its five seasons, the D-League has provided a training ground not only for the NBA players, but it has been great for referees as well. There are also many coaches and front office personnel who made the transition from D-League teams to NBA franchises. It has been a terrific launching pad for many careers in the NBA."

D-League President Phil Evans joined Rick Kamla for NBA TV's first-ever Draft broadcast.

Behind the scenes, Draft introductions began just a few minutes later with opening remarks from Phil Evans, a Draft Introduction from Chris Alpert, Draft policies & procedures with D-League Vice President & General Counsel Bobby Sharma and onto the picks at exactly 9:00 p.m. ET.

The Anaheim Arsenal secured the first overall selection through a lottery conducted at the annual coaches meeting in Dallas on October 2. Of course, it had to be done in the most precise of manners:
"[Full team name, including city] are ready to select. With the [#] pick of the [#] round, [team name] select [player name]."

The audio to the conference call was also made available on NBADLeague.com, as it has been the past few years, but fans also had exclusive online broadband access inside the Draft call conference room behind the studio. Audio from the event was also simulcast on the NBA Radio Network, the first major NBA event of any kind on SIRIUS Channel 127.

The Draft telecast on NBA TV featured NBA Director of Scouting Marty Blake, along with assistant director of scouting Ryan Blake, teaming up with Kamla and Chris Alpert to offer commentary throughout the event.

"It all culminates tonight," Alpert said before the first pick was made. "This is a fulfilling night for us as a league as well as a lot of the players tonight."

The Draft consisted of ten rounds with each team having one selection in each round. Unlike the NBA and WNBA Drafts, the D-League Draft is a serpentine selection process meaning that the team to select last in the first round had the first pick in the second round. Only players previously signed to a 2006-07 D-League Standard Player Contract will be eligible to be drafted. A final list of those players was provided by the League to each of the teams. Alpert and his staff were responsible for signing all of the players selected tonight prior to their being selected. On the pre show, Alpert predicted that the top players to be selected were Andre Brown, Kevin Burleson, Corsley Edwards, Eddie Robinson and Devin Green. So how did that pan out?

The D-League will adopt a new ball for the 2006-07 season.

Edwards went first to the Anaheim Arsenal. A 6-9, 275-pound forward, Corsley Edwards is big, athletic and strong. He played in Spain last season and can make a difference on both ends of the floor. According to the Blakes, he can be a go-to guy, defends and gets the big rebounds. Brown went second to Sioux Falls, but the first surprise (if you can call it that), came as the Colorado 14ers selected Mike Harris, a 6-6 small forward from Rice University. He nearly made the Milwaukee Bucks team, though, and was one of the last players cut during training camp.

Teams each had two minutes to make each selection in all 10 rounds, and all teams strictly complied to this. Any team that did not make a selection within the allotted time would have forfeited the selection and given an additional selection at the end of the draft (it has never happened). Unlike the NBA Draft, no trades were permitted prior to, during, or after the Draft. In fact, no trades can go down until the first D-League regular season game has been played on November 24, 2006.

After the first two rounds, NBA TV tossed its coverage over the D-League.com, which picked up the live audio and video, as well as commentary from Alpert and the Blakes, who delved even deeper into the talent pool with their comprehensive analysis. Nearly four hours and 120 picks later, the Draft wrapped up as Shawnson Johnson, a 6-9 forward from North Texas, was chosen by the Anaheim Arsenal.

Of course, even though teams have added a number of players to their 2006-07 rosters for training camp, the work continues. The Draft is one of several methods by which teams can obtain players to report to training camps, which will begin on November 12. The other possible options are players who played for that team last season, league allocations, local tryouts, and NBA assignments.

Remember, for all of these players... the NBA is just a phone call away.