Navigating the NBA D-League Season

The 13th NBA D-League season tips on Friday with seven games and then another five months of Call-Ups, assignments and exciting NBA D-League basketball will be underway.

With that in mind, let's take a look at the current NBA D-League landscape. Unlike most professional sports, which gradually build up to the playoffs and, eventually, the crowning of a champion, the NBA D-League season has several unique ebbs and flows, with the NBA D-League Finals not necessarily marking the year's crescendo. Check out all the key dates you need to know as we prepare for another NBA D-League season.

November 22, 2013: Opening Night
The season tips off with a slate of seven games across the league. From here, all 17 teams will play a 50-game season while competing in a three-division format. Noteworthy on opening night is that Reno -- in its first season as the single affiliate for the Sacramento Kings -- and Sioux Falls -- in its first season as the single affiliate for the Miami Heat -- will square off at 8 p.m. in Sioux Falls.

November 23, 2013: Delaware's First Game
The NBA D-League welcomed a 17th team into this league this year when the Delaware 87ers became the single affiliate of the Philadelphia 76ers. The Sevens, as they will be known, will play their first ever game in Canton. They will not play a home game until Dec. 8, also against Canton.

January 5-9, 2014: NBA D-League Showcase
This is the league's premier event and affords players a chance to -- you guessed it -- showcase their skills in front of personnel from likely all 30 teams.

The 2014 event will feature each NBA D-League team competing in two games over five days, and the results will set the tone for Call-Ups over the remainder of the season. In fact, during the eventís nine-year history, 40 NBA D-League players have earned GATORADE Call-Ups during or in the week following the NBA D-League Showcase. One such player that benefited in this manner last season was Rio Grande Valley's Chris Johnson. Johnson was flying under the radar heading into Showcase, but he shot well while in Reno and the Memphis Grizzlies signed him to two 10-day contracts afterwards because they were looking to add a perimeter threat. In all, 26 of the 36 Call-Ups last season came during or after Showcase.

January 6, 2014: 10-Day Contracts
Another important distinction in the season -- and it's not a coincidence that it, well, coincides with Showcase -- is the day when NBA teams can start offering NBA D-League players 10-day contracts. The freedom of the 10-day allows teams to get a better look at Prospects without necessarily making a long-term commitment. If teams like what they see, they can offer a second 10-day contract, after which the team will have the choice to either sign the player for the rest of the season or release him.

February 15, 2014: NBA D-League All-Star Game
Happening during NBA All-Star Weekend, the best of the best in the NBA D-League will take center stage in New Orleans for NBA D-League Dream Factory. Traditionally, there is a 3-Point Contest and Slam Dunk Contest in addition to the principle event, the NBA D-League All-Star Game. Last year, All-Star Game MVP Travis Leslie went on to earn a Call-Up with the Utah Jazz less than a month after the All-Star Break.

April 5: Regular Season Finale
Seven games will be on tap on the last day of the regular season as teams potentially make their final push for one of the eight available playoff spots. In terms of qualifying for the Playoffs, the three division winners will earn automatic bids while there will be five "wild-card" teams. Interestingly, the NBA D-League uses a unique playoff format where the three division winners have the opportunity to select their first round opponent from the teams ranked five through eight. The top-seeded division winner will select its opponent first, with the second and third ranked division winners following in that order.