NBA

Roundtable: Bloggers of non-affiliate NBA teams discuss the D-League

Some of you may have been so engulfed with the NBA that you missed some big news in the minor league world: Next season, the D-League will roll out an all-time high of 22 teams and each one will be affiliated with an NBA club.

The expansion teams next season will be for the Charlotte Hornets (Greensboro), Chicago Bulls (Hoffman Estates) and Brooklyn Nets (Long Island Nets). The Nets are the only team with a name thus far — and they went the boring route sticking with the same moniker as their parent club.

U&M decided to reach out to some bloggers that cover NBA clubs without a current D-League affiliate to get their takes on some topics moving forward. With that in mind, let’s introduce the panel.

Mason Ginsberg (@MasonGinsberg) — Mason covers the New Orleans Pelicans for Bourbon Street Shots as part of the ESPN TrueHoop Network and loves himself some Anthony Davis. You can always count on sound analysis and logic from Ginsberg and we are thrilled to have him.

William Bohl (@BreakTheHuddle) — William covers the Minnesota Timberwolves for A Wolf Among Wolves, which is holding strong as an independent blog. Wolves’ Twitter seems rampant these days with the likes of KAT, Wiggins and LaVine making waves and Bohl and his AWAW team help both fuel the fire and temper expectations at the same time.

Kris Willis (@Kris_Willis) — Kris covers the Atlanta Hawks for PeachTree Hoops as part of the SB Nation network. Whether it’s post-game reports, features or scathing reviews on why Kent Bazemore missed the All-Star Game (I’m predicting the future here!), Kris and his crew put out amazing work.

Adam Mares (@Adam_Mares) — Adam is the site manager for the Denver Nuggets blog Denver Stiffs of SB Nation. He also put together the most legit hoops follow list for Twitter on reddit earlier this year and now he’s famous … but not too famous to help us out!

Adam McGee (@AdamMcGee11) — Adam covers the Milwaukee Bucks for Behind the Buck Pass, which is part of the FanSided Network. Other than their own #HotTakes over at BtBP, the crew also includes other bloggers in their analysis via Q&A’s and roundtables, making for interesting reads. Adam also runs a pretty sweet podcast about the Bucks.

Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Next season, there will be 22 teams in the D-League. If your team were to add a franchise, where do you think they should place them in relation to the NBA club? Why?

Ginsberg (@MasonGinsberg): The most logical location is probably Baton Rouge. Under 80 miles from New Orleans, and a big college town with a growing base of young professionals. Places like Gulfport, MS or Mobile, AL could also make sense if the goal is to capture fans from markets that don’t currently have much in the way of basketball, but my vote would still go to Baton Rouge.

Bohl (@BreakTheHuddle): I know that the Minnesota front office tried to make Sioux Falls their affiliate once upon a time, but the Miami Heat refused to part with them. I’ve gotten the impression that the Wolves’ brass still pines to make that a reality, but if that never works out, it would be wise to put their D-League affiliate in Rochester, MN. Located in the southern part of the state, Rochester is only a 90 minute drive from downtown Minneapolis and sits in relatively close proximity to other D-League cities (Sioux Falls, Des Moines, Fort Wayne). Rochester is also the corporate home of a major company (Mayo Clinic) with current sponsorship ties to both the Wolves and Lynx, which would make for a natural partnership. Plus, there’s a 7,200 seat arena already in place. It almost makes too much sense.

Willis (@Kris_Willis): There are several possibilities surrounding Atlanta where a D-League team could be placed. I think one of the best possibilities might be in Gwinnett where there is already a usable arena. The Braves have a minor league team there and geographically it would work well for the Hawks.

Mares (@Adam_Mares): I’d go for Colorado Springs or Ft. Collins. Colorado Spring is the 2nd largest metro area in Colorado and is only an hour from Denver. Call ups could arrive on the same day as games if needed. Colorado is so far away from every other major market that I don’t know what the use would be of placing a team in, say, Albuquerque or Omaha. Markets outside of Colorado aren’t likely to care about the Denver Nuggets farm team anyway.

McGee (@AdamMcGee11): It would be nice to see a franchise located within the state of Wisconsin, as that should help the organization to continue to harbor positive feeling towards the Bucks. Everybody knows about how the state embraces the Packers, but for a whole host of reasons that hasn’t necessarily translated to their NBA team over the years. The planned new arena, and the debate and politics that surrounded it, have undoubtedly caused some divisions, so spreading the love and, of course, the wealth with a D-League franchise somewhere else in the state would go a way towards repairing that damage.

Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

When your team does add a D-League affiliate, what do you hope the moniker will be?

Ginsberg (@MasonGinsberg): I’m going to go with the name I was pulling for before Pelicans was announced — the Baton Rouge Brass. New Orleans flair, alliteration, play on words, what more could you want?

Bohl (@BreakTheHuddle): It should probably play off the wolf motif, right? The Pack? The Howl? The Fangs? I feel like there’s a ton of potential to do something cool with names and logos based on the trees/wilderness/moon concepts, so that’s the direction I’d go. If I had to pick one, it’d be the Fangs. The Rochester Fangs, with the bottom parts of the ‘R’ looking like big ol’ teeth.

Willis (@Kris_Willis): This is a great question and I don’t really have an answer. We want to see the Hawks with a D-League affiliate and it doesn’t really matter to me what it is called.

Mares (@Adam_Mares): I’m really bad at this so I am the last one to ask. The Miners or The Pioneers seem obvious.  But I think the Trout would be funky. I like teams with weird names. Rainbow Trout could play into the rainbow Nuggets skyline jersey colors of the 80s.

McGee (@AdamMcGee11): Oh wow, there are so many tough decisions to be made here! Obviously the location will factor into this, but I would hope to see a name that has a really strongly defined connection to either the city of Milwaukee or the Bucks as a franchise. If it’s based in Wisconsin, there could be obvious badger connections, but I’d rather see the “America’s Dairyland” aspect of things played up. Maybe that’s just because I’m still a little sad that the Bucks didn’t release “Cream City” alternate jerseys though.

A safer bet may be to keep the team name in the family. If we’ve already got the Bucks, why not bring other types of deer in on the act? Eau Claire Elk, Madison Moose. The possibilities are endless!

Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Which current player would benefit most from being placed on assignment right now?

Ginsberg (@MasonGinsberg): Given that the current Pelican’s active roster is basically a glorified D-League roster because of the injuries, it’s hard to pick anyone out. Combine that with the fact that the Pels haven’t had a first round draft pick in the last couple of years, and this question really borders on “not applicable.” Ish Smith, maybe?

Bohl (@BreakTheHuddle): Since the Wolves are tying up three roster spots with older guys (KG, Tayshaun, Andre Miller) and are very cautious with Ricky Rubio’s health (as is only prudent), they couldn’t really afford to send anyone away for a long assignment at the moment. That being said, Tyus Jones could really use consistent time on the court, especially if the front office feels he is the future backup point guard of this team. He’s only appeared in two of the Wolves’ first 12 games, logging a grand total of 14 minutes on the floor. I’ve got to believe if they had their own affiliate, Tyus would be running the point for a bulk of the D-League season. Alas, as it is, he’s stuck at the end of the bench, and left to defend Zach LaVine in practices. Poor kid.

Willis (@Kris_Willis): For the Hawks, the answer is Walter Tavares. He has already had one stint in the D-League and I suspect he will make several more trips down before the season is over. Tavares is a very intriguing prospect due to his size and he could play a big part for the Hawks sometime down the road. For now, the team is bringing him along slowly and will likely utilize the D-League as an opportunity to get him on the court and put him in competitive situations.

Mares (@Adam_Mares): Before we cut him the answer was Erick Green. He never got any playing time so I really don’t even have a great grasp on what kind of player he was. All I know is that dude was at the gym all day every day working on his game. Would’ve been cool to see him on our own D-League team, running Nuggets sets, and preparing for a role with the team.

McGee (@AdamMcGee11): Damien Inglis is the Buck who I’d love to see get the chance to play some meaningful minutes in the D-League. Inglis has all the physical attributes needed to thrive in the NBA, but he’s just a bit too green right now. Inglis is one of many players around the league who could really kick on and make an impact if he’s given the platform to learn, improve and pick up experience. That’s exactly what the D-League is there for.

Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

A lot of the expansion affiliates are staying in-house for head coaching positions. Does your current franchise have any in-house candidates you think would be a good fit for a D-League head coach?

Ginsberg (@MasonGinsberg): This is a fairly off-the-wall answer, but I would love to see someone on the Pelicans’ analytics side who has limited to no coaching experience be at least an assistant coach for the D-League team. I think that kind of experience would be invaluable to a team’s b-ball ops group in understanding the full picture when it comes to roster construction.

Bohl (@BreakTheHuddle): Current assistant Bryan Gates, with his reputation as a developmental wiz and tireless worker, would be a fantastic choice to coach a Timberwolves’ D-League team. He sports the highest winning percentage in D-League history (.664), is a two-time league coach of the year (2007, 2008) and won the 2008 championship with the Idaho Stampede. The other choice would be Ryan Saunders, who has spent time as an assistant with both Washington and Minnesota, and who some believe father Flip was grooming to be his successor with the Timberwolves. Getting experience as a head coach in the D-League before any such promotion is considered would be a logical move.

Willis (@Kris_Willis): I think it is certainly possible. The Hawks already employ Taylor Jenkins who is the former head coach of the Austin Spurs. So he might immediately be a candidate. Atlanta has a coaching staff that features former Bucknell Assistant Charles Lee and Ben Sullivan who previously worked in basketball development for the San Antonio Spurs.

Mares (@Adam_Mares): Micah Nori would be the guy. He coached the team for Summer League and he seemed like the type of guy that would be a good fit for that. Ed Pinckney, Ryan Bowen, Wes Unseld Jr. and Chris Flemming don’t seem like head coach types, they all seem to enjoy the assistant spot.

McGee (@AdamMcGee11): Without question, the Bucks have some stellar candidates within their staff already. Sean Sweeney has a steadily growing reputation as one of the league’s best young assistants, and that’s borne out of his track record as a bit of a defensive savant as much as anything else. Sweeney feels like a young Thibs in terms of philosophies and attitude. Josh Oppenheimer is a player development coach who is held in very high regard also. Oppenheimer has done much of his work on the way up with the Bucks on the offensive end — he’s known as a bit of a shot doctor — but it would be fun to see what he could accomplish with an opportunity with greater scope.

Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The D-League has a “coach’s challenge” that they can use only in 4th quarters and overtime. Recently, the Iowa Energy challenged a late offensive foul call in a 2-point game that was overturned, so they kept possession in a crucial time of the game. Do you think this is something that the NBA should adopt?

Ginsberg (@MasonGinsberg): As long as the replay officiating is coming from one centralized location to make the process as quick as possible, then I’m all for it. Having the refs walk over to the mid-court replay booth and watch the play on that monitor a million times isn’t fast or terribly efficient. Getting the call right is the most important thing, though.

Bohl (@BreakTheHuddle): Man, this is a fantastic question. Replays don’t bother me as much as they seem to bother others, and I’m all for trying to get the correct call, but I’m not sure I like the ‘challenge’ systems currently employed by two of the other major American sports (football and baseball). I’d rather the NBA (and the D-League) invest in processes to streamline the official reviews so the right calls are made without subjecting the process to the clunky sorts of procedures we see in other major sports. That said, I love that the NBA utilizes the D-League to test this kind of stuff out, and to work out the kinks before (possibly) introducing it on a bigger stage.

Willis (@Kris_Willis): While I like the idea of getting the call right I really don’t like the constant stoppages in play that occur during the final moments of most games. I think it breaks up the flow of both teams on the court and I don’t think it is great for fans in the arena or watching at home. The D-League system is intriguing, but I think it would just open up the possibility of longer and more frequent delays.

Mares (@Adam_Mares): Nah. Bad calls aren’t THAT big of an issue and games take long enough as is. I’m all for replay and stuff but anything that slows the game down is probably a bad thing.

McGee (@AdamMcGee11): This is always a tough balance. Obviously, we all want the game decided by the plays made on the court rather than any contentious decisions made away from it, but at the same time the final few minutes of games can be too stop-start as it is already. Video review has certainly helped with the way the remit of the video center in Secaucus has been expanded in recent years, but I’d still be more inclined to trying to disrupt the flow of games as little as possible late on. Still, it’s great to see that type of experimentation in the D-League as that’s the only way that we can find out if these ideas will work.