Now that we've assessed who played well in this year's Summer League, both in Orlando and in Vegas, I thought I'd talk about an idea I mentioned in the comments a few days ago: next year, there should be more D-League teams. There were too many D-League guys stuck on the end of Summer League benches or only playing in one or two games for the current system to really benefit them. Assuredly, there were some NBA teams that "got it." Orlando, Denver and the Knick all come to mind as teams that invited players who spent all or part of last year in the D-League and then, and this is important, let them play.
Now, this is not necessarily the fault of the NBA teams. Some of them have several young players or guys who are under contract that they need to figure out what to do with. About half of San Antonio's roster was made up of guys who they've drafted in the last few years, for example. That meant that Squeaky Johnson only appeared in two games, and Erik Dawson didn't play at all. Now, neither of those players are on the short list of likely NBA call-ups, but they still have some talent and weren't able to demonstrate it. There were some guys who didn't play due because they couldn't - David Noel and Patrick Ewing Jr. of the Knicks' team were both sidelined with injury. But Maureece Rice averaged nine minutes in Vegas. Dwayne Jones played a total of nine minutes over only two games. Trent Strickland played in two games. Rod Benson appeared in three games, and after playing a little over 11 minutes in the first he never played more than 3 and a half minutes in the others. Dominique Coleman averaged less than six minutes over three minutes. Et cetera.
My solution? More D-League Select teams. The one team. Even excluding the D-League players who were out with injuries, there are enough guys who did play to form three additional 10-man rosters of players who come from the D-League. You also could establish fewer teams with more than ten players on each roster, as the injuries suffered by Othyus Jeffers, Trey Johnson and meant that this year's D-League Select team found itself shorthanded at times.
Below the jump I discuss the advantages I see for everyone involved.
Advantages for D-League players: More playing time, obviously. Sure guys like Kasib Powell and C.J. Giles got a lot of playing time, but as I noted above, that experience wasn't nearly universal. No one on the D-League Select team averaged less than 15 minutes a game. Having multiple teams means that both the Kasib Powells and the Trent Stricklands will be able to show what they can do. With three or four teams, the D-League also could turn it into an event where 40 or 50 guys are invited to try out, and NBA scouts and coaches are invited to observe them. That would lead to the kind of exposure given to players who attended the D-League's Elite minicamp, but on a wider level.
Advantages for the D-League: The D-League Select team generated a lot of positive coverage from newspapers, magazines and websites like TrueHoop. Quite simply, this was a public relations win for the D-League. The Select team was noted to be made up of talented players who were typically playing harder than the others and who beat several teams made up of first-round NBA talent. Hopefully this is what people will think of from now on when they hear "D-League" rather than the 31-year old mailman who played JV basketball in high school and wants to give it one more shot.
Advantages for other players: Fewer roster spots taken up by D-League players means more spots for the Pooh Jeters and Nikoloz Tskitishvilis of the world. While the odds those guys get an NBA contract coming out of Summer League are admittedly slim, more playing time for those types of players means they'll have more chances to show what they can do for European teams as well.
Advantages for the NBA: This one is a little tough to discern, as there may be a point at which the league doesn't really care how many D-League teams there are at Summer League, but ultimately benefits the D-League
benefits the NBA. The fact that the Select team did so well hopefully means more players will see the league as a viable option to get noticed by NBA teams and scouts, and that sponsors will see it as a positive venture as well. That can make Papa Stern happy.