Interview with NBA Agent Bill Neff: The Economic Downturn, Affiliations, and the Direction of the D-League (PART 2)

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If you missed yesterday's post, Part 1 of the interview with Bill Neff, I strongly suggest you go back and read it now.  Bill has shared some fascinating insights into the world of player representation, the strength and weaknesses of the D-League, and the general financial outlook of both NBA and D-League franchises.  Now without further ado, let's delve into Part 2 with Agent Bill Neff.

AD: This offseason there has been an exodus of successful, former D-league players to European leagues and foreign teams. What advice are other agents giving these guys? Even some of the top tier players from last year, guys many fans had assumed would spend significant time on an NBA roster this year, have taken the plunge and renewed their passports. Is there some nugget of wisdom that suggests that in a down financial market Europe is safer than the D-League? Or is this just a natural progression of of guys outgrowing the D-League setting?

Bill Neff: Most agents chase money. Period. For us, we look at how a situation fits into a player's overall development and career path. Many agents make choices because of their own financial situation. The only thing that matters is what is best for a player's growth. Many top tier D League players took the money and ran because they were not NBA players. In a down market, Europe is not safer, per se. These players may have needed money. Bottom line is if there will not be a lot of callups and the NBA is not looking at you as a feeder system, as it should, then go get paid if a deal suits you. You must be careful with Europe. It is very dicey right now. Because of the lack of support from the NBA, as previously discussed, the D League is weaker and guys are not getting rewarded so they chase money. It is understandable.

Bottom line is if there will not be a lot of callups and the NBA is not looking at you as a feeder system, as it should, then go get paid if a deal suits you. You must be careful with Europe. It is very dicey right now.

AD: Currently you represent some of the most well known current and former D-League players. In your experience, how well does the D-League prepare players for the NBA? Would you think that for a young player the D-League is a better option than playing abroad, or does international competition prepare players in ways that the D-League can't?

Bill Neff: The D League is the best formula for preparing a player for the NBA. Very few American players come from Europe to the NBA. If it is your dream, stay here and play but understand the NBA is not looking at the D League as a feeder system, as it should. If you find the right coach in the D League, a Joerger, a Meyer, a Gates, it will help you develop. The problem is the NBA guys are not looking for replacement players but merely bodies for a 10 day. Really good NBDL players exist to fit a role in the NBA but they are considered not good enough, which is unfortunate.

The D League is the best formula for preparing a player for the NBA. Very few American players come from Europe to the NBA.

AD: Do you think that NBA teams that have "mildly embraced" their D-League partners (i.e. San Antonio, OKC, and Houston), have a more positive view of the D-League than their counterparts with hybrid affiliations?  Essentially, do those teams that take better advantage of the D-League view it as a possible training ground for role players and contributors, or do their attitudes also reflect the "lesser than the NBA" ideology?

Bill Neff: In theory, they do, but in practice, a team like Milwaukee utilized the D League way better than San Antonio ever did.  I think Oklahoma City hiring two good coaches in Nate Tibbetts and Dale Osbourne will eventually get it right.  I think San Antonio has done some good things with Ian Mahinmi, but they should invite their better players to their camp, for instance.  LA, with the hiring of Chucky Brown, as a CBA refugee and a D League assistant, will get it right.  It would be a great place for their second round pick.  Again, it must be looked at as an opportunity, not an unnecessary expense.  How about if Walkers/Giddens were around the corner as they are now?  Same with Pruitt.  That is not Boston's fault but Ainge/Papile are seeing them almost daily instead of watching game film.  How much will Jermaine Taylor benefit from Rio Grande Valley?  That is Houston's trick.

Time will tell and some have done it right or will but it is early so you cannot give a definitive answer either way.  You would think, however, that they will use it better.  It is interesting to note that most of this comes from the San Antonio clones--SA, OKC, Cleveland/Erie, though they have not used it well yet, so you hope that these more forward thinking types will continue to be and embrace the D League as a feeder and an equal partner.  It would be to their benefit.  How good would George Hill be now if he would have spent more time there last year?

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