In the NBADL this season, much has been said about the ever growing amount of single affiliations between NBA and D-League squads. These direct connections allow both staffs to work closely together, staying in close contact as they put forth a joint effort to aid an organization's most promising up and coming talents.
But the fact of the matter is, minor league squads that are not entered into a single affiliation play just as much of a role in the development of younger players. In fact, such a job may even prove more difficult to do so, as the focus needs to be distributed equally amongst the prospects of multiple NBA teams.
So how does a coach balance things to ensure he's doing the best job possible to help the various young guns grow and perhaps hone in on some of that untapped potential?
"I think first and foremost, the players have to understand that whatever time they spent with the team, it's all about their development. All the guys that we've had have been good in that aspect," said Bakersfield Jam Head Coach Will Voigt.
"They understand what the league is there for, and whether you're down in the D-League for a week or a month, it's about getting the most out of it and taking advantage of an opportunity. That's how our relationships are built. The players understand that we, as a staff, are spending important time trying to help them get better."
Coach Voigt's Jam serves as affiliate for four different NBA squads--- the Suns, Hawks, Clippers, and Raptors. Because of this, Bakersfield has already become a popular hub for promising talent, as the likes of Kendall Marshall (the Suns), John Jenkins & Mike Scott (the Hawks), and Quincy Acy (the Raptors) have already donned Jam uniforms in the early goings of the still young basketball season.
With the unique opportunity to be an affiliate of four different squads, the Jam will undoubtedly continue to have access to a bevy of skilled players, who will not only focus on their own respective individual development, but also do their part in helping Bakersfield win ball games.
To Coach Voigt, such access is clearly a big benefit to being a part of the minor league. He added, "Well, that's the beauty of the D-League. You get an opportunity to work with very talented players. What makes the league so great is not only the talent level, but the prospect level. It's second to none."
There is also some pressure on these NBADL squads too, however, as NBA staffs are putting them in the position to help mold their young talents into players who are ready to make contributions in The Association. Nevertheless, the Jam coach enjoys the challenge, and says he understands what his affiliates are looking for when the players are in fact sent to Bakersfield.
"The fact that these NBA teams trust us enough to send down four players this early in the season is an indication that they have a lot of confidence in what we're doing. The league is set up for this. Obviously, we want to win and have had a team that's been lucky enough to do that, but clearly the development side of things is also part of the process. Whatever way we can try to help, that's what we'll do," the coach said.
Recognizing the array of talent that has already come the Jam's way, the team had been lucky enough to have Suns' lottery pick Kendall Marshall (who just recently got recalled) in Bakersfield for a couple of weeks.
Talking about what the point guard added to his team, Coach Voigt said, "I think the biggest thing for Kendall has been his defense. Coming from college to the pros, defensively there's a big transition for rookies. The spacing is so much different, there are rule changes, and the quality of players is different too. Simply being on the floor with us and being in specific game-situations is obviously good for him, but I thought Kendall's defense was his biggest area of improvement with us."
Whereas Marshall's assignment was a longer one as he worked on improving a variety of skills, Jenkins, Scott, and Acy all have spent shorter stints with the Jam. Still, having such talented players in town has benefited the Jam immensely, said Voigt said.
The coach added, "John we only had for two games, but he came in and did what does, which is shoot the ball incredibly well. He helped us win a game in a big way. For him, it's just a point of establishing some confidence as he gets into a rhythm and plays some more minutes."
"Mike Scott's time was actually really tough, only because he was sick when first came down," Coach Voigt went on to say. "He had to take an IV just to get into one of our games, but as he got healthy later on, I think you saw his game kind of pick up too. And Quincy Acy was there when Mike was. The plan was to ease Quincy into things, and then when Mike left, have him take over a similar role. But then the Raptors had some injuries, so he had to go back to Toronto."
There's no doubt that as the season progresses, the team will be fortunate enough to continue having strong talent don Jam uniforms. But as the young guns of the NBA come and go, Coach Voigt has a bit more of a constant presence in Bakersfield that he's trying to help get back to The Association. Former Nets forward Damion James has been playing for the minor league squad all season, but his coach is confident even greener pastures are ahead.
He said of James, "If you watched Damion in preseason with Atlanta, he's extremely close. He had a great vet camp and I know it was a tough decision for them when he didn't make the roster. There's an adjustment period for NBA guys when it comes to being in the D-League, but I think once Damion gets used to the nightly routine here, he's going to be on a lot of NBA teams' short list to make it back."
Coach Voigt has undoubtedly played a big role for a lot of different parties so far this season. In addition to helping prospects grow and develop as they aim to make it to and/or return to the NBA, he also has the trust of big league staffs. Certainly a key influence and important part of the plan, everyone involved seems to continue reaping the benefits of having the coach involved.