It's safe to say the number of call-ups of D-League prospects to NBA squads has increased drastically in recent seasons. The D-League not only does a solid job of showcasing previously uncovered talent, but also provides such talent a space in which to grow and develop.
After going undrafted, many prospects venture down to the D-League in hopes of bettering themselves and getting ready to shine when the big moment finally arrives.
But who's to say NBA teams shouldn't more frequently be helping their own players do the same? Matt Moore of ProBasketballTalk recently had a few suggestions as to how the NBA can make better use of the various D-League affiliates. Read more after the jump.
In addition to examining how NBA teams can embrace and further the relationship with their D-League affiliates through personnel communication (among other things), Moore also had one rather simple suggestion with regard to using the D-League as a platform for younger players: just let them play.
In the past, some teams have held back from fully utilizing the D-League as a minor league system of sorts. The fact, however, is that not all NBA players (or prospects) are fully ready and able to perform at the level necessary to properly compete in The Association right out the gates.
There should be no shame in that, either. As Moore notes, though the Pistons selected Andre Drummond with the tenth overall pick in this summer's rookie draft, Drummond is still considered a bit of a project. As opposed to letting him struggle and/or simply warm a seat on the bench in the NBA, why not help allow him to develop into the dominant player he has the potential to be?
Even should a young stud like Drummond be capable of playing a reserve role as a rookie, wouldn't time be better well spent fully unleashing his potential? Any veteran role player can log minutes in an NBA team's rotation. Perhaps rookie and sophomore players would gain better experience learning how to dominate the D-League, and then coming back up to display the skills they honed.
Last season, the Knicks were among the NBA teams to not quite use their D-League affiliate (the Erie BayHawks) as effectively as they could have. A second-round draft choice in 2010, Jerome Jordan appeared in 21 contests for New York, only averaging 5.1 minutes per game. Sitting on the bench for much of the season, it's safe to say Jordan remained a raw prospect throughout.
During the only game of the season in which he played more than 10 minutes for the Knicks, Jordan scored 13 points and grabbed 4 rebounds while logging 24 minutes in a late season victory over the Bobcats.
This proves a player like Jordan can only get better with playing time and experience. While he may not have been close to contributing to the Knicks on a nightly basis, sending him down to Erie for the chance to simply run up and down the court for the BayHawks may have been a better opportunity than simply letting him rot on the Knicks' bench.
For more evidence this would have been a good idea, check out Jordan's numbers during his much too short stint in Erie earlier in the season. The big man averaged 18 points, 8.6 boards, and 2.8 blocks per game through five regular season contests. Jordan returned to the D-League club for the playoffs as well, continuing his dominance as he still averaged 19.7 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game through the first round.
After being drafted in 2010, Jordan spent one season overseas in Serbia before joining the Knicks as a rookie in 2011-12. It seems as though even he understood development was/is necessary, and logging minutes on the court is obviously a key factor.
Jordan is just one of the ever so many examples of young prospects who would ultimately benefit from extra time on the hardwood in the D-League. NBA teams simply need to start recognizing the league as the strong tool it can be.