Adam Silver has been an instrumental figure regarding the development of the NBA D-League, and as Silver prepares to take over for NBA Commissioner David Stern in the coming year, Silver's ideas for the D-League are creating even more excitement, as it looks as though he will have a major impact on the future growth of the league.
While in Houston during NBA All-Star Weekend, Silver commented briefly about the future of the D-League, "I think ultimately we'd like to have a 30-team league, and we (Silver and the NBA D-League owners) do envision a one-to-one relationship between every NBA team and a single NBA D-League affiliate. We think it's the second best league in the world."
Silver, who is a Duke University and University of Chicago Law School graduate, has tremendous business and leadership skills that have propelled him to being considered one of the most influential sports business figures in the world. With Silver's help, the NBA D-League has grown significantly over the past decade. The league is now broadcast globally due to it's YouTube partnership, in which Silver helped announce along with Claude Ruibal, the Global Head of Sports for Google/YouTube.
Silver alongside current NBA Development League Commissioner Dan Reed, will continue to take the NBA D-League to the next level in terms of growth and popularity. The league has grown exponentially since Reed took over as Commissioner in July of 2007. Reed has been able to use the tools he gained from his time at the Harvard Business School to ultimately create a minor league system that will benefit the NBA.
Silver is widely considered to be an asset for D-League owners, by assisting in their effort to grow the league and expand business. RidiculousUpside.com spoke with managing investor of the Idaho Stampede, Bill Ilett, about Silver and the impact he will have regarding the D-League.
"He has been a champion of the D-League from the very beginning. The league was David Stern's vision, but Adam is the one that has worked through all the growing pains of the operation. He continues to be very helpful and knows the only way the league will be a success is if it has strong and financially healthy teams. His vision is to build franchise value in the D-League as they have for teams in the NBA. We will be 30 minor league teams to match the current NBA teams eventually. However, it will be a long term situation that will be measured in years, maybe decades." Ilett said.
The Idaho Stampede entered a one-to-one affiliation to start this season, before they were the D-League affiliate for the Denver Nuggets, Portland Trail Blazers and Utah Jazz. The season started off rocky under their new single partnership with the Portland Trail Blazers, but as Ilett has suggested, there is a learning curve to making the switch. "We are all learning how we can effectively develop players and coaches while continuing our winning tradition on and off the court." The balance between winning and developing talent is perhaps the most difficult obstacle to overcome in the D-League, not only for single affiliates, but for multi-affiliates as well.
RidiculousUpside.com also spoke with Bakersfield Jam assistant general manager Brian Levy, to get his thoughts on Silver and also the idea of league-wide single affiliations. Levy commented on Silver and his potential impact for the future of the league, "Honestly, the D-League has been on an upward trend for quite some time. It's shaken the majority of negative stereotypes associated with "minor league basketball." The fact is, NBA players are playing in our league, both current and future. The fact that Adam Silver is going to continue to promote and prioritize the league will only further enhance it. I'm excited to see the growth of this league over the next 5 years."
Levy attained his current position as assistant general manager after serving last season as Director of Player Personnel, he helped the Jam achieve their most successful season in franchise history by reaching the semifinals of the 2012 NBA D-League Playoffs. The Jam are the NBA D-League affiliate for the Atlanta Hawks, Los Angeles Clippers, Phoenix Suns, and Toronto Raptors. Considering Silver's ambition for the league to increase to 30 teams, Levy and the Jam have experienced success as an independently owned franchise, so is he on board with Silver?
Levy explained that it ultimately depends on the goals and team's priorities. "The big question, and ultimately the biggest difference between an independently owned D-League team and a one-to-one, is what is the team's priority? Most hybrid or NBA owned teams see the D-League as as investment. They have poured a lot of time and money into scouting, drafting and signing their NBA prospects. So when they assign them to the D-League, it's to get better, in order to one day help their NBA team. That means guaranteed minutes and the opportunity to play through mistakes. It may also mean playing those assigned players ahead of maybe a more "ready" D-League player. Systems, philosophies, and coaching staffs all mirror those of the NBA team."
Levy went on to describe the differences regarding an independently owned D-League franchise, to that of an NBA owned or managed team. "Independently owned teams, generally have a more business-minded view. Exciting basketball, plus winning, equals butts in the seats and sponsorship dollars. While they too strive to develop players and incorporate NBA assignees, the pressure of winning is always high. Independents also have less control and input over possible affiliate players and timing of assignments. And not to mention, competing with NBA checkbooks, and the overall influence that NBA teams have on players and agents."
Levy ended with this, "Some may disagree, but I believe you can only have one priority. That priority can be to develop talent or try to win games. While sometimes you're lucky enough to get both, at the end of the day you can only choose one. The two different models usually fall on opposite sides of that line."
The Jam have proven that single affiliation doesn't necessarily guarantee success. As it stands, the Jam have the best overall record in the D-League and perhaps the most well-rounded roster. Yet, to achieve becoming the official minor league system for the NBA, a single affiliation relationship league-wide is necessary. While both models continue to makeup the league, having NBA teams be able to control the operations side of their D-League affiliate will allow the league to reach it's ultimate goal.
As the entire NBA D-League continues to take shape, Silver along with experienced NBADL owners and front office staff such as Ilett and Levy, will only enhance what the NBA D-League has already become. Their combined knowledge, with firsthand experience will prove beneficial in creating the ultimate minor league basketball system for the NBA.