The Delaware Sevens are the latest club to join the group of single affiliate teams in the NBA D-League, and are the sixth franchise to be owned outright by their NBA parent club (Philadelphia 76ers). Next season, the Sevens will play their games in the Bob Carpenter Center at the University of Delaware, which according to Google Maps, is about a 44 minute drive away. Check out this map of NBA D-League teams courtesy of www.nbadleague.com.
The trend of NBA teams setting up single affiliation relationships with their current NBA D-League team, or perhaps a new one, is going to continue. By looking at the current list of NBA teams who have already established one-to-one relationships, it appears that proximity is a key factor in deciding which D-League affiliate suits the team best. In fact, many of the one-to-one setups are within an hour and a half drive away.
Also, a few teams are just a quick flight away, nothing longer than an hour and a half gate-to-gate. As the league continues to grow and further establish itself, it will be important to keep in mind that future single affiliates will likely need to be a close car ride, or flight away to maximize the benefits of the relationship.
Earlier this season, I had the chance to speak with the 2012-2013 NBA D-League Coach of the Year Alex Jensen of the Canton Charge, and he explained to me the benefits of being reasonably close to the Cleveland Cavaliers facilities.
"I'm sure there is a difference with multiple affiliates and a hybrid, or single affiliate relationship. From the year and a half that I have been with the Charge, being only an hour away from the Cavaliers practice facility has been wonderful. Being so close, it helps the players out when they are asked to move from one team to the other. Canton is a perfect city for it. The great thing about it is when we have a day off we can take our guys, and our crew to Cleveland, and always learn something. The Cavaliers organization has treated us like a branch of themselves, and it has been an excellent experience for us." Jensen said.
The fact that Jensen mentions the benefit for players who have to travel back and forth is important. Given the high amount of assignments that NBA teams utilized this past season, it is key for players to have a time efficient way of travelling place to place. Below is the list of NBA teams with some form of single affiliation, and the travel distance between both franchises. Note: these times are based off Google Map directions from arena to arena.
Los Angeles Lakers/Los Angeles D-Fenders (Staples Center - Toyota Sports Center) - 20 minute drive.
Dallas Mavericks/Texas Legends (American Airlines Arena - Dr. Pepper Arena) - 24 minute drive.
Philadelphia 76ers/Delaware Sevens (Wells Fargo Arena - Bob Carpenter Center) - 44 minute drive.
Cleveland Cavaliers/Canton Charge (Quicken Loans Arena - Canton Memorial Civic Center) - 1 hour 1 minute drive.
Golden State Warriors/Santa Cruz Warriors (Oracle Arena - Kaiser Permanente Arena) - 1 hour 8 minute drive.
Portland Trail Blazers/Idaho Stampede (Rose Garden - CenturyLink Arena) - 1 hour 15 minute flight.
Houston Rockets/Rio Grande Valley Vipers (Toyota Center - State Farm Arena) - 1 hour 15 minute flight, or 5 hour 19 minute drive. I was unable to confirm which method the team prefers.
San Antonio Spurs/Austin Toros (AT&T Center - Cedar Park Center) - 1 hour 31 minute drive.
Oklahoma City Thunder/Tulsa 66ers (Chesapeake Energy Arena - Spirit Bank Event Center) - 1 hour 40 minute drive.
Boston Celtics/Maine Red Claws (TD Garden - Portland Expo) - 1 hour 46 minute drive.
Brooklyn Nets/Springfield Armor (Barclays Center - MassMutual Center) - 2 hours 30 minute drive.
As the list above shows, having a short commute between franchises is important. Not only does it benefit the players and teams involved, but also enables the NBA franchise to extend it's brand further to the surrounding area of fans. By having their NBA D-League affiliate in close proximity, it allows fans the chance to come and support their favorite team in a different, yet very affordable way. Fans will likely get to see first year rookies, or players who were apart of the team's training camp at a very low cost.
To increase support of the NBA D-League, the simple fact of placing affiliate teams in close relation to their NBA parent clubs will be a crucial move in order for the league to maximize it's profits, and for teams to benefit logistically while developing their players.