Though NBA teams like the Miami Heat (Sioux Falls Skyforce) and Sacramento Kings (Reno Bighorns) have both acquired their own single D-League affiliates this offseason, each one was still affiliated with said squads in some way last season.
The way the Philadelphia 76ers are diving into the NBADL scene this coming season, however, will be a bit different. Starting from the ground up, the 76ers will own and operate their own (brand new) squad, the Delaware 87ers.
With that in mind, it's clear Philadelphia sees the value in owning a D-League franchise, and desires to reap all the different benefits to the fullest. That said, it'll be interesting to see how they utilize such an asset throughout the season.
For contending teams, the value of the D-League is rather obvious; they're able to assign some of their more promising young guns down to the minors, so that such players have an opportunity to develop and hit the hardwood, as opposed to riding the bench while the NBA team competes for a championship. Teams like the Thunder, Rockets, and even the Spurs were solid examples of such big league teams employing this very strategy last season.
Clearly in rebuilding mode, the 76ers are going to want to play their young guns as much as possible. Disregarding any suggestion of deliberate "tanking" plans, playing prospects more minutes at a time like this is beneficial, simply to see which are the more intriguing ones worth holding onto when developing them for the future and/or choosing to eventually reel in (and then build around) a star.
It makes more sense for Philadelphia to let their prospects loose on the NBA hardwood at a time like this, rather than assign them to the D-League more often, simply to see more minutes on the court. Seeing as how this is, in fact, a time of transition for Philadelphia, this coming season may also be the opportune time to actually call more of the D-League's top prospects up (be it from the 87ers or another minor league squad) to see what they can do on the big league level. At a time of low risk, there'd be no harm in doing so.
Of course, the 87ers will continue to make roster adjustments as time goes on and the team goes through the motions of open tryouts, the NBADL Draft, etc. The organization recently announced Brandon Williams as the team's new General Manager. An NBA league employee of the past years, Williams served as Director of Player Development, helping prospects with their transition into playing professional basketball. Clearly one with an eye for talent, Williams also has an eye for those players who are of the right mind and are on the right track in their careers, as well as their lives.
That said, of the players Delaware acquired in the league's expansion draft earlier this summer, Kyle Fogg seems to be one of the team's most intriguing draftees.
The University of Arizona product played for the Houston Rockets last summer in Las Vegas, ended up catching on with the team during training camp as well. After not being able to make the cut, however, Fogg caught on with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers (the Rockets' D-League affiliate), with whom he won an NBADL championship. The guard averaged 6.4 points in 17.9 minutes per contest during the regular season.
One would think that if an NBA team kept a young gun for their minor league affiliate, such a player would get an opportunity to start. But through the D-League assignments of Scott Machado, Patrick Beverley, and the emergence of Toure Murry, Fogg was never afforded that opportunity. With the 87ers, perhaps he will finally have his time to shine after a fine collegiate career. If he plays well when given the chance, he's likely to prove he belongs in the NBA logging minutes for the 76ers.
In any event, it will be interesting to see how the 76ers choose to utilize their D-League team during this time of rebuilding. Needless to say, the minor league squad could serve to be quite the asset.