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An Open Letter to Ed Stefanski

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An Open Letter to Ed Stefanski, GM of the Philadelphia 76ers

By Jon L, Sole Proprietor (Apparently) of Ridiculous Upside

Dear Ed -

May I call you Ed?  No?  Great.  Look, Ed, I read the answer you gave to Liberty Ballers (and occasional RU commenter TheArtistFormerlyKnownAsMichaelBourn) regarding your attitude towards the D-League, and if you don't mind my saying so, there were so many things egregiously wrong with it that I felt the need to write write this blog post and pretend it was a letter to you.

You see Ed, you're a lazy man.  I get that.  You hired Eddie Jordan because you already know him and so you could hire a decent coach without doing any real work.  You're bringing Dionte Christmas and Jared Reiner into training camp because they're familiar, not because they've done anything to inspire confidence.  Like I said, I get it.  I'm a lazy man myself, in fact.  But I'm not in charge of running an NBA team.

You see, the thing about being involved with the D-League is that it requires you to pay attention to more than just "when will Elton Brand finally not be injured."  And if you don't want any part of that, just come right out and say it.  Don't blame it on the D-League, and paint the situation as something that's not worthwhile.  Let's go through your answer point by point.

We have had the opportunity to go into a couple places, I don't see personally the advantage of owning your own team right now since you can always send down players you have on your roster for two years of service.

Here's the number of players the Philadelphia 76ers have sent down to the D-League since 2005: two.  Bobby Jones and Louis Williams.  Jones, who isn't with the team anymore, and Williams, who still has a ways to go to become a competant point guard.  So when you say that "you can always send down players you have on your roster," let's not pretend that that's what's actually been happening.  If you were operating more like the Utah Jazz, who sent three different players down to the D-League multiple times last year alone, then I'd have no quarrel with this.  It's also not the case that Utah has had more assignment-eligible players.  By my count, since 2005 you've had 11 players who could've been sent down, and that's not even including guys like Deng Gai who was waived after a handful of games.  And sure, Kyle Korver or Andre Iguodala might not have needed to play in the D-League, but there are several players on that list who could've benefited.  Guys like Rodney Carney and Shavlik Randolph and Willie Green.  But Ed, you're not sending anyone down.  So please don't pretend that you don't want to own a team because you're already assigning players as it is.  Let's move on.

Until they change the rules where you can have some sort of farm system like baseball then I would maybe say that it makes more sense, but where it is right now I don't see the expense of having your own management team, your own trainers, your own coaches, and everything for one guy.

We've moved beyond lazy.  This is just dumb, Ed.  Really, really dumb.  So as I understand it, you don't want to have your own D-League affiliate until there's a system in place by which NBA teams have their own D-League affiliates?  How does that work?  We all want the D-League to become "some sort of farm system like baseball," but that's probably not going to happen until enough NBA teams have their own affiliates.  Which you don't want to do because not enough other teams have their own affiliates.

There's also the matter of your statement about "one guy."  First, if you were sending down "one guy" per year we might not have a problem, but for that see above.  The thing about owning or even just running your own D-League affiliate is that it's not just about "one guy," Ed.  There's not just "one guy" on a team.  Let's look at some examples of other teams that do own their own affiliates.

I've used this example several times around RU, Ed, but I'm going to assume you're not a regular reader.  Consider the San Antonio Spurs.  This year they're bringing three players to their training camp who played for the Austin Toros last season, two of whom weren't even under contract for the Spurs.  But, they played well enough to warrant a call-up in the case of Marcus Williams, and the waiver of another player in the case of Dwayne Jones.  Plus they have Ian Mahinmi, who played in the D-League the year before that, and likely would've played more than a game there last season if he hadn't gotten injured.  So that's four players right there, or about a quarter of the players coming to training camp.  Now let's look at the Thunder.  They signed Shaun Livingston after the good work he put in with a few different D-League teams.  They have several players who spent time in Tulsa last year, including D.J. White and Kyle Weaver.  Even if a few of these players don't make the NBA roster this season, the team will have had a chance to evaluate them in actual game settings, away from the pressure of making sure that, say, Russell Westbrook gets his minutes.  The point is that the D-League isn't just about making sure that "one guy" per team improves its game.  It's about helping NBA teams manage their rosters more effectively and make the best use of the talent they have.  Alright, final quote.

In essence, last year, Mo Speights would've been the only guy we would've sent down because we weren't going to send Thaddeus down.

Sigh.  So you didn't send Marreese Speight down because you didn't want to send Thaddeus Young down?  How does that work, exactly?  I get that you used that example to justify your "one guy" statement, but it's only "one guy" because of choices you yourself made, Ed, not because of the system in place or any rules that were forced on you.  Instead of having a solid backup center now, you have a guy who had one monster game in Summer League then was terrible the rest of the way.  Terrible in Summer League.

Like I said up top, it's fine to be lazy.  I'm lazy.  But at least I own up to it, and when I don't get something done, I usually allow that my laziness was the reason.  I don't try to blame "rules" and "systems" that don't exist, or cite misleading facts.  Don't blame this on the D-League, Ed.  It only wants to help you.