Beginning to fully embrace the D-League as an official minor league system, NBA teams have been assigning prospects to their respective affiliates left and right.
In the early goings of the season, its been clear that certain assignments have been simply about getting their players more time on the court. Players have been sent to the minors to log minutes in a couple of NBADL games, only to, low and behold, be sent back up to the big league squad in time for its next game.
Such a strategy is a good one. If a player won't be getting too much time on the court in the NBA, getting him experience in the minors (while still bringing him back up in time to contribute if necessary) is a good plan of action.
But sometimes it's not just about simply getting a player more time on the hardwood. When a young gun isn't yet ready to contribute to an NBA team on a nightly basis, he could get set to the D-League for the long haul as he polishes and develops his game enough to be ready.
In fact, that's very similar to what the Utah Jazz have in mind with Kevin Murphy. Not only does Utah plan to keep Murphy in the minors for at least a five-game stint, they've also sent someone to chaperone him down to Reno.
Jazz Director of Basketball Operations Richard Smith will be watching closely as Murphy hits the hardwood for the Bighorns, and will help Utah's staff evaluate his progress after a few games.
Just how will progress be made? What will Murphy have to accomplish in order to make his way back to Utah? The Jazz have outlined a plan of action for the rookie, complete with things they'd like to see from him while he plays in the minors.
Whereas a player like former NBA swingman Chris Douglas-Roberts has made early D-League headlines by pouring in the points and dominating offensively, a similar effort is not one the Jazz are looking for from Murphy. Instead, the team wants him to work on all the little things.
First things first: the guard will have to earn his minutes in Reno. The Jazz won't be mandating that the Bighorns play Murphy a specific amount of minutes on the court. Whatever he gets, he gets. What's more important is what he does with the minutes he receives.
In addition to an elevated defensive effort, Utah is looking for Murphy to display the utmost professionalism while playing in the minors. As the Desert News reports, the rookie earning a trip back to the NBA will be just as much about how he interacts with coaches and teammates as it will be what he does on the court. They'll look for him to continue doing all the small things well, rather than be a "pig scorer."
NBA teams continue to preach that sending their younger players down to the D-League shouldn't constantly be seen as a demotion. Working so closely with their respect affiliates, an NBADL squad should in most cases only be seen as an extension of the big league team.
That said, it certainly appears as though the Jazz are taking that "Hard Knocks" type approach with Murphy's minor league stint, so it'll be interesting to see if he accomplishes what's necessary to make his way back.