This season, young up and coming prospects have so far been able to don an NBA uniform one night, only to don the jersey of their team's minor league affiliate the very next.
After appearing in six contests for the Golden State Warriors, Kent Bazemore was sent "down," crosstown, to Santa Cruz, where he was assigned to play in the minor leagues. The guard dominated in his D-League debut, scoring 27 points on Friday night.
As it just so happens, the swingman was back in town the following day for the (NBA) Warriors' game against the Pacers. Though he didn't play on Saturday, Bazemore was still a ready and able option off his team's bench.
Sometimes NBA squads send younger prospects to the D-League to further their longterm development. If a player has too much raw potential, the NBADL is a great place to log some minutes, smooth things out, and gather some experience. With some time in the minors, perhaps those players will soon be ready to contribute after all.
Such a practice has become the norm in the way that NBA teams use their D-League affiliates. But now, with this season bringing forth so many direct affiliations with more local connections (the Warriors' affiliate is in Santa Cruz, the Spurs' affiliate is in Austin, etc.), the league is seeing players go back and forth on a more frequent basis.
In addition to Bazemore, Cory Joseph has been a player that has thus far been up and down between the Spurs and the D-League's Toros. Perhaps San Antonio believes Joseph is on the cusp of being an everyday contributor. That said, going to Austin for a day or two to get some real quality playing time against serious competition may serve him better than simply going through the motions of a practice that will instead feature some of the more notable players on the team.
Dominate the D-League for a couple days, and come back to the NBA ready to hit the hardwood in time for your next game if the team's decides to call upon you.
With the NBADL quickly blossoming into a more formal minor league system of The Association, these experiments are for the better. Consider a baseball player swinging with a heavier bats before ball games. Why does he do this? Clearly, he won't be swinging with the heavier bat, or one with extra weights on it, during a real game situation. That said, if he's able to get a nice follow through in his swing with the heavier bat, things will come that much easier to him with a lighter bat during real competition.
Think of these quick one (or two) and done D-League assignments as having the same type of effect. If a prospect is used to a higher level of competition in the minors (rather than an easier practice), they'll come back more bouncy, ready and alert for games in the NBA.
Bazemore, Joseph, and even the Rockets' Scott Machado have been up and down depending on their NBA team's schedule all season long.
And as we enter the second month of the long NBA campaign, more staffs are beginning to catch on to how well that's worked thus far.
With no games until December 5th, the Atlanta Hawks can afford to give two of its better prospects some development time. John Jenkins and Mike Scott, the team's two draft selections this past summer, have both been assigned to the Bakersfield Jam.
Each player has thus far played sparingly for the Hawks, but even so, Hawks G.M. Danny Ferry has recognized the gap in the team's schedule as an opportunity for his prospects. Even if Atlanta wanted Jenkins and Scott available in time for competition, there's still plenty of time to get back. Meanwhile, both players will be able to hit the hardwood for some minutes they weren't otherwise receiving.
Whereas a contending team like the Celtics can assign their young up and comers to its respective D-League affiliate for the long haul because they have other veteran contributors, other teams may not be able to afford being without these players for very long.
Alas, there's still a way for young players to benefit from both D-League and NBA competition, seamlessly, in the same season. It's just a point of NBA staffs finding the right balance that furthers the development of each prospect the best.