As with any NBA D-League game, prospects will be littered throughout each roster when the Austin Toros and Santa Cruz Warriors take on each other in Game 1 of the NBADL Semifinals. The same can be said regarding the lineups of Rio Grande Valley, and Tulsa, as they round out the final four teams remaining in the D-League playoffs.
All four teams have two things in common. First, each team has established some form of a single-affiliate relationship with their parent NBA club. Second, each of the NBA franchises in which they have a direct affiliation with, will be participating in this NBA postseason. These four NBADL franchises have supplied their NBA affiliate with exactly what they were looking for this past season, and as the assignment trend continues in the NBA, look for these teams to enjoy continued success.
The ability to assign players to the D-League has become a popular trend in the NBA this season. By taking a look at the remaining squads in the NBADL Playoffs, it's easy to notice that each team is within close proximity to their NBA affiliate. In fact, each team is located within the same State as their NBA counterpart.
Between Austin, Santa Cruz, Tulsa and Rio Grande Valley, it was the Houston Rockets' D-League affiliate who led the league in total players assigned. The Vipers also enjoyed the highest amount of Call-Ups between the four remaining teams. In December, RidiculousUpside.com's very own Keith Schlosser spoke with Houston Rockets Vice President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas. The conversation focused on the importance of establishing a close relationship between the Vipers and Rockets organizations. Here's part 1, and part 2 of the interview.
However, it was Tulsa who transferred (and continues to do so) some of their future stars almost weekly, and finished with the highest number of assignments. Perry Jones, Jeremy Lamb, DeAndre Liggins, Daniel Orton, and Reggie Jackson were all assigned at one point during this past season. Thus, the Thunder likely kept an eye on fuel prices, due to the amount of times these players had to travel the 109 mile-stretch between both arenas.
First-year Tulsa head coach Darko Rajakovic had two players receive GATORADE Call-Ups, as Daniel Orton (the first GATORADE Call-Up of 2012-2013) and NBA veteran guard Chris Quinn made the jump from the 66ers to the NBA. Similar to Rio Grande Valley, the 66ers and Thunder organizations worked closely together all season long, and it paid off for both clubs.
The Golden State Warriors also took liberty in the fact that their NBA D-League affiliate was within reasonable driving distance. Jeremy Tyler and rookie Kent Bazemore, recorded the most D-League assignments out of the four players in which Golden State opted to send over to Santa Cruz this season. The first-year franchise worked out perfectly for Golden State, and the "Sea Dubs" managed to create a rabid new fan base in the process.
Finally, the Austin Toros round out the group of NBA D-League teams still in the thick of the NBADL Playoffs. Living up to the standards of the San Antonio Spurs seems like an incredibly daunting task, as the Spurs have continued to be a model for success in the NBA over the years. However, the Toros have lived up to the expectations, and find themselves knocking on the door of a consecutive NBADL Finals appearance.
The Spurs efficiently utilized their assignment capabilities this past season by selecting Aaron Baynes, Nando de Colo, Cory Joseph, and for a brief moment Kawhi Leonard to spend time in Austin. Each player that they designated for the D-League, wound up playing significant minutes for both the Toros and Spurs this season. Austin's team is full of talent, however, there were no Call-Ups to speak of for the franchise this season. Still, the Toros-Spurs relationship worked seamlessly as the two franchises continue to lead from the front.
After the NBADL Playoffs wrap up, will NBA teams without single-affiliation look to create a one-to-one relationship with their existing D-League affiliate, or perhaps create a brand new franchise to fulfill their wish? As the model continues to be beneficial for both parties involved, bet on more NBA organizations moving toward the single-affiliation setup.