Last season, the likes of Antoine Walker and Antonio Daniels were each in their second seasons of using the NBA D-League as a potential path back to The Association. The pair served as pioneers for such a method, as many others seemed to follow suit.
Mike James parlayed a strong showing at the 2012 NBADL Showcase with the Erie BayHawks into a longer lasting gig with the number one seed Chicago Bulls. This season, time in the D-League proved to be twice as nice for the point guard, as James turned an audition with the Texas Legends (again, at the Showcase, this time in 2013) into a starting gig with their NBA affiliate Dallas Mavericks. The guard went on to start 22 contests in the months of March and April, appearing in a total of 44.
There's no doubt having a familiar name and face gives such veterans a couple extra brownie points when it comes to reaching the NBA once more. They're all doing it at the cost of certain young guns getting gigs instead.
Experience and proven past results appeared to bite the NBADL's top up and comers in the butt once again this week, as the likes of Tracy McGrady and Quentin Richardson saw themselves catch on with NBA teams just in time for the playoffs.
McGrady had been playing well in China, but previously was unable to earn himself a spot on an NBA roster after working out for the Spurs and Knicks last offseason. Richardson had been sitting out the entire season until signing with the Knicks on Tuesday.
What gives? Clearly, big league teams seem to favor adding veteran presences at this point, rather than players who have proven to have the utmost of success in the D-League this season.
Willie Reed (Memphis Grizzlies) and Scott Machado (Golden State Warriors) have appeared to slip through the cracks (in a good way) and break into The Association recently, despite not having as much previous experience. But there are plenty of other promising young guns deserving of similar opportunities who simply did not get them.
One way of looking at the situation is saying the players in the D-League have at one point or another, nevertheless, failed to make an NBA team this past season. Whether they played the entire season in the minors, or simply arrived after being waived by an NBA squad, prior failure had to occur somewhere.
But can't the same be said for some of these returning more well-known veterans as well? There's a reason why they haven't been on an NBA roster throughout the year. Whether they failed to make a roster earlier this season, or simply waited this long to sign a contract because their conditioning wasn't as solid, something's got to give.
Nevertheless, with just a couple of months to go through the most successful teams in the playoffs' postseason run, perhaps NBA teams take players for what they are at this point and prefer a proven veteran presence, rather than a rising star with ridiculous upside, for the next 6-8 weeks.
These veterans are safer bets, because what you see (and what you know) is probably what you'll get. What certain NBADL talents have to understand is that while they're looking to earn full-season gigs with an NBA team come Summer League or training camp time, these same veterans playing now will likely be sitting at home once again waiting for the months of March and April to come once again so they too can finally earn another (albeit, how brief) gig.