Entering quite the monumental season in its own respective development, the D-League has a very exciting campaign ahead. Over 30% of the NBA's players already have minor league experience, and with the NBADL hosting an all-time high of seventeen one-to-one affiliations, that percentage is only expected to grow with big league executives getting a closer look and better access to such prospects. There are so many ways a minor league franchise can benefit an NBA team over the course of a season.
And as fate would have it, plenty of qualified individuals are continuing to take notice. Arguably the highest-profile hiring of this offseason, longtime NBA assistant Phil Weber will be the man with the plan as head coach of the Miami Heat-affiliated Sioux Falls Skyforce this coming season.
Speaking with RidiculousUpside.com, Coach Weber, who was previously a part of Mike D'Antoni's staffs in both New York and Phoenix, explained his motivation for joining the ever growing minor league.
"To be associated with the Miami Heat, in any capacity, is good for your career," he said. "I'm able to learn their culture, their defensive concepts, and see how they do things on a day-to-day basis. I was previously an advisor to the team and Coach [Erik] Spoelstra, but I still wasn't immersed in it. Now in this role, I'll be doing things in Sioux Falls, but I'll still have a part with the Heat"
Needless to say, there are plenty of opportunities he's looking forward to in this new capacity. Coach Weber added, "Having been an assistant for so many years, you're mainly just a suggestion guy. If you've noticed the relevance the D-League has had, it's really picking up some momentum."
Continuing, Coach Weber discussed the way the league is covered, asserting, "You never used to see D-League things on hoop sites. Now, there are some days where you see 5 or 6 different things. You hear those major announcements get picked up by hoop sites, so you can see the relevance getting to be more and more. That, to me, was very interesting."
Despite losing LeBron James to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the offseason, the Heat still figure to remain somewhat of a contender. While it isn't time to rebuild, Coach Weber sees the value in utilizing a D-League ball club for an NBA team.
"Again, it's not the NBA. But it's still basketball. Now Miami has Justin Hamilton, who was in the D-League last season. Maybe it'll become more prominent. We'll see," he said. "You can experiment. You can develop your young players and rookies who need seasoning in games. Now that you have your own affiliate, you can give them reps in game situations. I think these are uncharted waters, where I think there are are still ways for this league to grow."
Something in the D-League that may be a new concept to someone like Coach Weber is open tryouts. He's keeping an open mind and recognizes the potential upside to an event like this, comparing the process to that of the NBA Draft in a sense. He said, "Just like in the draft process, you're always trying to find those uncovered gems. You never know. Expectations probably aren't extremely high, but you could find a role player. This is a great opportunity for those who think that they were overlooked to come out and catch someone's eye. We'll be looking. We'll put them through a Heat/Skyforce practice and see what they have."
(The Skyforce will host one more open tryout, in Miami, on October 19th. Click here for more information)
There's no doubt Coach Weber's hire not only simply adds to the continued credibility of the D-League, but also the increased relevance it has around NBA circles. Still, he remained modest, pointing to the hire of fellow first-time head coach Otis Smith of the Grand Rapids Drive as additional proof that other experienced NBA employees see the value in this league.
As par for the course when it comes to the NBADL, this opportunity provides Coach Weber, like many others, with a chance to further his own respective development as well.
He added, "It gives me a forum to grow as a coach. Now I am the decision-maker. I call the timeouts. I, with the help of a great staff, put together game plans. But I ultimately make the decisions on preparations. It seemed like the right thing to do. The more Spo and I talked about it, it was a great opportunity."