As even the best prospects in the NBA D-League continue to make less than $30,000 annually, player pay in the minor league continues to be a major issue in the NBADL's own respective development (pun, obviously intended).
By now, it's clear how closely NBA teams are working with their direct minor league affiliates. The D-League teams are more local, and in turn, are becoming a more natural and pure extension of the big league teams themselves, with basketball operations now often run by properly assigned front office staffers that the NBA team itself employs.
These NBA teams are invested, not only in ensuring the minor league affiliates continue to provide worthwhile assists, but also to the aforementioned team's community and the development of those players who choose to remain stateside and strut their stuff in the minor league instead of cashing in on a more lucrative deal overseas.
But alas, working for cheap is difficult for any dedicated professional, regardless of the occupation. Being a minor league athlete is no different. These guys need to eat; they need to be able to afford to live.
While D-League salaries remain on the lower side, NBA teams are seemingly looking out for those who stick around. At the beginning of the season, that meant granting such young guns training camp contracts, not only to provide worthwhile experience, but also a sweet chunk of change they could invest in the bank as an extension of their annual salaries.
By the time the 2015 NBA D-League Showcase came around, ten-day contracts could be signed and opposing teams were becoming intrigued with some of the out of town studs strutting their stuff for all to see in Santa Cruz. As a result, NBA squads appeared to go on the defense and sign their minor leaguers themselves. In this case, such youngsters can get paid, have a taste of The Association, and opposing teams are otherwise fended off from signing them, albeit it, at least for a little while. At the time, Bighorns' forward Quincy Miller signed with the affiliated Sacramento Kings, Jamychal Green of the Austin Spurs signed with San Antonio. The list, even just following the Showcase, goes on.
As the end of March grows nearer and the month of April approaches, it's safe to say that the NBA season's end will be here before everyone knows it. In turn, it's crunch time with regard to earning a call-up. At this point, some minor leaguers even opt to cut out early and head overseas, so that they can still salvage some of their most recent efforts and make extra money, even if that means forgoing what is becoming just a glimmer of a hope at catching on with a big league team before it's too late.
Keeping the strategy used during training camp and alike periods in mind, perhaps NBA teams are choosing to use any given roster flexibility at this point in time to take care of their minor leaguers. Bighorns' guard David Stockton had a cup of coffee with the Kings earlier this season. Henry Walker and Earl Barron have caught on with the Miami Heat and Phoenix Suns, respectively. More recently, Jack Cooley of the Idaho Stampede has caught on with the Utah Jazz. Jabari Brown of the D-Fenders is now with the Los Angeles Lakers. What's more, David Wear of Reno is the D-League's latest call-up after signing with the Kings. These are just a few examples.
It'd be unfair to assume that NBA teams are providing such players with ten-day contracts simply to throw money at them in hopes they'll remain in the D-League once the given pact is completed. All of the aforementioned players have earned respective looks this season, as evidenced by each one's stellar play and evident progression over the course of this campaign.
Still, it wouldn't be the worst strategy in the world to employ. After all, it seems to work, and each and every party ends up benefitting. D-League player pay may still be on the lower side, but with a savvy assist from NBA affiliate clubs, these talented minor leaguers are finally getting what they deserve for a change, in more ways than one.