On Friday evening at 5PM EST Standard time, the trade deadline for the D-League's 2014-15 season will pass.
While such a day is certainly not likely to result in as many headlines as the NBA's respective trade deadline, it still serves as minor league teams' last opportunity to make ever-so crucial moves that have the potential of aiding such squads in an eventual push towards the postseason.
With that in mind, what do D-League teams look for?
Whereas plenty of NBA teams look to build towards the future and acquire as many assets for the future, the concept of continuity is a foreign one with so many pieces coming and going in the D-League from year to year. Thus, many teams cash in their chips, go for break, and look to acquire a potential X-Factor or two in the season's final weeks, if they truly believe they have an opportunity to compete for a championship thereafter.
As fate would have it, there's usually an influx of talent into the D-League around this time of year. A slew of minor league alumni who have since gone on to strut their stuff overseas and take advantage of more lucrative offers are beginning to see their international seasons come to an end. Such conclusions provide these players with subsequent opportunities to join D-League teams in time for a playoff run, all in the best interest of becoming relevant again to NBA teams exploring potential Summer League options.
While these youngsters may in fact be ready to hit the D-League hardwood again upon returning stateside, their previous teams may not have the means to host them any longer. Perhaps their respective spot on a roster has been filled. The role they previously had may be otherwise already assumed by someone else. There's only one ball to go around.
If this turns out to be the case for certain notably talented players, D-League teams can take advantage and opt to trade said players' minor league rights to another team.
Last season, Vander Blue was one of the better players to be moved at the deadline. Dominique Sutton's rights were also traded, though he was currently playing overseas. He's since gone on to make an impact for the Santa Cruz Warriors this season.
This is the time to wheel and deal. The talent available in the pool of returning players absolutely and undoubtedly destroys the level of that in the league's current (free agent) player pool. There's no other way to put it, as many D-League teams have struggled to come up with replacement options midseason this year, when/if current players on respective rosters depart to play international ball and/or suffer long-term injuries.
Ironically enough, it's important to keep in mind that D-League teams may not be sacrificing as much as one would think when choosing to deal future draft picks for currently available players instead. Higher selections don't hold as much weight in the D-League as they do in NBA. They might arguably hold less, actually. Players selected in the first or second round in the D-League Draft are obviously more talented, and thus, have a higher-percentage chance of getting called up to The Association and/or reeling in a more lucrative international overseas. This means they're more likely to leave early in the season, meaning respective D-League teams benefit less from employing their services.
And of course, in maximizing different avenues for talent, D-League front offices could instead choose to trade potential disappointment later on (next season) for proven results at an all the more crucial time like this.