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How Do D-League Teams Perform Before and After Hybrid NBA Affiliations?

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With all 19 NBA D-League teams now in direct affiliation with an NBA team, how have they faired since linking up or being purchased?

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The benefits of having a direct affiliation (or outright owning) with an NBA D-League team has become much more clear to NBA teams over the past couple of years. The Detroit Pistons, New York Knicks and Toronto Raptors have purchased their own teams in recent years and the Chicago Bulls, Charlotte Hornets and Brooklyn Nets will all be adding teams next season.

Being able to have control over your entire developmental system, much how Major League Baseball's minor league system is organized, has been a huge selling point for teams as is the fact that the league can be used as a testing ground for different styles of play, much like how the Houston Rockets use the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.

For players in the D-League, it makes the process to the NBA much smoother and potentially more attainable. With the D-League allowing for affiliate players, younger players who would have been sitting on the end of the bench just 5-10 years ago are now getting experience playing a high level of competition within the system that they'll be playing in at the NBA level.

As for the teams in the D-League, being partnered with or outright owned lends added credibility to the organization and it provides added resources to help the team operate.

All in all, direct D-League affiliation or ownership for NBA teams seems like a winning deal from all sides. With that being said, I was interested in how these direct affiliations have played a role on the on-court success of each D-League team, so I looked into their records before and after they became owned or solely affiliated with an NBA team. (The Idaho Stampede, Raptors 905 and Fort Wayne Mad Ants were excluded due to it being their first season, though records for all other teams are up to date as of 1/19/16).

Team Win Loss % Win Loss %
Austin Spurs 102 98 .510 287 233 .559
Bakersfield Jam 190 210 .475 43 23 .573
Canton Charge 233 265 .468 128 95 .574
Delaware 87ers 112 88 .560 46 79 .368
Erie BayHawks 150 150 .500 33 39 .458
Grand Rapids Drive 150 250 .375 34 37 .479
Iowa Energy 194 156 .554 38 35 .520
Los Angeles D-Fenders N/A N/A N/A 209 215 .493
Maine Red Claws N/A N/A N/A 158 165 .489
Oklahoma City Blue 175 173 .503 184 190 .492
Reno Bighorns 124 126 .496 62 62 .500
Rio Grande Valley Vipers 42 58 .420 195 127 .606
Santa Cruz Warriors 137 113 .548 135 90 .600
Sioux Falls Skyforce 165 185 .471 78 44 .639
Texas Legends 91 59 .606 127 144 .469
Westchester Knicks N/A N/A N/A 24 50 .324

As it stands, eight of a potential 13 teams have improved after their sole affiliation or ownership by NBA teams. That compares favorably to the NBA, where 6 of 16 teams have shown increased winning percentages. (Note on chart: W/L is shown by the amount of years they've owned team. For example, the Detroit Pistons have owned a D-League team for two years, so the left side of the chart will show their two seasons before owning a team and the right side will show the two years that they've owned the Drive).

Team Win Loss % Win Loss %
Boston Celtics 310 264 .540 273 244 .528
Cleveland Cavaliers 241 169 .588 159 186 .461
Dallas Mavericks 341 151 .693 257 180 .588
Detroit Pistons 58 106 .353 54 69 .439
Golden State Warriors 181 229 .441 226 128 .638
Houston Rockets 333 241 .580 296 223 .570
Los Angeles Lakers 514 274 .652 421 344 .550
Memphis Grizzlies 106 58 .646 79 46 .632
Miami Heat 167 60 .736 114 92 .553
New York Knicks 91 73 .555 38 87 .304
Oklahoma City Thunder 304 352 .463 369 231 .615
Orlando Magic 43 121 .262 45 77 .369
Philadelphia 76ers 53 11 .323 42 165 .202
Phoenix Suns 73 91 .445 52 72 .419
San Antonio Spurs 463 271 .631 583 243 .706
Sacramento Kings 74 156 .322 74 130 .363

Obviously there are many factors in play here that can skew the numbers, such as LeBron James heading to Miami the year before Cleveland purchased their team, thus throwing off both Miami and Cleveland's overall win percentage, but the benefit to NBA teams has been shown by the slow increase in the amount of teams in the league, as well as the faith that NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has continually put in it.

As time goes by, the league will continue to see the teams that invested early on in the NBA D-League to have success at the NBA level. The San Antonio Spurs, Golden State Warriors and Oklahoma City Thunder and Cleveland Cavaliers have all had their own teams for at least five years and they are now the top four teams in the NBA.

Their ability to be ahead of the pack has propelled them to where they are today and we're now seeing other teams trying to catch up. It may not be as cutting-edge as it once was for an NBA team to own their own D-League affiliate, but time has shown that it's becoming a necessity.