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).
|Grand Rapids Drive||150||250||.375||34||37||.479|
|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|
|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|
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).
|Golden State Warriors||181||229||.441||226||128||.638|
|Los Angeles Lakers||514||274||.652||421||344||.550|
|New York Knicks||91||73||.555||38||87||.304|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||304||352||.463||369||231||.615|
|San Antonio Spurs||463||271||.631||583||243||.706|
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.