Over the course of this week, 9x NBA All-star and 3x Olympic Gold Medalist Carmelo Anthony is finishing up the preseason as he prepares to start his sixth season with the Knicks. During that process, Anthony took some time away from balling with Porzingis and pals to do an interview with ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne.
During that interview with Sheburne, Anthony touched on how he thinks that NBA should “rebrand” the NBA D-League. “If I had it my way, I’d rebrand the whole D-League,” Anthony told Shelburne. “I’d rebrand it so it’s not seen as a punishment.” Anthony’s opinions speaks volumes due to his standing as one of the world’s elite players but also as the vice president of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA).
Anthony’s role as the VP of the NBPA is very important as a new bargaining agreement is looking to be set between the NBA and NBPA. In that discussion with ESPN, Anthony said major issues pertaining to the continued growth of the D-League deals with adding in two-way contracts. These two-way contracts are deals that are dependent on the league that the athlete is assigned to actually play. This is different to the one-way contracts that are currently in the NBA, where the players get the same salary regardless of where they play.
Two-way contracts could be a big boom for the NBA D-League as it would be a great initiative for top un-drafted prospects to stick in the states rather than head overseas. If a player is signed to a two-way contract, they’d have the opportunity to make the roster with great performances in Summer League, training or pre-season. Even if they don’t make the final roster, those players would get a better pay day to play with that team’s NBADL affiliate than your average D-League player. Here’s a link for more information on how two-way contracts work.
Going back to Anthony’s thoughts on ways to improve the NBA D-League, he also discussed two major goals that NBADL insiders have been pushing for over the last few years: increase pay for D-Leaguers and all 30 NBA teams have their own NBADL affiliate.
In regards to the pay situation, there’s still a long ways to go but there have been some small, incremental improvements, During the summer, Upside & Motor’s Chris Reichert dropped some breaking news regarding the alterations to the NBADL salary structure. The new salary levels were broken down into two levels, A and B: B-level players will receive $19,500 for the season while A-Level players get $26,000. That’s a change from the prior structure that was laid out in three tiers:
Obviously, the new salary structure is still very small compared to whatever the ultimate goal might be. In a December podcast with ESPN’s Zach Lowe, NBA commissioner Adam Silver discussed the possibility of providing more incentive to the D-League in regards to raising D-League salaries, that “two-way” contract idea and adding a third round to the NBA Draft.
Finally, we reach the issue that everybody has been discussing since I started out as a D-League writer during the 2012-13 season: when will every NBA team have their own D-League affiliate? Within those four years, we’ve seen a significant growth as we’ve gone from 16 teams to an all-time high of 22 teams for the 2016-17 season. More importantly, those 22 D-League teams are affiliated with an NBA squad whether it’s a hybrid affiliation or just the NBA organization buying the D-League squad.
Despite that significant improvement, there’s still a ton of work that needs to be done before that 1-on-1 affiliation goal is reached. With there being 22 D-League teams, eight NBA organizations that don’t have their own NBADL affiliate. That list includes:
- Atlanta Hawks
- Milwaukee Bucks
- New Orleans Pelicans
- Washington Wizards
- Minnesota Timberwolves
- Denver Nuggets
- Los Angeles Clippers
- Portland Trail Blazers
Although it’s nearly impossible to 100% accurately predict when that 1-on-1 affiliation goal will actually occur, we can guesstimate by going off recent trends. Heading into the 2016-17 season, we see three new NBADL squads in the Greensboro Swarm (Charlotte Hornets), Long Island Nets (Brooklyn Nets) and Windy City Bulls (Chicago Bulls). If we’re going by this, we can presume that there might be 2-3 new D-League affiliates each season. By using basic math, that would put 2018-19 to 2020-21 as the estimated time where each NBA team will have their own NBADL affiliate.
That estimate is backed up by the recent rumors surrounding the Milwaukee Bucks, Minnesota Timberwolves and New Orleans Pelicans being in heavy pursuit for their own NBADL team.
In conclusion, what Carmelo Anthony is advocating for is something that most D-League fans have been yelling for the last few years. Obviously, there’s a huge difference between the change that Carmelo Anthony could bring to the NBADL than your local D-League blogger. Anthony stands as a very significant NBA figures both in his role as an NBA superstar and as the VP of the NBPA.
Although it may be a while before some of these important changes actually occur, it’s a beautiful sign to see someone of Anthony’s stature fight on the behalf of the D-League ballers with NBA dreams.