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After seventeen seasons that has seen the NBA Development League grow into being one of the better basketball leagues in the world, it’s time to say good bye to the NBADL. That unfortunate farewell is due to their rebranding into the NBA Gatorade League (NBA G-League) for the start of the 2017-18 season. While it’s been two months since this rebranding was initially announced, it still doesn’t seem like a real thing that’s going to happen. But it will.
While I’m still a bit queasy about the league being branded by the world’s #1 thirst quencher, it’s time to still remain optimistic about the future.
Of course, the most glaring improvement is that it allows the league to move away from any negativity that surrounded the D-League brand. Although folks like myself weren’t bothered by the name, many basketball fans still felt like the D-League name coincided more with “d-level” talent than being an actual development league.
More importantly, this NBA Gatorade League should hopefully provide provide the financial boom that will allow the league to do something that they should’ve done years ago; improve salaries. As Ridiculous Upside has been saying since 2013, it’s been time for the league to pay their player’s an actual living wage that can range from between $35,000-$50,000.
While that’s probably low-balling it, it would be a significant improvement from the lousy $19,500 (B-Level) and $26,000 (A-Level) that the league currently doles out. To put that in perspective, that B-Level contract is barely above the United States yearly minimum wage of $15,080 for a full-time worker.
Although there’s still no indication that the base salaries will immediately increase, there’s one small addition that will help the NBAGL for the upcoming 2017-18 season. That comes through the additions of two-way contracts, which would basically allow the NBA to additional roster spots that could be utilized for developing players.
The players under those two-way deals would be set to earn between $75,000-$275,000, a huge change from the current contracts in the NBAGL. Those contracts should allow some more fringe NBA players to consider sticking in the states rather than taking a six figure gig to play in Europe or China.
Coinciding with the addition of two-way contracts, we continue to trend closer to every NBA squad having their own D(G)-League affiliate, something that the league has been pursuing for nearly a decade. Next season, we’ll see a record-high 25 NBAGL squads with the additions of affiliates for the Bucks, Timberwolves and Atlanta Hawks. Alongside that, the Pelicans will look to join the festivities during the 2018-19 season.
That influx of NBA squads acquiring their own minor league is due to the amount of teams that have successfully utilized the NBADL to develop solid young players. Just this season, we’ve seen Chieck Diallo and Skal Labisserrie use the D-League to go from potential lost causes to putting up big numbers with their given NBA squads. More importantly, most of the teams that still in the NBA players feature players that refined their games in the NBA D-League
While the NBADL/NBAGL may seem like an ordinary minor league to most, I’ve had an opportunity to really fall in love with this league. What started out as a way for me to get a start as a writer turned into this type of passion that’s hard to describe. Although it’s common for someone to dedicate a lot of time to something they love, I’m not sure it’s healthy to stay up until the wee hours of the morning to look at Shevon Thompson’s post-up game. I’ve actually done that.
The sheer fact that I’ve gotten an opportunity to cover some of the up and coming stars before they even make it to the D-League has been awesome. During those four seasons, I’ve had the chance to watch the likes of Hassan Whiteside, Seth Curry, Yogi Ferrell, Dewayne Dedmon, Jonathon Simmons and Tyler Johnson go from the D-League to being significant NBA players. Not only that, I’ve had the opportunity to see a slew of extremely intelligent executives, coaches and even PR staff be able to make that transition from the D-League to NBA.
While there’s nothing wrong with writing about college or the NBA, there’s just something different about being a D-League writer. Nothing beats watching someone shine in the NBA and remembering when they were grinding in front of 3,000 people in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
The D-League is about that journey of watching a player like David Nwaba or Jonathon Simmons grow from being an unknown to competing against LeBron or Russell Westbrook. Is that a little sappy? Sure. However, there’s really no feeling in basketball better than that
Is it alright to be perturbed about the low salaries or how it’s named the NBA Gatorade League? Absolutely. However, those flaws shouldn’t make you forget about how we might be just two years away from each NBA squad having their own G-League squad.
Just that fact alone should excite any NBA fan as it says that we’re right around the corner from seeing a true minor league system to the Association. In just a few years, we’ll see a terrific league that will feature a variety of different players from the ranks of college, international or maybe even some elite high school prospects. In addition to that, we’ll also see some dreamers that will enter the league with hopes of being the next Jonathan Simmons or David Nwaba.
Until that dream becomes a reality, Ridiculous Upside will continue to be the biggest advocates for the NBA D/G-League from people that don’t get a cent from the NBA. We’ve been that way since current CBS Sports writer Matt Moore started this site in 2007 and there’s no end in sight. Will we have some gripes with the league? Absolutely. That shouldn’t take away that we’ll continue to talk about the players, coaches and executives that will work their ass of the G-League to help turn their NBA dreams into a reality.
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