When players end up going to the D-League, it sounds as if it's some sort of step down from the NBA. "Oh yea he's not going to get drafted, he’s playing in the D-League.” Sure the amenities in the D-League is not as lavish as the amenities in the NBA, maybe college even. However, you're going to get the experience of the NBA life, and have a much better chance of being picked up by an NBA team.
Louisville sophomore Donovan Mitchell said it best about how he views the D-League in an interview with Pistons.com’s Keith Langlois. “I’m just willing to work – that’s the one thing I’ve always prided myself on. Just willing to work and get better,” he said. “A lot of guys look at it as a demotion. It’s not. It’s just a chance for you to get more reps, minutes you aren’t going to get (in the NBA). You’re a role player. It’s your first year in the league. You’re young. You’ve got to learn. I’d be definitely willing to go to the D-League and work on my game if I have to.”
Meanwhile, former Gonzaga big Zach Collins was actually interested in discussing the D-League with other NBA squads. “They’re definitely asking me about the D-League and I’m asking questions, too,” Collins told Langlois. “For me, going to the D-League, it’s not like I’m not going to stop playing basketball or stop having fun. I’m going to try to get better. I asked them how seriously they take the D-League. Do they like developing guys? Do they care about the guys down at the D-League? They were all really great about it and all acknowledged the fact it’s become more and more common. I think all organizations are getting more involved with their D-League teams.”
On the other hand, former Kentucky forward Bam Adebayo wasn’t so optimistic about potentially going to the D-League. “Teams talked about it but it wasn’t like straightforward with me,” stated Adebayo. “It was more like a question, if we have to put you in the D-League. So hopefully I never have to go to the D-League and I live my life in the NBA.”
With the addition of the Agua Caliente Clippers of Ontario, Lakeland Magic, the Bucks affiliate in Oshkosh and the Grizzlies D-League squad in Southaven , it is without question that the NBA is now acknowledging the importance of a development league for players not drafted into the Association. It is a great asset and program that has helped people make eventually make their way to the league. Players will have a better chance of having playing time, which results in more highlights for front offices to look at. Jonathan Simmons of the Spurs is a great example.
In an interview with Scott Davis of Business Insider, Spurs shooting guard Jonathon Simmons explained his knowledge of the D-League:
“I didn’t even know much about the D-League," Simmons said to BI. "I didn’t understand how it worked and I just didn’t really pay attention to it at all until it was in front of me."
He also told ESPN’s Michael C. Wright that he was closing to quitting basketball. “ I almost quit after that," he told Wright. "Before the first season of D-League, I played in the ABL and was like, 'This can't be what basketball is about.'"
Simmons however didn’t quit. He wanted to keep playing and he wanted to stand out. He paid $150 just to try out, and the rest is history. Simmons is now a member of the NBA for one of the most prominent teams in the league. He didn't see his situation as a bad one. He put in the work, took a risk and in the end, it paid off.
Not everyone may have the mindset of Simmons in how to take advantage of the D-League’s opportunities, but they should. And with the additions of the D-League affiliates, it is very apparent that they are taking it up a notch in make games sure that this league is not seen as the little brother or red-headed step child as people would say. As talks of playing in the D-League is mentioned more and more in interviews, players are becoming more accepting to playing in it, realizing that this is a great opportunity to get better.