The NBA Development League has been growing tremendously over the last few years. In the 2001-2002 season, the D-League launched with eight teams. Just last season, the league had 22 teams. Now, the league is up to 26 teams, leaving only four parent teams short of acquiring one. That number could get even smaller as both the Pelicans and Wizards are looking to have their own minor league affiliate by the start of the 2018-19 season.
If the Wizards and Pelicans do indeed acquire a team, that would leave only two teams left, which would include the Portland Trail Blazers.
The Trail Blazers have made it to the playoffs in the last four seasons, but they have not had the successful turnout afterwards. After a pattern of losing in the first round one year and then making it to the semi-finals, the Blazers have shown a lot of inconsistency. Albeit they did face the powerhouses in the Warriors and the Spurs, but they could have given both teams a hard time during their series, or not even face them at all if they had extra pieces to help them to surround Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. In comes a D-League team.
Again, the Trail Blazers are one of four teams that do not have a D-League team, but it hasn’t always been that way. The Blazers were a shared parent affiliate of the Idaho Stampede from 2012-2014. But after the 2013-2014 season, the Blazers ended their deal with the Stampede. In a Fansided article, Chris Reichert mentioned quote from GM Neil Olshey on why they decided to cut ties with them:
“We recognize the value in having a single affiliate in the NBA Development League,” general manager Neil Olshey told The Oregonian. “But at this time, we aren’t in a position to maximize that value.”
The Stampede ended up being a one on one affiliate with the Utah Jazz after they purchased them shortly afterwards.
As you can see, going from eight teams to 26 teams in 16 years, and going to from 22 to 26 from the last season shows that the parent organizations are finding value in the D-League. Players like Shaun Livingston, Jeremy Lin, and recent D-League All Star Game MVP Quinn Cook have all benefited from playing there and there is more promise that more eventually will.
The Trail Blazers would greatly benefit from re-acquiring a D-League team. There are going to be certain players always in the rotation, so for the time being, some of the players on the bench can develop those skills being sent down to the D-League. In return, some players that are thriving with the D-League squadalready can get a call up and can get a decent amount of minutes. That ease of development is probably why there are only four NBA squads without a D-League affiliate.
The Trail Blazers might not suffer too much from not having a team, but down the road they will start to feel the pains of not having any one to look to when they need help.