Players typically celebrate NBA Draft night by ceremoniously donning a fresh cap of the team that drafted them. Big smiles, even tears of joy are typical responses. Players likely wouldn’t be as enthusiastic if they were handed an L.A. D-Fenders or Springfield Armor hat rather than an L.A. Lakers or New Jersey Nets hat. But if last year is any indication, tonight’s selections in the 2011 NBA Draft should be prepared to spend some of their rookie season with the NBA Development League affiliate of the team that drafts them. That is, of course, if the 2011-12 NBA season takes place.
The D-League set a record with 39 players assigned last season. That number included 23 of the 60 (38.3 percent) players selected in the 2010 NBA Draft. The list of assigned players wasn’t limited to late picks. Ten first-round picks spent time in the D-League last season, including three lottery picks.
The average stay in the D-League wasn’t very long, but NBA franchises showed more openness to using the D-League as a tool to develop their young talent last season than ever before. The new NBA collective bargaining agreement—whenever that goes into effect—will likely have implications in terms of exactly how teams use the D-League in the future, but the consensus seems to be that teams want to use it more.
NBA teams also want more control over their players in the D-League, as evidenced by teams entering into hybrid relationships with their D-League affiliate, taking control of the basketball operations. The Nets and New York Knicks will join the Houston Rockets in single-affiliate partnerships with D-League franchises in Springfield, Erie, and Rio Grande Valley, respectively, next season. The Lakers, San Antonio Spurs, and Oklahoma City Thunder all have complete ownership of their affiliate club, and the Dallas Mavericks have a one-to-one affiliate in the Texas Legends, with Mavericks general manager Donnie Nelson as principal owner. It’s still a minority, but that means that nearly a quarter of the league’s teams are in a situation where they do not have to share their D-League franchise with another team, a definite advantage over the other teams who will have less control over the atmosphere into which potential assigned players would be placed.
There’s no way of knowing exactly which draftees will spend time in the D-League next season, but if there is an NBA season in 2011-12, there’s no doubt that many of them will a least have a cup of coffee in the D-League.
Click after the jump for the complete list of last year’s draft picks who spent time in the D-League.
11. Cole Aldrich (Tulsa 66ers via Oklahoma City Thunder)
13. Ed Davis (Erie BayHawks via Toronto Raptors)
14. Patrick Patterson (Rio Grande Valley Vipers via Houston Rockets)
15. Larry Sanders (Fort Wayne Mad Ants via Milwaukee Bucks)
16. Luke Babbitt (Idaho Stampede via Portland Trail Blazers)
19. Avery Bradley (Maine Red Claws via Boston Celtics)
20. James Anderson (Austin Toros via San Antonio Spurs)
21. Craig Brackins (Springfield Armor via Philadelphia 76ers)
25. Dominique Jones (Texas Legends via Dallas Mavericks)
29. Daniel Orton (New Mexico Thunderbirds via Orlando Magic)
32. Dexter Pittman (Sioux Falls Skyforce via Miami Heat)
33. Hassan Whiteside (Reno Bighorns via Sacramento Kings)
34. Armon Johnson (Idaho Stampede via Portland Trail Blazers)
*42. Da’Sean Butler (Austin Toros via San Antonio Spurs)
43. Devin Ebanks (Bakersfield Jam via Los Angeles Lakers)
46. Gani Lawal (Iowa Energy via Phoenix Suns)
47. Tiny Gallon (Maine Red Claws and Bakersfield Jam)
50. Solomon Alabi (Erie BayHawks via Toronto Raptors)
53. Pape Sy (Utah Flash via Atlanta Hawks)
54. Willie Warren (Bakersfield Jam via Los Angeles Clippers)
55. Jeremy Evans (Utah Flash via Utah Jazz)
56. Hamady N’Diaye (Dakota Wizards via Washington Wizards)
58. Derrick Caracter (Bakersfield Jam via Los Angeles Lakers)
*Did not appear in any games