Is The D-League Headed Towards Division Realignment?

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Updated: February 26, 2016

The Chicago Bulls officially revealed the name of their D-League affiliate team for the 2016-17 season. To nobody’s surprise, the name Windy City Bulls won out against Great Lakes Bulls, and Heartland Bulls.

With the announcement, the realization starts to kick in on the future of the D-League for next season. Currently at 19 teams, the D-League is slated to add three more teams for next season, increasing that number to 22. The aforementioned Windy City squad along with the Greensboro Swarm (Charlotte Hornets) as well as the Long Island Nets (New Jersey) will join the fold.

Aside from the rapid increase, with the league’s ultimate goal of a one-to-one ratio of 30 D-League teams for 30 NBA clubs, all three of the franchises to be added next season are all in the Eastern Conference.

Currently, there are 10 teams in the D-League’s Eastern Conference, with the remaining nine teams out west. Adding three more teams to the east would create a significant discrepancy between conferences.

Here’s how the divisions/conferences are currently stacked:

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division
Maine Red Claws
Delaware 87ers
Westchester Knicks
Erie BayHawks
Raptors 905

Central Division
Fort Wayne Mad Ants
Canton Charge
Sioux Falls Skyforce
Iowa Energy
Grand Rapids Drive

Western Conference

Southwest Division
Oklahoma City Blue
Austin Spurs
Rio Grande Valley Vipers
Texas Legends

Pacific Division
Santa Cruz Warriors
Idaho Stampede
Reno Bighorns
Los Angeles D-Fenders
Bakersfield Jam

Here’s what the D-League map will look like next season with the addition of the three new teams.

dld map

The D-League operates with these geographical clusters to minimize travel costs for teams. It’s one of the reasons why the NBADL has not returned to its roots in the Southeast yet, as it would require a group of teams joining the area at once as opposed to have one lone team in the region.

The Pacific Division is clearly noted out west, but the challenge comes somewhere in the middle of the map with Sioux Falls and Iowa leaning closer to the Southwest Division.

Also looking at the map, it’s possible to see the Windy City Bulls being added to the pre-existing Central Division while the Greensboro Swarm would join the Atlantic Division most likely.

For clarity sake, the Southwest Division should be renamed the Central Division for all intents and purposes geographically speaking, while the previous Central Division could be renamed the ‘Great Lakes’ Division or something of that nature given the team’s surrounding proximity to them. Are you keeping up?

This would make sense logistically, as there would be an even 11 teams in each conference for next season. Though it might not make sense for Sioux Falls (an affiliate of the Miami Heat) to be named a Western Conference team, the Iowa Energy (the Memphis Grizzlies affiliate) currently reside in the D-League’s Eastern Conference.

As an aside, despite being in the Atlantic Division, geographically speaking the Raptors 905 should be in the same division as the other teams mentioned in the proposed Great Lakes division.

Here’s how realignment would look:

Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division
Maine Red Claws
Delaware 87ers
Westchester Knicks
Erie BayHawks
Greensboro Swarm
Long Island Nets

Great Lakes Division
Fort Wayne Mad Ants
Canton Charge
Grand Rapids Drive
Raptors 905
Windy City Bulls

Western Conference

Central Division
Oklahoma City Blue
Austin Spurs
Rio Grande Valley Vipers
Texas Legends
Iowa Energy

Sioux Falls Skyforce

Pacific Division
Santa Cruz Warriors
Idaho Stampede
Reno Bighorns
Los Angeles D-Fenders
Bakersfield Jam

Eventually, (and ideally), the D-League will mirror the NBA model with three divisions in each conference, but there aren’t enough teams in the mix to make that happen.

Is this a perfect or ideal solution? No, but it assures there is balance between the conferences while minimizing travel costs for a majority of the team’s in the league.

2 Comments

  1. random dude

    March 13, 2016 at 1:50 pm

    Shouldn’t Erie be in the Great Lakes division?

  2. Pingback: Is it time for the NBL to think really big? | ALLeigHOOPS

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