Is a D-League team on the way for the Clippers?



That’s the number of teams in the NBA who are currently without an individual Development League affiliate. Once a league that garnered little respect, the NBA’s minor league is growing in respects and teams are hopping onto the bandwagon last year.

The Clippers are apart of that 43% of the league that’s without a single-affiliate D-League team, but according to head coach Doc Rivers, the Clippers are extensively researching the possibility of adding one.

“I would love it. I think it’d be great,” Rivers said (via ESPN). “We’re trying to find the right place for it. I know we’re researching it. I can tell you that much. Whether we do something or not I can’t — we haven’t even gotten close to even thinking about making a decision. We’re just doing the research.”

“It would be great,” continued Rivers. “We all know that. Not only just for basketball — for the players — it’s for the management too. You can bring coaches in to run your stuff. You can see if they’re capable people — even down to administration, PR, the marketing, everything. It builds your whole organization and gives young people a chance to get in on the ground.

On the surface, the biggest reason the Clippers would engage in the D-League business is to better develop young talent. While the Clippers biggest goal is to compete for a championship, they’ve allowed their youth to ‘waste’ on the bench. Despite dealing with injury, Reggie Bullock, the 25th overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, played 395 minutes during his rookie season. This season, C.J. Wilcox, the 24th overall pick in this past summers draft, has played 11 total minutes, all coming in garbage minutes when the game is out of line.

In the rare instance the Clippers send a player to the Development League (the last Clippers player to get sent down was G Travis Leslie in 2011), they’d join the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, an affiliate shared by all 13 teams without a single-affiliate partner. By this being the case, it’s difficult for the Mad Ants to prioritize a high-profile call-up as they’ve a set roster to cater to — an example of this is Toronto Raptors first-round pick Bruno Caboclo (2014) playing 4 minutes in a December 28th matchup.

There’s no guarantee for improvement in the Development League. For every player that has improved in the D-League and returned to their respective NBA team a better prospect, there are several who can’t get it together.

As you dig deeper, the extra incentives of having a single-affiliated D-League team are there as Rivers stated: implementing the system, developing a coaching tree, rehabbing players (Knicks sent Amar’e Stoudemire to their affiliate in 2012 for rehab purposes), etc. One familiar name who could greatly benefit from the addition of a team? Natalie Nakase, Clippers’ female assistant video coordinator who helped coach during the Summer League — with Becky Hammon joining Gregg Popovich’s coaching staff this past summer, the likelihood of Nakase raising in the coaching ranks increasing ten-fold.

An ideal location for a Clippers D-League affiliate? San Diego (CA) and Las Vegas (NV) come to mind. In the last two off-seasons, the Clippers have held training camp in San Diego and during the preseason, participated in a game at the Mandalay Bay Arena in Sin City. With Vegas … well, being Vegas, SD makes for the better location between the two cities.

When Steve Ballmer and his $2 billion price tag came along to sweep this franchise out of the Donald Sterling era, it wasn’t expected that the Clippers would pinch pennies. This doesn’t necessarily mean going spend happy, crossing the luxury tax line all willy nilly,  but when it comes to improving the franchise from top to bottom, in the short term and long term, and the addition of a D-League single-affliate team does exactly that.

Hopefully we see one in the near future.