With 26 teams and the implementation of two-way contracts, the NBA G League finally has a chance to make a major impact.
Slowly but surely, the NBA G League (formerly the D-League) has become a valuable asset for NBA teams and players. For the sixth straight season last year, 30+ players received NBA call-ups from their respective G League teams. Where the league used to be seen as either a demotion or just simply a way to stay in the game in the United States, the league is now being viewed as an opportunity for players to make their mark and accomplish their dream of one day playing in the NBA. Similar to the Minor Leagues in baseball, the G League has been used to develop players and give them playing time they would not receive on an NBA roster. The league’s partnership with Gatorade shows that the NBA is all-in on making the league a viable option for players and a success going forward.
Brief History of the G League
The National Basketball Development League was founded in 2001 with eight original franchises, all located in the southeastern United States in regions where NBA basketball did not exist. It was not until 2005 when David Stern collectively bargained to expand the D-League to 15 teams, in hopes of creating a true minor league farm system. At this point, each D-League team was affiliated with one or more NBA “parent” franchises.
In 2009, the Houston Rockets entered into the first single-affiliation partnership, called the hybrid model, with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. The Rockets started a trend of NBA and D-League teams entering this exact single-affiliation partnership. This partnership was the first step, and truly made its mark on the league. By 2015, all D-League teams were affiliated with only one NBA team. The league currently features 26 teams, either through the hybrid-model or are owned outright by the NBA parent franchise.
To date, 44% of NBA players have had some game-experience in the NBA G League. Some notable standouts include CJ McCollum, Rudy Gobert, and Hassan Whiteside. The league has certainly come a long way.
New Two-Way Contracts
Beginning this season, NBA rosters will expand from 15 players to 17 players. The reason? The creation of new two-way contracts. NBA teams may now have up to two players under NBA Two-Way Contracts who will spend the vast majority of the season in the NBA G League and not more than 45 days with their NBA team. Two-Way players are paid a corresponding daily amount based on the number of days they play in each league. Only players with four or fewer years of NBA service are able to sign Two-Way Contracts, which can be for either one or two seasons, as explained on the official G League website.
G League players earn approximately $75,000 per season, but if they were to spend the maximum 45 days with the NBA parent club, they can earn an additional $204,000. Not only were two-way contracts put into place to give an NBA parent club more freedom to utilize their G League players and give them more of an opportunity to produce at the highest level, but it also offers players an additional incentive to stay in the US rather than take their talents abroad.
Depending if its a league in Europe or the CBA, the average salary is above $100,000, which was a game changer in the past. With the added salary earned from potential NBA experience for up to 60 additional players (which is equal to an entire draft class), players can now earn more money by staying. The added income combined with the overall evolution of the league itself has already made the G League a much more viable option for players.
Potential Impact on the College Basketball Landscape
Amid the recent FBI allegations where multiple college basketball assistant coaches and programs, most notably Rick Pitino and Louisville, have been charged with mass corruption, bribery and wire fraud regarding recruitment of players, the NCAA is in shambles.
Many former players, coaches, and fans had already come out saying they believe college athletes (specifically basketball players) should be paid. Now, that argument is coming out again in a different light. Many high profile players, including New York Knicks forward Michael Beasley, spoke to reporters after the case made national headlines and seemed genuinely confused by the reaction. He simply said, “Man, you guys are just catching on.” This investigation is proof of players receiving incentives to attend college to play basketball, but it is clear that this has been going on for a very long time.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in the past he would consider a rule change that prohibits high school players from making the jump to the NBA, so this sequence of events begs the question as to whether he might reconsider. Combine that with the improvement of the G League, where hopefully within three years each team will have their own affiliate. Would it really shock anyone if a system was created where the NBA Draft is extended to four rounds with the last two rounds of players going directly to the G League? After all, the goal of the G League is to develop talent, similar to the college game. It is certainly a question that is worth pondering as we go forward, especially as more news comes out regarding the college basketball allegations.
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