NBA Roster Spots and the D-League Trickle Down Effect

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

On TrueHoop today, Henry Abbott wrote a post titled "Ten Summer Stories to Watch." The post dealt with NBA topics, but the tenth story had some definite D-League influence:

10. Unemployed NBA Players
There won't exactly be bread lines, but some players you watched play in the NBA last season will be looking for work somewhere else soon.

To save money, many teams (even the wealthy Lakers) have decided to carry short rosters -- just 13 players, instead of the allowed 15. On opening night, there could be 30 or 40 fewer NBA jobs than a year ago. At the same time, dozens of draftees and imported free agents (everyone from David Andersen with the Rockets to new Bull Jannero Pargo) have already filled roster spots.

As of this morning there are 381 signed players. If every team sticks to a roster of 13, just 24 more will get contracts. (As many as 71 could get jobs -- that would put every roster at the maximum 15). Meanwhile Chad Ford lists 40 notable free agents, from David Lee to Morris Almond. The full list is at 70.

Do the math. Forced retirement is a quiet reality of every summer. This year, the musical chairs could be especially harsh.

Of course, every unsigned free agent isn't going to take the forced retirement route. Some will find employment overseas. And others, presumably, will seek refuge in the form of a D-League contract.

No, a D-League salary won't pay all the bills the way a player's expired NBA contract once did, but the opportunity of playing for a D-League team that competes in a league using NBA rules, scouted by NBA scouts does have some natural appeal.

Traditionally, the D-League has been a young man's league. It is, after all, known as a development league. But if the D-League is ever going to develop itself into a true minor league system a la Major League Baseball, it's going to have to be more flexible and adapt to the changing times.

As more veteran players feel the squeeze of downsized NBA rosters, might there be a place for them in the D-League? I certainly hope so. It wouldn't hurt the league's credibility or marketability to have a few more former NBA players on the court in each D-League game.

I don't think the D-League needs to sacrifice its primary role of being a feeder and development system for players looking to get that call-up to the big show, but I also don't see anything wrong with expanding the league's role to accompany more players looking to rebound after being cut and making it back to the league.

Whether the end-of-the-bench cuts head overseas or enter the D-League remains to be seen, but it's definitely a story worth following as the summer winds down and we draw nearer to the opening of preseason training camps.


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About this blog/blogger

Blog Talk BayHawk is an unofficial Erie BayHawks blog covering the NBA D-League. It features opinions and information about the NBADL and the Erie BayHawks. Blog Talk BayHawk is written from a basketball fan’s perspective to fill In the gaps left by professional journalists’ coverage of BayHawks basketball and the Erie professional basketball scene.

Matt Hubert is a 25-year-old writer and basketball fanatic born and raised in Erie, Pa. He graduated from Mercyhurst College in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in English and a dual concentration in writing and creative writing. Matt's not wavering from his stance as a lifelong Los Angeles Lakers fan, but he will cover the BayHawks' NBA affiliates in Cleveland and Toronto when it makes sense to do so throughout the year.

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