The Other League
When it does it'll look a lot like the D-League but with permanent connections to every NBA franchise. Instead of a NBA team just having random players mingling with has been's and never where's each pro franchise will operate its own D-League team. It may sounds like a stretch but it's already being used by basketball's ugly cousin—hockey.
If you've know the NHL, you probably know about the American Hockey League (AHL). Considered by many to be the second best hockey league in the world, the AHL is a collection or fringe NHL players and near-ready prospects. There's no reason to think basketball couldn't benefit from a similar system. It would be called the ABL which stands for American Basketball League -a league that folded in 1963 after one season—but this time the world is ready.
The AHL is made up of 29 teams which all are affiliates with an NHL team. The players are all owned by the AHL team but are property of the NHL team. Any player can be called up and any player can be called down (contractual restrictions can apply and in some cases players must pass through waivers before getting back into the big league).
The probability of this coming to the NBA is high. Begin with expanding the D-League to different cities. While Texas currently holds three teams, many states and provinces only have one and often people have to travel long hours just to watch good basketball. With my vision of the ABL, you see future and current NBA players at an arena near you.
Another positive aspect to the league is rather than sending your second round draft pick to Europe to gain experience, he can get quality playing time and experience against NBA sized bodies. Managers will also be able to more easily track a players development if there isn't an ocean between them.
Players will no longer have to live in Europe, far away from home just to make better money. It would allow NBA type salary where everyone knows what they will be making by years playing and other performance based factors. Europeans can come into the league as well but it's only right to make a league where American talent just underneath the NBA level is able earn a living and entertain local fans.
Look at the flaws of the D-League. Low salary and job security. Consider that out of the last five champions, three have moved out town or shut down completely. There have been some success stories like Mikki Moore, Luke Jackson and many others but the D-League also draws almost no interest from the basketball public unless a highly touted prospect in doing a stint.
This helps NBA teams like San Antonio, Phoenix and Boston, who want to win so the age of the roster is higher than most. With their ABL team, they could have players from Europe or maybe just late second rounders blossoming in competitive play. While for teams that aren't as high quality, there fans can root for the ABL team considering they would be filled with talent due to the lack of talent in the NBA team.
What else it can bring is new ways to get better coaches. Look around the NBA and you rarely see a new coach swinging in and being what the great ones are. Avery Johnson was about the last new coach to become a winner while most get stuck with overrated teams and have little player knowledge going into the job. The ABL allows you to have a coach in training. Rather than having a 30 year old, intelligent man be your game tape organizer, you can have him coaching players that will eventually be in your system so when your Riley's, Jackson's or Popovich's retire, you have someone with experience in the system and with the players.
While the D-League continues to fail, the AHL system has been bringing not only great talent, but great coaches into the NHL. If David Stern would take a look around rather than trying to make his mark on the history of basketball, we could get a good system underway. While this issue is more of a money problem than anything else, you can see a town helping support the funding like what happens in the AHL.
For now we can only guess who will be the next D-League champion is going to be and what small Texas town they'll play in next.
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