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Getting the NBA's owners to agree to a more complete expansion of the D-League might be an even taller order for Adam Silver.
Slowly but surely, the D-League is becoming a fully functional minor league system for pro basketball, though it still has a long way to go before it can so much as sniff the complexity, sophistication and efficacy of Major League Baseball's extensive setup. At present, 14 of the D-League's 17 teams sport single-affiliation partnerships of some sort with NBA counterparts. The other three (the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, the Bakersfield Jam and the Iowa Energy) serve as secondary outfits for the other 16 teams in The Association that don't either own or work directly with one farm team.
For some, the added expenses of owning and/or running a team at a lower level doesn't seem a worthwhile investment. As the old saying goes, why own the cow when you can get the milk for free—or, in this case, at negligible cost to the overall bottom line?
This is where having an advocate like Silver, who grasps the big picture of basketball beyond the money, is of the utmost importance.
Every year, the D-League's value to the sport itself seems to grow. Last season, the D-League set new records for NBA player assignments (184) and players assigned from their parent clubs (58), in addition to welcoming 26 members of the 2012 draft class, including 11 first-rounders, into its ranks at one point or another (per the NBA). With each passing season, more and more players, coaches, referees and executives ar using the D-League as a stepping stone, a training ground wherein they can develop and hone their skills with the hope of landing an opportunity in the big show.
A 30-team D-League, with exclusive partnerships for every NBA franchise, would bring with it some rather intriguing implications for the game as a whole. With a true farm system in place, Silver may well consider loosening restrictions on draft eligibility, since every squad would have an outpost where it could stash and develop youngsters who aren't quite ready for the rigors of the pro game. That same thinking could apply to just about any prospect who could use some more seasoning (looking at you, Anthony Bennett), as well as veterans, like Amar'e Stoudemire with the Erie BayHawks in 2012-13, who need to rehab from major injuries.
Perhaps then, the league would look to subsidize D-League expansion in support of its more "cash-strapped" constituents, not unlike what it did in installing SportVU tracking cameras in all 29 of the NBA's arenas prior to the 2013-14 season.