The Toronto Raptors were recently approved to purchase a D-League affiliate. MLSE President Tim Leiweke has said that the team will be based in the GTA and that it will be ready for next season. This is huge, unexpected news for a team that is so desperate to give its young players practice playing NBA-style basketball. The Raptors’ new D-League franchise should change the team’s future significantly, based on past examples.
MLSE’s Tim Lieweke says D League team “in Toronto area this coming season”
— Doug Smith: Raptors (@SmithRaps) May 27, 2015
Currently, 17 NBA teams own D-League clubs. The other 13 teams share the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, which makes true development expectedly difficult. Raps GM Masai Ujiri had virtually no say in the way the Mad Ants are coached. If he sent a player down to Fort Wayne, that player had to compete for time against guys from the 12 other teams. This ends up being a completely pointless process, because the players that are most ready to compete at a high level get to play, and the guys that are still making mistakes and learning tend to sit.
The point of a D-League team is to give rookies like Bruno Caboclo and Lucas Nogueira the chance to get touches in real game situations and to play against high quality opposition. They need to mistakes before they can truly figure things out. This coming season, they will finally get that chance, which should speed up their development significantly. This being said, the effects of a D-League team uniquely owned by the Raptors will go far beyond the team’s current youngsters.
A D-League squad is a way to store and develop talent exactly how a GM wants. Think about a team like the San Antonio Spurs that has seemingly been able to get amazing results out of every single player that has signed a contract. The Spurs have one of the league’s oldest D-League teams (2001) and the team has been instrumental in the amazing success the Spurs have enjoyed over the last 14 years.
DeAndre Daniels, the Raptors’ second round pick from 2014, had to sign with an Australian club because there was no room for him on the Raptors’ 15-man roster. This coming season, he will be able to stay close to the Raptors as he likely takes to the court with the team’s affiliate in the GTA. This will allow his progress to be tracks by both Ujiri and fans.
Overall, this is extremely positive news for a team that has drafted very raw players recently. Ujiri finally has the tools to make good on his investments in players with crazy upside. Plus, another basketball team in the GTA is only going to be a great thing for fans.