D-League continues its growth and impact

Peyton Siva surprised a lot of people when he agreed to sign with the Magic.

For one thing, the Magic already had a full roster of 15 players (all on guaranteed contracts). And while Orlando has not been shy about dumping players that do not fit the team’s plans before their contracts run out, investing in a young player on a full roster seemed shaky.

Then the news came out from Marcus Spears of Yahoo! Sports that Siva was signing what amounted to a minor-league contract. Siva would join the Magic for the preseason, would then be waived before the season begins and then play the season in the D-League while the Magic would retain his rights. You would assume he would then be in the lead position to sign with the team next season.

It was a strange arrangement for a player who has had some effective time in the NBA (24 games for the Pistons last year and 12.9 points per game in 12 appearances for the Fort Wayne Mad Ants in the D-League). But it is also an arrangement which shows that the D-League is continuing to gain force and stature among NBA hopefuls.

The D-League is becoming more than just a viable option, but a real place to learn about playing the game professionally and developing skills.

“It was great for me,” Nets guard Jorge Gutierrez said. “I learned a lot about the NBA game being in the D-League. Probably a lot of the guys can tell you the same thing, it helped us a lot. We’re just here to enjoy this moment.”

Nobody knew who Gutierrez was before the Nets called him up from the Canton Charge on March 28. He averaged 13.9 points and 6.9 assists per game last season for the Charge. In 4.1 points and 2.0 assists per game in 15 appearances, including two starts. He really crashed the scene and provided some good minutes for the Nets down the stretch.

His future with the team this year is a bit up in the air right now, but he earned the opportunity and notoriety staying in the U.S. close to the NBA’s eyes.

The D-League will be the first to tell you of its success. There are 149 players in the NBA today with D-League experience. With the Magic among other teams getting single D-League affiliates this year, there are now 17 of 18 D-League teams with a one-to-one affiliation. That means, the team has control of the basketball operations of the D-League team and can send players freely up and down without fears of disrupting basketball or system continuities. It is the big trend within the league right now as teams figure out how to use the NBA’s preferred minor league.

It is that ability to keep a closer eye on developing players that has made the D-League attractive for teams and for players. It is clearer with each passing year that the D-League continues to grow and expand and players are seeing its benefits too.

DeQuan Jones participated in his third Summer League with the Pacers in Orlando. He reportedly will sign in Italy this year. AP Photo/John Raoux

DeQuan Jones participated in his third Summer League with the Pacers in Orlando. He reportedly will sign in Italy this year. AP Photo/John Raoux

“I feel like the D-League is what you make it,” former Magic guard DeQuan Jones said. “Some people come down and get mentally down on themselves. I just took that time to utilize the time and work on the things I needed to work on. Just every day, it motivate dme to get back to here. I’m in this predicament now and I want to take advantage of it.

“[The D-League] allows you to make the mistakes that are necessary to make to improve. IN a situation like the NBA, your rope is kind of short compared to other guys. In the D-League, it gives you the opportunity to make those mistakes and learn and grow from them.”

Jones spent Summer League with the Pacers in Orlando and with the Pelicans in Las Vegas. He had successful runs with them averaging 11.0 points per game in eight Summer League games. He played last year in the D-League for Reno, averaging 13.7 points per game and shooting 51.1 percent from the floor. Jones is knocking on the door of the NBA. He is still looking for the right situation. He will do that this year in Italy, having signed with Cantu.

What has become clearer though is that for players on the outside of the NBA, or looking for more opportunities overseas, are finding the D-League beneficial. This is a big thing with NBA teams investing even more in the league’s basketball operations.

After a Summer League that saw plenty of D-League alums showcase their skills, the NBA’s minor league only seems poised for more growth.

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily