If you haven’t been paying attention, the NBA’s D-League is growing — and at an impressive rate.

Back in 2001, the then-NBDL launched with eight teams as a way to start a true minor league for the NBA. The franchises had wacky names like the Charleston Lowgators, Greenville Groover and Roanoke Dazzle, among others. They didn’t even have individual logos at first. Every team was simply owned and operated by the NBA.

Much has changed since that initial season, and the growing D-League seems to be marching toward its “Manifest Destiny”: a team for every NBA parent club. For the 2016-17 season, 22 teams took the court, with at least three more joining by 2019. Of the current group, 16 have a single affiliation with a NBA parent club. That shift in business model has been instrumental to the league’s rapid expansion.

It all started with the Los Angeles D-Fenders’ (soon-to-be South Bay Lakers) launch in 2006 as the first team to be owned exclusively by a single NBA club. Despite the Los Angeles Lakers’ heavy reliance on free agent pick-ups in its recent history, they were forward-thinking in this respect, setting an example many of the league’s teams would follow soon after.

More progressive clubs like the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder were quick to buy over the next couple years, so that they could continue their respective investments in scouting and development unencumbered by an unaffiliated organization sharing resources and minutes. Single-affiliate systems would become the norm quickly, giving birth to the current rash of expansion.

About John Cassillo

John Cassillo covers all things Syracuse sports (and beer) as managing editor of Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician. An SU alum, he hasn't missed an Orange football game since 2006, despite his better judgment. John lives in the Los Angeles area with his wife, and his dog who's named after Jim Boeheim.