Okay, so the D-League is nowhere near the popularity of the NBA. Heck, it may not even be the equivalent of Minor League baseball yet. Nonetheless, the NBA's minor league has made big strides over the past few years to try and make itself a relative sports entity. From adding teams, adding corporate sponsors to jerseys, and even broadcasting their games live on YouTube, the D-League has tried hard to increase its revenue and fan base. The 2014-15 season may be the league's turning point as there are now 18 teams (all pictured above) spanning the entire U.S. All but one of these teams has a sole affiliate with an NBA franchise. The Fort Wayne Mad Ants are the affiliate for the 13 remaining NBA franchises. While that might sound crazy, those NBA teams should soon find that the D-League is a steady home for their own farm team. Here are some of the things you need to know before the opening tip-off the NBA Development League on Friday.
The Teams: The 18 teams and their affiliates:
The D-Fenders and Warriors are stacked with potential and will be the teams to beat, while the Erie Bayhawks have the best backcourt in development.
West Division Teams:
Bakersfield Jam, Phoenix Suns affiliate
Los Angeles D-Fenders, Los Angeles Lakers affiliate
Idaho Stampede, Utah Jazz affiliate
Reno Bighorn, Sacramento Kings affiliate
Santa Cruz Warriors, Golden State Warriors affiliate
Central Division Teams:
Fort Wayne Mad Ants, Hawks, Hornets, Nuggets, Clippers, T-Wolves, Blazers, Wizards, Nets, Bulls, Pacers, Bucks, Pelicans, and Raptors affiliate
Grand Rapids Drive, Detroit Pistons affiliate
Iowa Energy, Memphis Grizzlies affiliate
Sioux Falls Sky Force, Miami Heat affiliate
East Division Teams:
Austin Spurs, San Antonio Spurs affiliate
Rio Grande Valley Vipers, Houston Rockets affiliate
Canton Charge, Cleveland Cavaliers affiliate
Delaware 87ers, Philadelphia 76ers affiliate
Oklahoma City Blue, Oklahoma City Thunder affiliate
Westchester Knicks, New York Knicks affiliate
Erie Bayhawks, Orlando Magic affiliate
Texas Legends, Dallas Mavericks affiliate
Maine Red Claws, Boston Celtics affiliate
The Players: Top 15 D-League players to look this season:
The season has not even started and four D-League players - Drew Gordon, Ish Smith, Kalin Lucas, and Will Cherry - have already been signed by an NBA team. Here are the 15 best players in the league to start the year.
1. Earl Clark (Rio Grande Valley SF)
2. Thanasis Antetokounmpo (Westchester F)
3. Peyton Siva (Erie PG)
4. Aaron Craft (Santa Cruz PG)
5. Seth Curry (Erie G)
6. C.J. Fair (Fort Wayne SF)
7. Marquis Teague (Oklahoma City PG)
8. Naadir Tharpe (Los Angeles PG)
9. Robert Covington (Grand Rapids F)
10. Khem Birch (Soiux Falls PF)
11. Hasheem Thabeet (Grand Rapids C)
12. James Michael McAdoo (Santa Cruz SF)
13. Renaldo Balkman (Texas SF)
14. Jamario Moon (Los Angeles SF)
15. Malcolm Lee (Delaware F)
The Storylines: The 4 biggest stories surrounding the league as it enters its 14th season:
1. The Fort Wayne Mad Ants look to reclaim their title after defeating the Santa Cruz Warriors in the playoffs earlier this year. The Mad Ants are the early favorites again this year with Syracuse standout and rookie forward C.J. Fair leading the team and 13 NBA affiliates behind them.
2. The league has implemented a "coach’s challenge" rule that teams will be testing out this season. The challenge system will work similarly to college football's rules which allow a coach to use his challenge during a timeout and initiate an instant replay for the referees. If the challenge is successful, the team challenging the play is awarded another challenge and maintains their timeout.
3. 11 new coaches were added to the circuit headlined by the Reno Bighorns tabbing former Grinnell college associate head coach, David Arseneault Jr., who brings his high shot volume system to Reno.
4. The league continued its growth over the summer adding two new teams in the Westchester Knicks and the Grand Rapids Drive. Also, the Austin Torros changed their name to the Austin Spurs, while the Tulsa 66ers changed their name to the Oklahoma City Blue. Lastly, the Jazz, Grizzles, Magic, and Suns all got single affiliate teams.