View Full Version : Development Path for Young Pacer Players: Practice Squad or D-League?

05-14-2008, 02:02 PM
Recently, I sent a submission to the Pacers' "Suggestion Box" that arugued the validity of sending eligible players down to the Pacers' D-Leauge affiliant (Ft. Wayne Mad-Ants) rather than retain them as part of their practice squad. The obvious goal is to development the young prospect's talents and get him some needed playing time instead of religating him to the bench for upwards of 2-3 seasons.

In the past, Larry Bird, Rick Carlisle and even recent statements by coach O'Brien have all stood firmly against sending young players to the D-League. Their arugment continues to be that such players stand a better chance of learning the team's style of play while continuing to practice with the team on a regular basis rather than they sending them to the D-League. While that may be true, the other side of the coin is that the young prospect generally sits and sits and sits while waiting his turn...a form of "paying his dues" (I suppose). While I fully understand that this has been the traditional pathway for NBA prospects, in recent years more and more young players have found themselves as key components for their respective teams. (See list of draftees (http://www.nba.com/pacers/news/lottery_picks.html) since 2005 for details) My argument, however, isn't that younger players should be excellerated into the NBA landscape just for cause, but rather that their development need not rest solely on workouts in the practice gym.

One case study could be how the Lakers used the D-League to their advantage when they sent their young prospect, Jordan Farmar, down to their D-League affiliate multiple times during the 2006-2007 seasaon. Farmar has gone on to become a crucial part of the Lakers' success this year. A more noticably example can be found in the Raptors' Jamario Moon who has become the poster child for D-League success.

Granted, most of the up-and-coming "All-Stars of the near future" have been thrust into their key roles moreso out of necessity than by their God given talents alone, i.e., Kevin Durant (or more noticabley LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, draft picks from five years ago who were immediate starters for their respective teams). But that shouldn't deter teams from using every tool at their disposal to develop the talent of their young prospects in order to make their team more competitive. To that, their only candidates for the D-League headed into next season would be their two draft picks.

(Corrected Note: The Pacers couldn't send Stephen Graham to the D-League last year because he was on his 3rd season in the NBA. Under NBDL rules an NBA team can only assign (up to) two first or second year players to its affiliated D-League team. For what it's worth, Graham had already nearly 1.5 yrs (much of the 2005-2006 and the 2006-2007 season) w/the Soiux Falls Skyforce where he had a very successful semi-pro career [See Stephen Graham's NBA bio (http://www.nba.com/playerfile/stephen_graham/bio.html) for details]. They could have sent Shawne Williams because he was only in his 2nd NBA season.)

IMHO, if a junior player is stuck behind a seasoned veteran, I see no reason not to send him to the D-League if he meets eligibility. At the very least it's a body that's not at the team's immediate disposal if needed. (A team can always call-up their assigned player up to 3 times in a single season.) At best, it's a win-win for the team and the player. The team retains a player who gets to hon his skills in game-time situations and the player doesn't feel as if he's a "tag-along" merely bidding his time. The only hitch I see is if the D-League affiliant isn't coaching your team's playing style he's liable to pick up some habits that become alittle hard to break, but overall I think it's prudent to develop talent in every way possible. And since the D-League has been established as the NBA's minor league, why not take full advantage of it to position your team in such a way as to give it the best competitive advantage at it's disposal?

(Thanks, Will Galen for correcting me.)

Will Galen
05-14-2008, 02:10 PM
They can't send Shawn, he's now been with the Pacers for two years. Graham now has 3 years of experience. Where you see 'Years' on the Pacers roster, that means how many years they have completed. It never takes into account the currant year.

05-14-2008, 03:49 PM
The unasked question, of course, is does anyone believe Williams, Harrison, Granger and others former young Pacers over the years could have benefited more from going to the D-League or do you agree w/TPTB to keep them as "tag-a-longs" w/the practice squads while warming the bench?

(Next time I'll start such a thread as a poll...sorry 'bout that.)

Will Galen
05-14-2008, 03:57 PM
I guess it would depend on the player. Say we get someone really raw in the 2ed round that looks like they will be a player. I could see sending them down to get the experience.

Otherwise it's probably best to keep players with the club since they would learn a lot in practice.

I think I would send them down for about fifteen games and then call them up to see how much they've learned, then send them down again.

05-14-2008, 05:19 PM
For me it would really depend on the player's background, i.e., yrs of NBA/semi-pro basketball experience, as well as how the player was acquired, i.e., through the draft or walk-on Summer Leage/Training Camp tryout. Obviously, if the player was acquired through a trade or free agency, there would be little reason to send him to the D-League as odds are he'd already have some NBA experience and would probably be over the 2-yr limit to go down to the minors anyway. But if he came through the draft, was a walk-on or even came from overseas, I'd give serious consideration for sending such players to the D-League just so that'd get some playing time.

Players from overseas I'd look at very closely because in a way they've paid their dues just in another basketball forum. But when you consider how players like Sarunus, whom I still think wasn't given enough of a chance here, didn't quite cut it, I probably would have sent him down just so he could get a grasp on the fundamentals of the NBA game even at its minor league level. IMO, such players would probably acclaimate to the NBA game faster if they had NBA-type exposure. What better way for them to get such exposure before placing them out on the big stage than to send them to the minors? But again, it really depends on the player's talent and maturity level. A guy like LeBron, for example, was thrust into the spotlight early out of necessity. Five years later, he's having tremendous success. Still, what could he have been like today had he spent a year down in the minors? Would his development have come faster or did he benefit more from staying with the team that drafted him?

We'll never know, of course, but my vote is to use the D-League to your team's advantage especially if the minor league team is playing a similar style as your organization and the player is talented enough but is stuck behind a veteran player. The thing that troubles me about the Pacers non-use of their D-League affiliate is they're not taking advantage of it at all and it's practically right up the street from them...metaphorically speaking. Since it's inception, the Pacers haven't sent any of their young players to the minors. What's the point of having access to this developmental tool if you're not going to use it?

Major Cold
05-14-2008, 05:21 PM
I think that we could have sent our younsters to the NBDL during long road trips.

05-14-2008, 06:40 PM
The Spurs have used the D-League for guys such as White and the guy they brought over from France. I think they need to expand the number of years a player can be there if they really expect it to be a true minor league system though.

05-14-2008, 07:33 PM
We've sent Jason Maxiell and Amir Johnson to the NBDL in the past, and we currently have Cheick Samb there now. I'm very pleased with how players develop in the minors.

05-15-2008, 02:16 AM
The fact that we refuse to use the D league is always a spot of contention for me.

Ok, I get the fact that the coach's feel that they need to "teach" the young players and that they can get a better feeling for them with the active squad.

However the true problem is like has been pointed out above, there are so many stretches during the season that we can't practice or do nothing but shootarounds that you have to wonder if maybe just maybe some actual game experiance wouldn't help?

05-15-2008, 02:27 AM
We've sent Jason Maxiell and Amir Johnson to the NBDL in the past, and we currently have Cheick Samb there now. I'm very pleased with how players develop in the minors.
I loved the game where Amir Johnson, Samb, and Maxiell owned the Lakers. There were blocks left and right. Pistons are deeper than people think, to where their third string could probably eek out a spot in the Eastern playoffs.

05-15-2008, 03:28 AM
I like the D-League in principle, but last year wasn't a good year for us to use it. The only one that we could have sent was Shawne, and he was getting minutes in our rotation. Imagine the response if Shawne goes to the D-League, and Danny gets hurt, so we bring up Shawne, who either hits the wall or has to learn the entire offense.

I think it's only useful guys who are going to rack up a ton of DNPs and are major projects.

05-15-2008, 12:38 PM
While Shawne was often lost on offense/defense, he certainly proved that physically he was ready to play at the NBA level, even making significant contributions in both seasons at times. I'd say he was above D-League level.

Graham would have been more the type considering his PT and rotation status, but obviously couldn't. Diener too, but they desperately needed him and he wasn't eligible anyway. I think running a show with great success would have boosted TDs confidence and general awareness a bit more, but in the end he seemed to recover after a few rough months in Indy.

Right now the Pacers D-League is called "Europe". Those 2 are who you'd put in the DL if they were over here.