April 6, 2017
Finding ways to develop talent is one of the most important aspects of running a winning team. The teams that are better at discovering and building up young players are normally the best in their leagues.
Major league baseball uses the minor league to do that through the farm system, which gives players a place to get game experience as they hone their craft.
In basketball, the NBA began the D-League, or Developmental League, in the 2001-2002 season. It will be called the NBA Gatorade League, or NBA G-League, starting next season.
The D-League currently has 22 teams, all of which are affiliated with a single NBA team. That pro team either fully owns and operates its D-League outfit, or the developing team has a hybrid ownership in which the an NBA team funds and manages it, but local ownership controls business and manages community relations.
The Memphis Grizzlies purchased an expansion franchise in January that is set to begin play next season in Southaven, Miss. Memphis is one of five teams that has launched an expansion team or bought an existing D-League team.
On Friday, March 31, the New Orleans Pelicans announced their intentions to start an expansion team, as well. Pelicans owner Tom Benson, who also owns the New Orleans Saints, will own and operate the D-League team, which will begin play in the 2018-2019 season.
New Orleans sent a Request for Proposal, or RFP, to 11 Gulf Coast-region cities, which the Pelicans and the NBA selected based on market research.
Of those 11 cities, seven are based in Louisiana (Alexandria, Baton Rouge, Lafayette, Lake Charles, Monroe, Shreveport and St. Tammany Parish), two are in Mississippi (Biloxi and Jackson), one is in Alabama (Mobile), and one is in Florida (Pensacola).
New Orleans starting a D-League team means it can call up players from that team and get them players on the same day. Players will learn the same plays that the Pelicans use, as well, meaning that they won’t have to learn a new playbook when they are called up.
The Pelicans can use its D-League affiliate to develop draft picks that need more playing time before joining the NBA team. It also allows the team to expand its fan base outside of New Orleans.
Jackson makes perfect sense for a team looking to widen its reach. New Orleans Saints fans are numerous around the capital city, but there doesn’t seem to be one NBA team that a majority of Jacksonians root for each season.
New Orleans can build a fan base in Jackson that will be as loyal to the Pelicans as it is to the Saints. Fans in Central Mississippi never stopped loving the Saints no matter how terrible the team happened to be during the season. These same fans could be just as loyal to the Pelicans.