Over the last several years, NBA teams have been partnering with D-League franchises, either via direct ownership or via contractual arrangements in which the D-League team functions much like the NBA franchises minor league team. Even though NBA teams are currently restricted to having 15 players under contract, and thus D-League teams are primarily composed of players who are NBA free agents, organizations have found it worthwhile to have a developmental team that is under their control, with their chosen coaching staff and front office.
Currently all 19 active D-League teams have a one-to-one affiliation with an NBA team, and three more teams, all owned by an NBA club, are slated to start play in the 2016-17 season.
And now there is finally evidence that the Wolves are working toward starting their own D-League team, something we have been talking about for years. An article in the Rochester Post-Bulletin reports that the Wolves requested and have been sent a proposal from Rochester concerning a potential D-League team that would play at the Taylor Arena, which is part of the Mayo Civic Center.
In many ways, Rochester is an ideal home for a Wolves D-League affiliate: It's close to the parent club, there is a strong existing relationship between the Wolves and the Mayo Clinic which is the dominant economic driver in Rochester, and the city is expected to grow significantly in the coming years.
However, the arena is, according to the report, a sticking point, as it is apparently substandard even for the D-League.
Ed Hruska, who is the city official who put together the proposal at the request of the Wolves after President Chris Wright visited last summer, and who provided much of the information for the article in the Post-Bulletin, suggested that he got the "sense" that the Wolves were considering several possibilities, and that the arena was likely the biggest sticking point for a Rochester bid.
Whether Rochester or somewhere else, it's good to know that the Wolves are actively working on securing a D-League franchise. It seems clear that the NBA is heading toward each team having a D-League affiliate, and then likely expanding rosters in some way pending CBA negotiations.
We've talked a lot about having "developmental" roster spots available to teams that would allow them to control, at least in part, more than 15 players in order to facilitate player development. I wrote about it as long as two and a half years ago, and now the league is talking about it. It seems inevitable that we will head in this direction. At some point soon we will have a 30 team D-League with a team affiliated with every franchise.
It's good to know that the Wolves are at least beginning to work on getting on board.