The NBA D-League is opening the 2016-17 season with 22 teams, marking a sign of progress for a league that looks poised for further growth.
This year, the D-League is adding three teams: The Windy City Bulls, Long Island Nets, and the Greensboro Swarm. While the Nets will utilize Brooklyn’s Barclays Center for this season, all three teams will eventually play in arenas that are independent of owner/affiliate.
For the league, this represents a step in the right direction as it looks to the future. More from the Associated Press:
We’ve already grown very quickly in a short period of time,” president Malcolm Turner told The Associated Press.
Three expansion teams — in Charlotte, Chicago and Brooklyn — begin play this season, bringing the league’s total to a high of 22 clubs. Every one of them has a one-to-one affiliation with an NBA organization, with the big franchises growing more and more comfortable using the minor league to develop young players, cultivate coaches and allow veterans to rehab an injury.
What started as an eight-team league in 2001, dipped to six teams in 2003 and hovered at 16 teams for five seasons between 2008 and 2013 has gradually evolved to become a part of the NBA’s ecosystem. The Atlanta Hawks announced on Thursday they will start a team in 2019, leaving just seven NBA franchises without a D-League affiliate of their own.
“We’re in active conversations with all of them about joining the league,” Turner said. “Knock on wood, we hope to have additional announcements sooner than later.”
The potential is there for more teams to join the Hawks in the D-League. The Milwaukee Bucks have been mulling arena proposals in three Wisconsin cities, while the Denver Nuggets were recently reported to be considering the addition of a franchise in Omaha. That, combined with moves such as the Sacramento Kings’ recent purchase of the Reno Bighorns, shows provides signs of the NBA’s effort to grow the D-League.