It looks like the Sixers management buys into the future of an NBA minor league system as much as we do. Liberty Ballers (with a major assist from Spike Eskin) can exclusively tell you that they're very close to buying an NBA Developmental League Franchise outright. Nothing is quite official yet, so the organization is keeping understandably mum about the whole thing.
CEO and friend of the blog Adam Aron told me the Sixers are "carefully considering what opportunities may be available to the 76ers in the NBA D-League. The possibilities are intriguing."
Interest was piqued a few days ago when ArgusLeader.com (fantastic site name) ran a story about the owners of the D-League's Sioux Falls Skyforce rejecting a lucrative buyout offer from an NBA team. The reason the father and son owners didn't want to sell? That team was planning on shipping the Skyforce out of South Dakota and closer to its own home.
The Skyforce are currently affiliated with four NBA teams: Minnesota, Miami, Orlando, and Philadelphia. A source has confirmed to me that the Sixers were the mystery team responsible for the offer. Apparently they are currently out to other D-League teams currently unowned by an NBA franchise and have reportedly made an offer to another team as well.
After Boston and Portland ponied up the cash to affiliate their own teams this offseason, 11 of the 16 D-League franchises have a one-to-one relationship with their NBA big brothers. Aside from Sioux Falls, only
Bakersfield, Reno, Fort Wayne, and Iowa remain, essentially, D-League free agents for the Sixers to target. UPDATE: I can confirm that the Bakersfield Jam is not the team the Sixers are buying. I can speculate that it's either Iowa or Fort Wayne.
This would be undeniably great news should this sale go through. We've been fervent supporters of the D-League in the past and things will only look up as the NBA realizes its minor league system. Not only would the Sixers be able to install their own coaches and personnel, they can now send players down to the D-League, regardless of years of experience, on rehab assignments after injury. That's huge.
It simply doesn't make sense to fill out the end of your bench with more expensive veterans collecting a bigger paycheck for being a practice body. There are hungry, athletic, and talented players in the D-League that cost less money. Current Sixer Dorell Wright and former Sixer Lou Williams are D-League alums, along with guys like Jeremy Lin, Marcin Gortat, Eric Bledsoe, and Sixer assassin Brandon Bass. The last time the Sixers signed anybody out of the D-League? Antonio Daniels two years ago. Uhh, hopefully new Sixers Director of Analytics Aaron Barzilai will be able to pick out some diamonds and stash them nearby.
Should the Sixers find their own personal affiliate, they can harness that talent into the same system Doug Collins runs in Philadelphia and when the opportunity arises, promote not only the player, but also the coach implementing the system. There's a lot of low-risk, high-reward stuff potentially at their disposal.
So we're thrilled about the possibility of a Sixers minor league team in Allentown or Atlantic City or Wilmington or King of Prussia Mall. And when you consider that just over three years ago, then-Sixers GM Ed Stefanski told me he didn't see the point in owning and operating a D-League team yet, it's good to hear that the small, faithful few of us who care about this Sixers minutia will get their wish.
Big ups to Josh Harris, Adam Aron, and Tony DiLeo for pursuing this exceedingly non-flashy venture (it's mostly been Aron, from what I've heard) and here's to some concrete word that a sale has been made.