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Sons of Liberty: Building The Delaware 87ers Roster

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For the Delaware 87ers, building a 12-man roster is a fairly complicated process. We explain how the Philadelphia 76ers' D-League affiliate will spend the next seven weeks drafting and evaluating talent prior to their season opener.

Roy Burton

Last Saturday, the Delaware 87ers held their first round of open tryouts for the upcoming season (sans Lil' B, according to a source). Due to the transient nature of the D-League, the local tryout sessions provide a vital pipeline for finding talent. That said, it's not the only method in which D-League clubs are built.

Between now and their season opener on November 14, the 87ers will basically create an entire 12-man roster from scratch. There's a good chance that no one who has ever played for the Sevens before will suit up for the team on Opening Night. Moreover, it's virtually guaranteed that the players will be acquired via a variety of different sources.

D-League Draft: The annual draft is the primary method in which the 19 D-League teams acquire players. The draft pool consists largely of NBA free agents, D-League veterans, undrafted rookies and other players returning from overseas. Eight members of the Sevens' 2014-15 training camp roster were drafted by the team, including leading scorer D.J. Seeley.

Players chosen in the draft remain free to sign with any NBA club at any time. The Grand Rapids Drive selected Robert Covington was the first overall pick last season, and two weeks later, he signed a four-year deal with the Philadelphia 76ers.

Open Tryouts: Each D-League team holds at least one local tryout for hopefuls 18 years of age or older. The Sevens will conduct two such sessions this year: The team's second tryout will take place on October 11 from 8:30 AM to 12:00 PM at Temple University's Pearson and McGonigle Halls.

The D-League also holds a national tryout in addition to the local events. Those who catch the eye of the league's scouts earn a chance to join the D-League draft pool. According to D-League Digest, nearly 25 percent of the players who attended this year's event in New York City were offered D-League contracts.

Returning players: By rule, D-League teams retain the rights of anyone who has played for them over the previous two seasons. Last year, Tiny Gallon was the only returning player to make the 87ers' opening night roster.

Rights to returning players can also be involved in transactions. In January, Delaware acquired the rights to Maalik Wayns, who had previously spent time with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers prior to his stint in the Lithuanian Basketball League.

Affiliate players: NBA teams can assign up to four players who are waived during training camp to their D-League club. Last season, the Sixers used the rule to send three of their training camp cuts to the Sevens: Drew Gordon, Ronald Roberts and Malcolm Lee.

Just as with drafted and returning players, affiliate players remain free agents, and are free to sign with any NBA team (or, for that matter, overseas).

Draft rights players: NBA teams can more or less "stash" their draftees by signing them to D-League contracts at any time before and/or during the season.

Jordan McRae falls into this category: After a successful stint in Australia, the Sixers' 2014 second-round draft pick signed a D-League contract and finished out the 2014-15 campaign with the 87ers.

NBA Assignments: Parent clubs can assign players to their D-League affiliate at any time provided that the player has no more than three years of service time accrued (or if said player is on a conditioning/rehab assignment).

The 11 NBA teams that don't have a wholly-owned affiliate can send a player to the D-League via the "flexible assignment system." Under this scenario, any NBA team that owns its D-League franchise outright has the option to add the player to their minor league roster. If they all refuse, the player will then be assigned to one of the D-League's eight "hybrid-owned" teams (Erie, Maine, Grand Rapids, Sioux Falls, Rio Grande Valley, Texas, Bakersfield, Reno) via a lottery system.

Waiver Pool: Free agents who sign with the D-League at any time following the draft will be placed in the league's waiver pool. High school and/or college players who have never gone through the NBA Draft process are also eligible to join the waiver pool, but they cannot be signed by any NBA team.