The Wizards and the NBA Developmental League: Will this be more than lip service?

I've been pushing for the Wizards to make better use of the NBA Developmental League pretty much since this blog got started. They've historically shunned it, even though many teams have proven it can be a valuable tool for player development. With all the young projects Ernie Grunfeld has drafted in recent years, you'd think some time getting on-court reps in the D-League would have been a good way to help them practice the fundamentals necessary to succeed in the league.

(Full disclosure: Scott Schroeder, who is probably the ultimate D-League insider over at Ridiculous Upside, is a good blogger friend of mine and has been in my ear about this for a while).

So I find it kind of ironic that the following two things happened yesterday.

First, Flip Saunders told season-ticket holders that the Wizards would use the D-League more this year than in year's past. Via Wizards Extreme:

Saunders says that the #Wizards will try to use the [D-League] a little better/more this year.    

Okay, good. Except - on the same day Saunders said this - Kevin Seraphin, a possible candidate for the D-League at some point next season, told a French publication this. (Thanks to CJ Hemp for translating).

Did Washington talk to you about the NBDL (Dleague) ?
Absolutely not! The deal , if they were to take me, there would be no D-League. During the work-out, other teams talked to me about it (D-league) but not Washington. (Washington) definitely want to see mee on the playground so that I progress. Now we will see what will happen ...    

At face value, this means we won't see Seraphin get sent down at all. Which, of course, begs the question - if they promised not to send Seraphin down, how, exactly, will the Wizards use the D-League a little "better/more" this year?

Here's the thing about the D-League: only certain players are eligible to play in it. Via the D-League web site:

A player assignment is when an NBA player in his first or second season is sent to his team's NBA D-League affiliate in order to acquire additional playing time. Each NBA team may assign no more than two NBA players at one time to play with its affiliated NBA D-League team (though each NBA team retains the right to make such assignments to other NBA D-League teams at its discretion).    

In other words, the only players the Wizards can assign to the D-League are first- and second-year players. In all likelihood, the Wizards will have four such players on the roster: John Wall, Seraphin, Trevor Booker and Hamady N'Diaye. Wall's not getting sent down, and evidently, neither is Seraphin, so all that's left is Booker and Ndiaye. There's really no reason to send down Booker, because he's a polished product that doesn't need seasoning. The D-League is not made for guys like him, and I'd rather have him be channeled into a specific role on the big-league club anyway. That leaves N'Diaye, who remains unsigned and is rumored to be talking to European teams.

At the end of the day, it sounds like the way the Wizards will use the D-League better is ... by occasionally sending their late second-round pick down. Which is ok, I guess, but hardly signals any sort of fundamental change. Maybe Saunders meant they would look to the D-League for player acquisitions more often, like they did at the end of last year. This is also ok, but again, it's not a huge shift from year's past.

I'd like to get excited about Saunders' promise. I really would. But if they've indeed ruled out sending down Seraphin, then I find it hard to believe their actions will live up to their words. 

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