There's a fantastic article on Grantland via ESPN about the Houston Rockets NBADL franchise. the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.
Here is the link to the article.
The basis for the story is that Daryl Morey uses the Rockets owned D League team like a science lab, a place where he can mess around on new theories, test hypothesis, and do things he wouldn't risk trying first at the NBA level. Specifically this piece focuses on the Rio Grande Valley Vipers dedication to pushing the tempo on offense and shooting 3's....lots of them and more specifically "corner 3's".
One of the biggest takeaways from reading this story was the Rockets dedication to using the D League, not just to develop players, but to develop coaches, and more specifically to develop new schemes and strategies.
If you've already read the article, than I'm sure your jaw hit the floor when you read that Morey interviewed 35 coaching candidates for the vacant Vipers head coaching job, after their previous coach was hired by the Raptors following two seasons in Rio (the coach prior to that now is a Rockets assistant coach). 35 coaching candidates for a D League team and they still hadn't found their guy yet. That's either insane or insanely dedicated to the mission at hand.
So how does this relate to the Wizards or more so, why does what the Rockets and Morey are doing even matter to the Wizards?
The Rockets interviewed over 35 coaching candidates for their D League team, while the Wizards didn't interview a single candidate for their head coaching job before removing the "interim" title from Randy Wittman. What that tells me is that the dedication to the job, the amount of creative thought, and desire to be a pioneer in the industry is what Morey prides himself on. Interviewing 35+ candidates must have been a painfully long process, with hundreds of hours spent researching and interviewing those candidates. How much time did the Wizards use to prepare for finding a new head coach before ultimately choosing to retain Wittman?
Next, the Rockets originally shared a NBADL team with multiple other organizations (which is what the Wizards do). These shared D League teams are not run by the organizations that send their players there. Which means the coaching, the scheme, and the development of the players on the team is not coming directly from the NBA team. Perhaps this is why the Wizards don't often send players to Iowa (which they share with three other teams) and more specifically why they haven't sent Otto Porter to the D League. Why send him somewhere if they can't control how he's being used, coached, or molded?
I remember when Leonsis first bought the Wizards and one of his objectives that caught my eye was his plan to develop a Wizards run and owned NBADL team. However the years have passed and since those original statements it seems the D League has been a forgotten priority.
Why the Wizards continue to drag their feet on this matter is beyond me on multiple levels.
1. More and more NBA players are spending time in the NBADL than ever before. Last season over 1/3 of the league's players had spent time in the D League.
2. If the Wizards are going to continue to move up the standings, they're going to need to find a way to develop prospects if they're not seeing the floor in the NBA. Porter, Rice, Vesely, Singleton, etc... are all perfect examples of players that should have spent time or more time in the NBADL.
3. This isn't Iowa, Rio Grande Valley, or Idaho, this is the DMV. Not only do the Wizards have the ability to grow their product and fan base in another market, but they also can keep their affiliate close enough to home that the players being assigned there don't feel like they're being banished to Siberia.
Nearby cities like Baltimore, Richmond or VA Beach/Norfolk are all perfect potential fits for a NBADL team, with locations close enough to DC to create a connection both with the big team and with the fans. How this is not priority #1 from a pure business standpoint is utterly confusing. The team can take their "fan reach" and drag those boarder lines out another 100+ miles. A broader reach means more fans, more sponsors, a new media contract in a top 25 market (if it were in Bmore), and more eyeballs going to Ted's Holy Grail (iMonumentalsports.com).
I'm curious to hear from the forum and see what you think. How much of a priority should it be for the Wizards to create their own NBADL team and where should it be located? 14 of the 17 NBADL teams are owned and operated by one NBA franchise. Does owning an affiliate give you a better chance of winning in the NBA? And finally, is it even fair to compare Ernie Grunfeld to Daryl Morey?