The first idea is move NBA D-League franchises out of cities that already host NBA franchises. There are tons of cities around the United States that would love and are prepared to host professional basketball: Louisville, Anaheim, Seattle, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Kansas City, Cincinnati, Las Vegas, Vancouver, etc. Current D-League franchises that also are NBA cities include Chicago, Los Angeles, and Oklahoma City with several other franchises relatively close to their home NBA team in neighboring cities. Spread teams out so that you're providing live professional basketball to more of the country. Instead of relocating an NBA franchise or expanding it, why not use these markets to satisfy the fans' desire for professional basketball? For example: I'd love to watch a pro basketball team in Kentucky, but the closest one is in Indianapolis which is three hours away. If there were one in Louisville or Cincinnati, I'd definitely check them out more than once. Louisville has also sold out exhibition games in the past featuring NBA franchises - and not marquee franchises, but the Orlando Magic and Minnesota Timberwolves were featured. For fans in these areas that aren't close enough to have access to NBA basketball on a routine basis, this could be a low-risk solution to expanding the professional game around the country.
The second idea is to take some of that television money and increase the salaries for D-League players. It's embarrassing that minimum contracts in the NBA are near $1 million per year and the highest salary in the D-League is $25,000 per USAToday. In fact, their entire salary cap is around $170,000. Hopefully, this issue came up during the current CBA talks. If you want to increase the quality of play in the D-League, pay these guys like professionals. At $25,000 a year, they'd likely have to work a second job or they could simply make the choice to play in Europe or China for a much more lucrative contract. Hopefully, the new CBA will address this and increase the pay for D-League players.
The third idea I have is to abolish the one-and-done rule and create a new rule: You can enter the NBA draft out of high school, but if you're drafted, you have to spend a minimum of one year in the D-League. For the NBA host of these high school selections, their salary wouldn't count against the cap until their first season in the NBA. Think about the NBA's Summer League and how much attention it attracts. That could happen to the D-League for an entire season. It also would help groom some of these young adults for life in the NBA by teaching them how to be a professional, working on their game in a professional environment under the watchful eye of their franchises, and playing against other professionals. This would unquestionably raise the quality of play in the D-League and also the NBA in the long-term. Personally, I feel this would also have a positive effect on collegiate basketball as well. The one-and-done teams that UK and recently, Duke, have compiled would essentially be done away with or significantly diminished and teams would have the opportunity to gel and grow together creating a more coherent brand of basketball. Games would hopefully be less sloppy and from a fan's perspective, it would give us players to cheer on for the duration of their collegiate career and not be a cast that revolves annually.
These are just three ideas that could make the NBA D-League a much more compelling and marketable league. If the NBA cares about having a legitimate minor league and expanding the brand and quality of NBA basketball, they would consider these ideas or similar ideas. Having a legitimate developmental league can help improve the quality of the product you're putting out. Just ask the WWE, who have run the wildly successful NXT brand and it has developed a nice cult following of fans who prefer it in contrast to the WWE itself. The D-League is a nice niche now, but the NBA has an opportunity to really make this league something interesting. Hopefully, this is already in the cards and we'll see some improvement in the D-League from the new CBA.
Brandon Pence is the co-founder of "B2 Hoops" and the founder of "The Bulls Charge." Follow B2 Hoops on Twitter and like us on Facebook.