Photo by Erie BayHawks
According to a report from Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today, the Orlando Magic will be acquiring the Erie Bayhawks of the D-League and entering an exclusive partnership with them.
The Orlando Magic plan to enter a single-affiliation hybrid relationship with the NBA Development League’s Erie BayHawks, people familiar with news told USA TODAY Sports. They requested anonymity because the deal has not been finalized.
An official announcement is not expected until late May as the parties finalize details. The Magic will run basketball ops and the ownership will handle business operations and community relations.
The BayHawks were formerly affiliated with the New York Knicks, but with the Knicks forming their own D-League team, the Magic pounced on the opportunity to acquire a D-League team for themselves.
The benefits of a D-League team are enormous. When Andrew Nicholson was struggling to get playing time in his sophomore season while Glen Davis was around, he could’ve been sent to the D-League to get game minutes. It also could have helped to rebuild his confidence, which was shot to hell during the season, with a few 20-point games.
Kyle O’Quinn proved in his second year in the NBA that he’s a really good player. He possibly could have been even better if he had played more than 638 minutes in his rookie season. Stuck behind more experienced players in the rotation, he could have gone to a D-League team to get real game minutes and potentially develop quicker.
More and more NBA teams are cutting back on practice — that’s what the medical data shows is the right move — leaving less and less time for young players to develop game-action skills. And most young players, by nature of their inexperience, aren’t getting many minutes.
Nothing can come close to the speed of the NBA, but the D-League is about the closest one can get to replicating it. The D-League provides a beneficial alternative for young players just rotting away on the bench behind the Jason Maxiell’s and Glen Davis’ of the world. It’s, more or less, a training ground for the real thing.
The D-League success stories are numerous. Marcus Morris looked like a bust his first season with the Houston Rockets, only playing in 17 games and logging a 3.8 PER. He spent most of his first year in the D-League though, where he accrued a 20.8 PER. Back in the NBA last season, he played 77 games between the Rockets and Phoenix Suns. This season, he appeared in all 82 games for the Suns, had a career-high 14.8 PER (league average is 15.0), and finally proved to be a valuable role player.
There’s the topical example of Troy Daniels, who came out of the D-League to hit a game-winner for the Rockets in the 2014 playoffs. Jeremy Lamb only played 147 minutes as a rookie in the NBA, but made up for that with nearly 700 minutes in the D-League. This season he was an important role player for the Thunder, appearing in 78 games.
Lots of these benefits have been available to the Magic, but haven’t been as easy to use while affiliated with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants — Orlando’s D-League partnership during the 2013-14 season. Four other teams used the Mad Ants and the Magic had no control over their basketball operations.
Becoming a single-affiliate partner with the BayHawks allows for organizational structure from the top down. The BayHawks can run the same system as the Magic so there isn’t a dissonance when going from the NBA to the D-League. The Magic can also use the BayHawks to groom future coaches and players, and test out new strategies. Daryl Morey’s tinkering with the Rockets’ D-League team — seeing if there are limits to 3-point shooting and pace — has been well-documented.
It’s a little unfortunate the team is located so far away from Orlando. Some teams like Golden State (Santa Clara) and Oklahoma City (Tulsa) have players practice with the NBA team during the day and drive to the D-League team facilities to play a game at night. Operations won’t be that convenient for the Magic, with the BayHawks located in Pennsylvania — the hope down the road is for the D-League to expand to the Southeast.
But make no mistake, this is a huge move for a Magic franchise trying to build in the Spurs/Thunder model. It’s a much more efficient avenue to develop and find players than the messy multi-affiliate partnership the Magic have been in, and Orlando will surely reap its benefits in the future.