ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that the New Orleans Pelicans will be launching their own G-League affiliate for the 2019-20 NBA G-League season.
New Orleans is launching a G League affiliate in Birmingham, Ala., league sources tell ESPN. Team will start play in Erie, Pa. next season until renovations are complete on arena in Birmingham.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) October 23, 2018
The move leaves the Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers as the final two NBA teams without their own G-League affiliate. Last season, the Denver Nuggets sent Monte Morris and Tyler Lydon to play for the Sioux Falls Skyforce, the G-league affiliate for the Miami Heat. They also sent Torrey Craig to the Rio Grand Valley Vipers, the G-League affiliate for the Houston Rockets. This season, Thomas Welsh will suit up for Capitol City Go-go, who belongs to the Washington Wizards. DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell will suit up for the Delaware Blue Coats, owned by the Philadelphia 76ers.
A league source has informed Denver Stiffs that the team has not yet finalized a location or timetable to launch their own G-League affiliate. The team is exploring their options but is still looking at locations outside of the state of Colorado.
What this means for the Nuggets
G-League teams are becoming more and more valuable for building a successful basketball model in today’s NBA. Teams like the Houston Rockets have used their G-League team to experiment with cutting edge basketball strategies and styles of play and to groom both young players and new coaches, trainers, and scouts for the NBA. Teams are also able to use their G-League team as a stand-in for their NBA team, allowing their young prospects to learn the team’s terminology, play style, and to prepare them for the role they will play at the NBA level.
The Denver Nuggets have no shortage of players who would benefit from a G-League team. Tyler Lydon, the team’s 1st round pick in 2017 has played just two minutes so far this season and played just two minutes all of last season. Both Welsh and Akoon-Purcell are on two-way contracts, special NBA contracts that allow both players to play in the G-League and spend up to 45 days with the team throughout the NBA season. Jarred Vanderbilt is coming back from a foot injury and will likely begin his career in the G-League. In all cases, controlling a G-League affiliate would allow those players to be groomed for a specific role that the Denver Nuggets need while also being monitored by a staff that deals directly with the Nuggets.
Last week, the NBA announced that they would be creating a “professional path for elite basketball prospects.” This new program allows players who are eligible for the G-League but ineligible to enter the NBA draft (due to age) to receive a salary upwards of $125,000 and to participate in the G-League while also providing the select players with life skills development tools and programs. While not the league’s stated goal, the idea provides an alternative path for the globe’s top high school-aged prospects to playing in the NCAA.
For now, the Nuggets are not ready to reveal their plans for a G-League but are falling awfully close to becoming the final team to join the party.