Understanding NBA Developmental League Player Rights


Somethings in basketball are easy to understand, while others are much more complicated and complex. With the Orlando Magic and the Erie BayHawks entering into a three-year one-on-one affiliation, it seems important to help you understand exactly how teams can assign a player to the NBA Developmental League, and how they hold their rights. 

As someone who hasn’t followed the D-League that closely up to this point, I enlisted the help of someone who has. Adam Johnson, the owner and editor of Sea Dubs Central, was nice enough to take some time to try to help me understand how exactly the Magic can get players to the BayHawks. Below will be the details of exactly how this can happen, as Mr. Johnson put it to me. 

How to Acquire Player Rights:

There are several ways a team can acquire a player’s D-League rights. Through the D-League draft, the player pool — think of it as free agency basically, unclaimed players in the D-League — trades, or the use of the affiliate rule.

What is the Affiliate Rule?

The easiest way to think of it is as a consolation prize for NBA training camp invites.  Basically, if a player is waived whose D-League rights aren’t held by a team already, the NBA team can claim their rights within a certain period of time, and ship them to their D-League affiliate. That’s how Santa Cruz landed Seth Curry, Joe Alexander, and Dewayne Dedmon last season.

Just because a player attends a training camp or is signed by an NBA team does not mean their D-League rights are relinquished, that’s another complicated issue which might change in the next CBA. 

(Ed Note: The above shows how the likes of Peyton Siva, Drew Crawford and Kadeem Batts can end up with the BayHawks should they not make the Magic’s roster. It also shows why Seth Curry would not make the team, due to Santa Cruz still owning his rights.) 

How long are D-League rights valid?

They are valid until a player misses two consecutive seasons in the D-League, at which point they are eligible to be re-drafted if they so choose. If a player returns at the end of the season and plays in one game that still counts as a returning player for that D-League team and thus that two-year gap resets.

The exception to that is with this year’s D-League Expansion Draft. Regardless of the standing of players, the Knicks will hold all their D-League rights for at least two years.

Do player rights reset when traded?

No. It doesn’t start over if they are traded; the No. of years missed is independent of who holds their rights. Thus when trading for rights it can be a calculated risk/gamble for teams because they don’t know if they will even see that person play for them.

What about a player who misses the entire season or suffers a season-ending injury?

That player can be waived but it does not count against their two-years of players rights held.

Example would be Taylor Griffin this year, who did not suit up for Santa Cruz and was waived due to a season-ending injury. Because he was injured that missed year does not count against the Warriors and his player rights.

Hopefully that helps you understand the NBA D-League and how it works when it comes to assigning players. It’s a somewhat complicated process, but, it’s something we have to come to understand.