Stocking Springfield - Revised

While we wait to see if there is an NBA season, we take a look at the next big event involving the Nets: the stocking of the Springfield Armor, including local tryouts and then the D-League Draft,  (The date of the Draft is still undisclosed, perhaps dependent on when and if the NBA training camps begin.)

We're looking it from an optimistic perspective, one where a CBA deal is cut that permits a full season with a short NBA training camp.   Lets' hope that's the case because there are advantages for the Nets and the Armor under that scenario.

D-League teams are essentially stocked three ways, with "returning" players, "allocated" players from their NBA parent team and "drafted" players from the D-league Draft. There are also local tryouts as well.  It's all very different from the NBA.

Springfield, the D-League's newest team, has lost 80 of its first 100 games. So, the pool of returning Armor players is limited. Under D-League rules, a team retains the rights to players on the roster for the last two seasons, minus those on assignment from an NBA parent team or traded or released. For the Armor, that's 14 players, one of the lowest in the D-League. Of those, Scottie Reynolds is the best, assuming he stays. D-League players make no more than $25,000 a year, a lot less than a good player can make overseas...and Reynolds was most recently playing in the Philippines.

Where the Nets and Armor can make some headway quickly is in the second area, allocated players, that is players allocated or provided by the Nets...as long as the lockout ends and the Nets have players to allocate.  It's not limited to sending a second round draft choice, like Jordan Williams, down to Springfield for seasoning and it's a bit complicated.

If the Nets like a player who went undrafted on June 23, once a new CBA is approved, they're likely to start the process the same way they normally when they didn't control basketball operations at Springfield...just in an accelerated and telescoped manner.

They will make a call to the undrafted player and his agent to express their interest and possibly offer him a bonus to sign a training camp  contract with the team. Teams will probably have a training camp of 10 days and coaches can always use additional bodies.  Last year, the Nets gave $50,000 to Brian Zoubek and $35,000 to Ben Uzoh.  The bonus is a partial guarantee on a minimum contract. Uzoh stuck. Zoubek was cut. Before last year, the Nets hadn't done that since 2007 when they game Robert Hite $20,000 and then released him just before the regular season began.

The team will monitor the players' progress through training camp.  Should another unsigned player attract their interest in camp, they can do the same thing they did with any players they initially liked: sign them to a partially guaranteed deal.

As the Nets' training camp comes to a close, the process will change from pre-Armor years.  NBA teams will have to cut their rosters down quickly. As the NBA season begins, D-League teams like the Armor can designate for reassignment up to three players cut by their NBA affiliate teams.  The players of course are under no obligation to sign.  As noted, a player can make a lot more money overseas than in the D-League.  But if a player is seeking a  fast track to the NBA (and already has that cash cushion from a partial guarantee), the Armor might be their best choice. They'll be running the Nets' system, be following the Nets' training regimen; be using the Nets' call signs and most importantly be coached by Nets employees and be managed by Nets executives.

There's another way to get those players the Nets like on Armor roster. Dallas did a version last October that could have a lot of relevance in a shortened camp.  As the Mavericks' training camp was winding down, they signed Rashad McCants and Sean Williams to camp contracts with small bonuses, then cut them.  The Mavs' affiliate, the Texas Legends, were then, under that new rule, able to sign them. They may have passed physicals in Dallas but they didn't do anything for the Mavs. The Mavs' front office didn’t ink those deals and then change their minds over the course of a few days.  It was a calculated move to get NBA quality players on the Legends' roster...before the D-League draft. 

The Armor will hold local tryouts in late October, before the D-League Draft.  More than 60 players have showed up the  at the Springfield College Field House last two years. They can bring as many as five players to camp. Springfield can also sign local players to promote the team’s identity.

Then, at the beginning of November, the Nets can use their fat scouting files --and extensive video archive-- to help the Armor in the D-League Draft. (Co-located at the PNY Center is Hoops1 Video, a company with one of the most extensive video libraries, foreign as well as domestic, in the world.  Its head, Mitch Kaufman, also serves at the Nets' video coordinator.)  The date of the draft remains a secret, for the obvious reason. If the union and players can come to deal that preserves the full 82-game season but starts late, the D-League draft is likely to get pushed back.

The Nets and other D-League teams are hoping that players from shortened training camps around the league and even European clubs will declare to bolster the talent.

The D-League Draft has none of the pomp and ceremony of the NBA Draft. It is done by conference call and goes for EIGHT rounds. The Armor even let the local paper, the Springfield Republican shoot their "war room".  Although no trades are permitted during the draft, deals can be made that night and then finalized later.  The Armor in fact don't have their own first rounder in this year's draft. They traded it for Reynolds, the Villanova all-American, last November. D-League rules prohibit the sale of picks.

Where do the prospects come from, beyond training camps and Europe? Flash back to June, right after the draft.  The fifth annual D-League National Tryout is held in Louisville on June 24-26. There were D-League Open Tryouts in Los Angeles and Chicago as well last month. They offers players the opportunity to showcase their talent in front of D-League front office personnel, as well as coaches and representatives from each of the league’s 16 teams.

Expect the Nets to be heavily involved in the Draft, Billy King said recently even though the Armor won't have that first round pick.

"We'll have staff that will do it, I don't know if I will be...ultimately I will have final say but I can't see myself guiding it," said King. The Nets' GM explained that in some cases, the Nets used their pre-draft workouts to look at potential Armor picks. "Some of these guys we brought in to be (training) camp invitees, possibly for a D-League roster," he said after a June workout, calling the Armor option an "added plus" in the search for talent.. "Maybe they're not for our draft, but maybe for the D-League draft...in late October, November."

Could they stock Springfield with Russian ringers?  No, says Scott Schroeder of Ridiculous Upside, the SB Nation D-League blog. It's impracticable and unlikely.

"Russian players aren't really an option as the D-League is (currently) set up," said Schroeder in an email to NetsDaily a while back.  "I guess they could put the Russian players all in the draft, but it'd probably be difficult to secure their rights.  The other way to do this would be for the Nets to sign said Russian players and allocate them to the D-League, though that wouldn't seem likely".

The Nets are also hoping that a new CBA, if it's in place by then, will permit injury rehabilitation tours in the D-League starting next season.  Under current rules, only NBA rookies and second year players can be sent down. Who knows?

It's all yet another, subtle way Mikhail Prokhorov's cash hoard helps the Nets develop talent. By making money available for partial guarantees, Prokhorov  makes it easier for the Nets to 1) recruit valuable if undrafted prospects and 2) keep them in the organization so they develop on the Nets' timetable. And by investing $250,000 in the Armor, it gives the Nets a platform for that development.  Moreover, none of this is lost on agents, even those representing D-Leaguers. They're starting to see the team in a different light.

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