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Are G league teams owned by NBA teams?

The NBA is a huge basketball league that is famous all over the world. The largest basketball association is known for attracting millions of fans and the popularity of the NBA is prevalent everywhere. It’s affiliate league, The G-League, is utilized by NBA teams to develop young talent, rehab current stars and generally try out new tactics and schemes. What exactly is the legal relationship between the two though?

Are G League teams owned by NBA teams? From the 29 teams available in the NBA G-league, 26 of them are fully owned and operated by NBA teams. The Denver Nuggets and the Houston Rockets have hybrid affiliations with their NBA G League affiliates. The 29th and newest G-League team is Ignite, established in 2020 they remain fully owned by the G-league itself. The Phoenix Suns and Portland Trailblazers do not have G-league affiliated teams.

The NBA G League was established in 2001 as the D-League (Developmental) and since then has gained a lot of popularity in the basketball world. Signing a multiyear expanded partnership between the NBA and Gatorade in 2017. Over the course of it’s existence NBA teams have found it more and more useful in developing players and tactics, while the NBA itself uses it as a way to test out new rules and in-game features before rolling them out to the NBA proper.

Which NBA Teams Own G League Affiliates?

The table below shows a list of G-league teams and their parent NBA team. It also displays what type of affiliation the two organizations have. Hybrid or One-to-One. Underneath we explore what these two terms mean.

NBA G-League TeamNBA Parent FranchiseAffiliation TypeDistance between home stadiums (miles)
Sioux Falls SkyforceMiami HeatOne-to-One1,821
Grand Rapids GoldDenver NuggetsHybrid1,167
Birmingham SquadronNew Orleans PelicansOne-to-One350
Rio Grande Valley VipersHouston RocketsHybrid347
Iowa WolvesMinnesota TimberwolvesOne-to-One298
Fort Wayne Mad AntsIndiana PacersOne-to-One129
Maine CelticsBoston CelticsOne-to-One105
Austin SpursSan Antonio SpursOne-to-One104
Greensboro SwarmCharlotte HornetsOne-to-One103
Santa Cruz WarriorsGolden State WarriorsOne-to-One83
Wisconsin HerdMilwaukee BucksOne-to-One81
Lakeland MagicOrlando MagicOne-to-One55
Stockton KingsSacramento KingsOne-to-One45
Agua Caliente ClippersL.A. ClippersOne-to-One43
Windy City BullsChicago BullsOne-to-One35
Raptors 905Toronto RaptorsOne-to-One31
Delaware Blue CoatsPhiladelphia 76ersOne-to-One28
Westchester KnicksNew York KnicksOne-to-One28
Long Island NetsBrooklyn NetsOne-to-One27
Memphis HustleMemphis GrizzliesOne-to-One25
Texas LegendsDallas MavericksOne-to-One23
South Bay LakersLos Angeles LakersOne-to-One16
Oklahoma City BlueOklahoma City ThunderOne-to-One15
College Park SkyhawksAtlanta HawksOne-to-One11
Salt Lake City StarsUtah JazzOne-to-One10
Capital City Go-GoWashington WizardsOne-to-One6.3
Charge BasketballCleveland CavaliersOne-to-One2
Motor City CruiseDetroit PistonsOne-to-One2
Portland TrailblazersNo G-League AffiliationN/A
Phoenix SunsNo G-League AffiliationN/A

What is Hybrid G-League Affiliation?

Hybrid affiliation is where the NBA team manages and funds the basketball operations while local ownership maintains control of the business and community relations aspects of the team. For all practical, basketball reasons the relationship between hybrid affiliated G-league teams and their parent NBA franchise is the same as with One-to-One affiliation. The two remaining franchises to opt for this hybrid affiliation are The Denver Nuggets (Grand Rapids Gold) and the Houston Rockets (Rio Grande Valley Vipers).

What is One-to-One G-League Affiliation?

Hybrid affiliation is where the NBA team manages and funds the basketball operations while local ownership maintains control of the business and community relations aspects of the team. For all practical, basketball reasons the relationship between hybrid affiliated G-league teams and their parent NBA franchise is the same as with One-to-One affiliation. The two remaining franchises to opt for this hybrid affiliation are The Denver Nuggets (Grand Rapids Gold) and the Houston Rockets (Rio Grande Valley Vipers).

What is One-to-One G-League Affiliation?

One-to-One Affiliation is opted for by the majority (26) of the NBA’s franchises. This means the NBA team fully owns and operates its NBA G League team. This has become more and more popular as the NBA starts to learn from other organizations, such as European Soccer. Who have extensive development academies. Of course, due to the draft process an NBA team cannot simply sign up a promising 16 year old, develop them and then sign them to their full roster. Although it does allow them to start developing tactics and a cross team language that could help players that go under the draft radar, explode onto the scene later in their careers.

It’s interesting to note, that the G-League also operates with a draft process itself, so an NBA team cannot simply sign up a promising player their scouts are aware of. We explore this more below.

Does the NBA G-League have a draft?

Yes! The NBA G-League has a draft each year for new players wishing to play for a G-league team. The G-league signs up more than 100 players each year who wish  to join the pool of draft-eligible prospects. This often includes players who went undrafted in the NBA Draft and more and more frequently players who do not yet feel they are ready to enter the NBA Draft. These can be former college players , international prospects, and players who were recently waived by NBA teams following training camp. Players must be 18 years old to be eligible for the NBA G League Draft.

The G-League draft happens after the main NBA draft each year to give undrafted players the chance to re-adjust and join the G-League.

Are G-League teams in the same city as their parent franchise?

No, given that many G-League teams existed before NBA Franchises started really using them as a fertile development ground, many pairings are a bit random. The table above included is ranked by how far each of the G-League/NBA affiliated teams’ stadiums were from each other.

As you can see, some are very far away! With the top 2 being Sioux Falls Skyforce who are 1,821 miles from the Miami Heat and Grand Rapids Gold based 1,167 from the Denver Nuggets. In 2021 the Phoenix Suns sold their G-league affiliated team, Northern Arizona Suns, to the Detroit Pistons who moved them to Michigan and renamed them Motor City Cruise. It may be that the Suns live to regret this decision as they currently do not have a G-League affiliated team.

What happens if an NBA team doesn’t have a G-league team?

Officially it is fine for a franchise to operate without a G-league affiliate. However as the bonds between the two organizations get closer and closer, the two teams without  – The Suns and Trailblazers may find themselves struggling a bit. Players can still be sent down from these two teams to the G-league. The rules governing this read as below:

“The NBA G League’s flexible assignment system – which was instituted prior to the 2014-15 season – enables independent NBA teams to assign players to the NBA G League for development or rehabilitation from injury.

Upon receipt of an assignment from an independent NBA team, the NBA G League will identify any NBA G League team willing to accept the assigned player. The assigning independent NBA team will then choose the destination for assignment between those teams. If no NBA G League team is willing to accept the assigned player, he will be assigned to one of the hybrid affiliate teams pursuant to a lottery.”

Which is great in theory. However NBA teams often install the same offensive and defensive systems – including the same terminology and even some of the same plays – on their NBA G League affiliates. The staff within the organization are in constant communication about the development of their major- and minor-league talent. So would a a franchise be comfortable taking on a rehabbing or developing player who is tied to a competing franchise? Knowing they can be recalled at any time and maybe face them in a full scale NBA game?

Why is G League Operating?

There are several reasons why the Development League was established initially and continues to operatie in the basketball world. First of all the G League is an excellent way to train new players and allow them an opportunity to showcase their skills. Frequently, players who are drafted as lower picks are given little chance to prove themselves, so their respective teams assign them to the G League. Frequently, there have been cases, when players have proved themselves and returned to their native teams, only to have shown improvement.

In addition to players that are showing themselves in different teams, it is an excellent way to give some experience to coaches and staff. After the process is finished they can return to the NBA and assist coaches to lead their teams to success.

The third reason is viewership and gathering finances, so that the NBA can amass more endorsements. The NBA is definitely the most watched basketball league in the world, but there are certain occasions where particular players gain a lot of popularity because of their performances. To support these players, spectators from different countries are watching them closely in every match.

Coronavirus Pandemic and G League

As we are talking about the G League and the coronavirus pandemic, both of these two are strongly intertwined with each other. First of all, the pandemic forced a lot of teams to look for replacements, as their players were tested positive for the virus. According to the rules and protocol existing in the NBA, players that have Covid are not allowed to take part in competitive matches. At some point, they are forced to take players from their affiliates. The process is simple and takes just a few steps before the player is assigned to the team.

Salary is Increasing

Players, who are competing in the G League receive salary, which is of course inferior to the one athletes get in the NBA. in 2018, according to ESPN it was announced that players would earn $7,000 a month, or $35,000 a season that lasts 5 months.

Players could earn extra money for a challenge to the NBA or prescribed bonuses in the contract of up to 44 thousand dollars. They are also compensated for their accommodation and provided with medical insurance.

Before the 2018/2019 season salaries for a G-League player have ranged from $19,000 to $26,000, so the salary increase would range from 35 to 84 percent, depending on the player’s classification.

There was also a slight increase in salaries for players on a double contract from 75 to 77.5 thousand dollars. Such players can earn up to 385 thousand per season if they spend as much time in the NBA as possible.

How Many Games are in the G League?

Similar to the NBA, the G League has its own specific structure, which teams are required to follow. There are 50 games during the whole season. The season is divided into 2 parts. The first segment includes 14 games, while the second one includes 36 games. There are conferences and playoffs and after the winner is announced, the latter receives a respective trophy. However it is impossible for G League teams to ascend in the NBA and no further changes have been made about that.

Can G League Be Replaced?

Since the G League was initiated in the United States it has gone through numerous changes. The league was known by different names and at the present moment it is widely famous in the G League. Compared to the NBA, the popularity of the G League is not as prominent as it may seem, but we should point out that in the US, the culture of basketball is at its highest. For the time being, it seems unlikely that the G League will become defunct, due to the fact that it attracts a lot of people and the attendance is high. If we do not take into account the recent restrictions followed by the coronavirus, the league was one of the most watched ones among basketball lovers.