MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Timberwolves will take at least a year to make any long-term decisions on the future of their minor league basketball ties, team president Flip Saunders said Wednesday.
The organization’s former NBA D-League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce, announced earlier in the week it’d be teaming up exclusively with the Miami Heat. At the moment, that leaves Minnesota without an official location to send its players to either gain professional experience or rehab from injury.
But the Timberwolves aren’t in a rush to make any permanent resolutions.
“We’re gonna evaluate it through the year and see what we do,” said Saunders, who coached the Skyforce (then a member of the Continental Basketball Association) in 1994-95 before taking over as Minnesota’s head coach. “Right now, I want to scout the league a little bit more for a year before we decide if we want to do anything either way.”
In agreeing to take over basketball operations and ownership of the Sioux Falls team, the Miami Heat became the 13th NBA franchise to enter into a one-to-one D-League relationship. Four D-League teams remain to be utilized by the NBA’s other 17 teams, including the Timberwolves.
It’s conceivable Minnesota could enter into a one-year agreement with either the Iowa Energy, Bakersfield Jam, Fort Wayne Mad Ants or Reno Bighorns — all of whom are still affiliated with multiple NBA teams — before looking back into a hybrid affiliation similar to the one just forged between the Heat and the Skyforce.
There’s no hurry, though, especially considering the Timberwolves called up a total of two players from Sioux Falls during the teams’ time together.
“It’s tough to justify trying to buy a hybrid when we really haven’t seen that league that much,” Saunders said.
In a perfect world, every NBA team would have its own, exclusive D-League affiliate, similar to hockey and baseball.
But with a 17-team, 12-year-old minor league trying to make a name for itself, expansion is tricky.
“We’re never gonna get to that as a league,” Saunders said, “where you’re gonna have it one-to-one and everyone that you have on your (D-League) team … you’re gonna have their rights. That won’t happen. This is what we’re left with, and it’s worked out for some teams.”
A look at this year’s NBA Finals says as much.
Spurs swing man Danny Green spent time in the D-League between stints in Cleveland and San Antonio and is playing in his fourth Finals. His teammate, point guard Cory Joseph, may see an expanded role in Game 4 on Thursday depending on the status of Tony Parker. Heat forward Chris Andersen began his career in the D-League, too.
It’s for that reason there’s a good chance Saunders and his staff will make more use of the D-League than the previous front office regime spearheaded by David Kahn.
“You have to do it,” Saunders said. “There’s one thing: in that league, those are pros. Those are guys that are borderline pro players, NBA players, so many of those guys, you’ve got to spend money to scout them, because some of those guys are more ready to play than the college guys.”