An improved player development system would benefit future players and the league as a whole. It can also help individual teams. Of course having more players with a higher skill level would lift some restraints on roster composition and style of play. But a franchise generally concerns itself with the available pool of players and its own players, not how that pool could be better. Many do quite well with those on their roster, with many teams recently doubling down on player development. But it is worth an investment. An improved D-League structure would certainly help teams develop youth players in order to replace veteran role players who may become too expensive to retain. It could also help build in a greater deal of certainty to a team’s planning. Having a stable of developing role players can help a team navigate the predictably unpredictable path of NBA roster building. That those players already have a hold of the organization’s culture, tactics, and personalities creates a much higher level of continuity in a league where in-season practices are few. A rise in the number of quality role players could decrease the price of such players, whose salaries are inflated by their scarcity and existence of maximum contracts. These factors could lead to more-informed player retention decisions, and maybe higher managerial job retention rates.
One big reason many rookies do not make on-court contributions during their first seasons stems from their lack of physical preparation. Many American players spend the first months of their careers retraining their bodies in order to eliminate muscular imbalances or inefficiencies built up from years of improper training. In fact, many physical shortcomings lead to difficulties developing related skills. Imbalances also result in increased injury risk. For teams, proper youth training can eliminate opportunity costs in professional training, wherein athletes can spend more of their four-year rookie contracts on improvement and less time on remedial or rehabilitation training. This applies to both athletic and skill development. Players trained properly from an early age are less likely to get hurt, and therefore, are more likely to contribute.
In the same way that an improved NBA player development system can increase the amount of avid NBA fans, it can create more devotees of a specific team. This takes on additional importance for teams like the Knicks and Nets, who share a city with another franchise. While these teams are few, this applies to all NBA clubs, who battle to claim NBA fans on the basis of their location, star power, and win-loss record. Providing proper physical, mental, and social education through promoting youth basketball in a club’s community can create a deeper affinity than attending a game or watching on television. If one feels like the franchise has invested in them, one will be more inclined to pay that forward in their own fandom. This can protect against the marketability of the league’s stars or fan disagreement over team management. Since stars are few and far between, most teams cannot taste the nectar that stars produce beyond the NBA’s revenue sharing mechanisms and visiting team ticket revenue. In a media climate that’s increasingly ‘championship or bust,’ some fans have become disillusioned with their team’s’ chance at that singular, elusive goal. Building connections with fans, through building them up, can combat their increased tendency to stars. All said, investing in a comprehensive youth basketball system can pay dividends in all levels of an NBA club’s operation, from basketball operations to merchandise sales.