Written by Garrett Catalana – @GarrettCatalana

 

To quote the great Harry Doyle in the sports classic, Major League, “In case you haven’t noticed, and judging by the attendance you haven’t,” is how I would describe the Delaware 87ers to the average Sixers fan. They exist and even have some talent, but no one knows anything about them, not even in their own hometown.

For those fans who don’t know, the Delaware 87ers are the NBA Developmental League affiliate for the 76ers. The franchise had previously existed as the Utah Flash, but without financial backing from an NBA ownership group and the lack of major sponsorship deals, the team suspended operations following the 2011 season. The franchise sat vacant for two years until the 76ers acquired the franchise in 2013, moving the team to Newark, Delaware and renaming the team the Delaware 87ers, becoming the 76ers official D-League affiliate franchise.

The team’s name stems from the fact that Delaware was the first state to ratify the United States Constitution in 1787, linking it with its parent club with a “number name.” The Sevens play just 40 miles away from Wells Fargo Center down I-95 at the University of Delaware’s Bob Carpenter Center. “The Bob,” as U-Del students call it, holds 5,100 people, but on 87ers game nights this capacity is cut in half, as one whole side of the arena is taken out for a Kids Zone. There are some courtside seats, but the majority of the fans cheer from seats behind the team benches and scores table. But even in the franchise’s fourth season the team is still struggling to draw big crowds in Newark, averaging less than 2,000 patrons a game.

 

While the 87ers might not have a huge following yet, Sixers fans should get familiar with our affiliate down I-95 soon, because they will become a great resource for the 76ers in the near future. With an expanding league, an emphasis on player development, and the addition of NBA roster spots, the D-League is on the rise.

 

The Expansion of the D-League

The NBA Developmental League has grown substantially since the League’s inception in 2001, even though none of the original eight franchises still exist. The NBADL now has 22 franchises and inching closer to closer to a 30-team league, creating a true 1-on-1 affiliation with the NBA. Here are all the current teams:

  • Philadelphia 87ers: Delaware 87ers (2013)
  • New York Knicks: Westchester Knicks (2014)
  • Brooklyn Nets: Long Island Nets (2016)
  • Toronto Raptors: Raptors 905 (2015)
  • Boston Celtics: Maine Red Claws (2009)
  • Charlotte Hornets: Greensboro Swarm (2016)
  • Miami Heat: Sioux Falls Skyforce (2013)
  • Orland Magic: Erie BayHawks (2014) [Intending to move to Lakeland, FL in 2017]
  • Detroit Pistons: Grand Rapids Drive (2014)
  • Cleveland Cavaliers: Canton Charge (2011)
  • Indiana Pacers: Fort Wayne Mad Ants (2015)
  • Chicago Bulls: Windy City Bulls (2016)
  • Memphis Grizzlies: Iowa Energy (2014)
  • Houston Rockets: Rio Grande Valley Vipers (2009)
  • Dallas Mavericks: Texas Legends (2009)
  • San Antonio Spurs: Austin Spurs (2014)
  • Utah Jazz: Salt Lake City Stars (2016)
  • Oklahoma City Thunder: Oklahoma City Blue (2014)
  • Sacramento Kings: Reno Bighorns (2013)
  • Golden State Warriors: Santa Cruz Warriors (2012)
  • Phoenix Suns: Northern Arizona Suns (2016)
  • Los Angeles Lakers: Los Angeles D-Fenders (2006)

Here are the eight remaining NBA teams without D-League franchises:

  1. Washington Wizards (plan to purchase franchise to play at new practice facility in 2018)
  2. Atlanta Hawks (Announced plans for franchise in College Park, GA in 2019)
  3. Milwaukee Bucks (Considering Oshkosh, Sheboygan, Racine, and Kenosha)
  4. Minnesota Timberwolves (Rochester, Minnesota placed bid to be hosts in January 2016)
  5. New Orleans Pelicans
  6. Portland Trailblazers
  7. Denver Nuggets
  8. Los Angeles Clippers

The D-League will achieve its goal for a 30-team league soon enough, making it the true NBA farm system. With that in mind, changes will be made in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) to reflect the rise of the NBA Developmental League in two major ways.

 

Creation of Two-Way Contracts

NBA teams will have two additional roster spots (from the current 15) to stash players and have the ability to retain players’ rights in the D-League. Previously any player in the D-League, regardless of what team they played for, was available to be signed by any NBA team (unless on assignment). Now, NBA teams are able to retain up to two players, even if they are not able to contribute at the NBA level yet, without worrying about that player signing with another NBA team.

While overall D-League salaries will not increase ($26,000 or $19,500 salaries), these two-way players will earn $50,000 to $75,000 according to ESPN’s Marc Stein. These players will not be able to sign with the 29 other teams, but the tradeoff is that they will earn a more reasonable wage. Adding these two-way contracts will add 60 additional roster spots for NBA teams that can be filled by fringe D-League players or even international players (think Vasilije Micic if he ever came stateside).

Money

Salaries for those players who receive call-ups from the D-League will increase in the coming seasons. In the new CBA, minimum contracts are rising at a 45-50 percent value, which will also raise the value of ten-day contracts that can start being signed on January 5th.

According to Chris Reichert of The Step Back, 32 D-League call-ups earned a combined $4.7 million last season. With the rise of the NBA salary cap, the new minimum salaries would increase to just over $7 million with the average call up earning just over $205,000. As he points out, this is chump change compared to NBA salaries, but for players earning just $26,000 or less a season, these minimum contracts are potentially life-altering salaries.

With these changes, the D-League has become a much more attractive league for players who have aspirations to make it in the NBA.

As for the Delaware 87ers, I wanted to learn more about the current team, seeing if any of the players on the team were ready to jump to the NBA. I was in attendance for the 87ers home game in Newark on December 30th versus the Long Island Nets and here is my short scouting report on each player and whether they have shot at making it to the NBA.

 

Delaware 87ers Scouting Report

 

Shawn Long (C/PF)

  • 23 years old, 6’9, 248lbs, Louisiana-Lafayette (1st year)
  • Sixers Summer League & training camp; waived; reacquired by 87ers as an affiliate player
  • 21 games, 28.9 MPG, 52.8 FG%, 23% 3P%, 19.1 PPG, 1.5 APG, 10.4 RPG, 1.2 BPG

– Long has been the best player for the 87ers this season and has been playing good basketball of late, as he was recently named the NDA D-League Performer of the Week. He’s averaging 19 points and 10 rebounds per game, pounding his way on the low block. He doesn’t have a wide-assortment of moves in the post, but he uses his big frame to create space and get close to the basket for a bucket. His style of play resembles DeMarcus Cousins, where he plays bully-ball around the basket, working hard to get a foul call and grabbing offensive rebounds over opponents. I was very impressed by his passing ability from the top of the key as he found a couple of cutters around the hoop and shooters spotting up along the perimeter. I believe Long has the best chance of any 87er to make it to the NBA at some point this season, but with so many frontcourt players on the Sixers roster, it doesn’t appear that Long’s NBA debut will come in a Sixers uniform.

Chances for an NBA Call-Up: 7

James Webb III (PF/SF)

  • 23 years old, 6’10, 220lbs, Boise State (1st year)
  • Sixers Summer League & training camp; waived; reacquired by 87ers as an affiliate player
  • 21 games, 33.8 MPG, 44.8 FG%, 38.5% 3P%, 11.5 PPG, 1.3 APG, 6.8 RPG, 1.1 SPG

– If there is one guy who has an NBA body on the 87ers roster, it’s James Webb III. His length and athleticism was noticeable from the tip, ending the game with 10 rebounds, 2 steals and a block. The mechanics on his jump shot were also fundamentally sound (shot 4 of 6 from deep). He reminds me of a slightly bigger KJ McDaniels with impressive athleticism and defensive prowess, but an even better form on his jump shot. He struggles with his dribbling but he counters by using long strides to separate from defenders. I believe Webb has the physical capabilities to become an NBA player and with continued growth on the offensive end, he will have his chance.

Chances for an NBA Call-Up: 5

Cat Barber (PG)

  • 22 years old, 6’1, 173lbs, NC State (1st year)
  • Sixers training camp; waived; reacquired by 87ers as an affiliate player
  • 19 games, 31.4 MPG, 43.9 FG%, 41.0% 3P%, 13.9 PPG, 4.1 APG, 3.7 RPG

– Many had high hopes for Barber during training camp this past summer, but was unable to take the third point guard spot away from TJ McConnell. He was designated as an affiliate player and signed with the 87ers. At the game I attended, I really wasn’t all that impressed with Barber. He wasn’t much of a defender (his man Yogi Ferrell scored 34 points) and he didn’t distribute the ball very well to his teammates. He’s a 1-on-1 player but his first step off the dribble wasn’t anything spectacular. He shot 7 of 14 from the field with a couple of impressive layups but I feel he doesn’t have enough quickness or shooting touch to overcome his short stature at the NBA level (whereas Isaiah Thomas of the Celtics does). He lost out to Chasson Randle for a roster spot this week in a tryout and I believe he would have to really improve his game to warrant an NBA call-up.

Chances for an NBA Call-Up: 2

Dionte Christmas (SG/SF)

  • 30 years old, 6’5, 190lbs, Temple University
  • Signed by the Sixers on 10/24, immediately waived; reacquired by 87ers as an affiliate player
  • 21 games, 33.6 MPG, 45.7 FG%, 43.1% 3P%, 17.0 PPG, 3.2 APG, 3.7 RPG

– Christmas had bounced around last year, starting in Cavaliers training camp, being cut and playing the season out overseas in Israel, Greece, and Turkey. He came back stateside at age 30 where his career started. He was signed by the Sixers on October 24th, then immediately waived and tagged as an affiliate player to join the 87ers. He is the team’s leader and captain while still providing that scoring touch that made him an all-time great at Temple almost a decade ago. He is past his peak athletic prime, but he is still a valuable member of the 87ers squad.

Chances for an NBA Call-Up: 1

Brannen Greene (SF)

  • 22 years old, 6’7, 215lbs, Kansas University (1st year)
  • Selected with the 7th pick in the 2016 NBADL Draft
  • 15 games, 10.1 MPG, 54.5% FG%, 61.9% 3P%, 4.9 PPG, 0.4 APG, 1.9 RPG

– Unfortunately Brannen did not suit up in the game that I attended, but his story is very intriguing. He was ESPN’s 47th best prospect of his class (2013), and was named Georgia’s Mr. Basketball his senior year. Even with his 6’6 size and an impressive jump shot, Greene started just three games in three years at Kansas while averaging 11.6 minutes per game. He was constantly in and out of coach Bill Self’s rotation, before deciding to declare for the NBA Draft after his junior season. While he really can’t do much on the court, the guy is a true marksman from the three-point line. He shot 49% from deep last year at Kansas and in limited minutes, he is shooting 62% from deep in Delaware. The Sevens selected Greene with its first round pick in the D-League Draft, but he has played sparingly this season. If can develop any other part of his game to compliment his elite three-point shooting ability, he could be an NBA player.

Chances for an NBA Call-Up: 1

David Laury III (C/PF)

  • 26 years old, 6’9, 245lbs, Iona University (2nd year)
  • Selected with the 8th pick in the 2015 NBADL Draft
  • 17 games, 20.9 MPG, 52.0% FG%, 12.6 PPG, 1.5 APG, 6.3 RPG

– Laury is the lone remaining member of the Sevens from last season. He’s an undersized center that went undrafted in the 2015 NBA Draft out of Iona. He was first-team All-MAAC and the MAAC Player of the Year his senior year in 2015. He originally signed in Turkey before returning stateside where the Sevens selected him in the first round of the D-League Draft. Nearly all of Laury’s shot attempts come at the rim but he puts himself in a good position to score in the post or off a dump off. He’s a solid big man but there isn’t much of an NBA future for Laury with his age and size.

Chances for an NBA Call-Up: 1

Devondrick Walker (SG)

  • 24 years old, 6’5, 205, Texas A&M – Commerce (3rd year)
  • Acquired in trade from Westchester Knicks (12/14/16)
  • 9 games, 27.2 MPG, 45.6 FG%, 35.8% 3P%, 13.2 PPG, 1.0 APG, 3.0 RPG

– Walker was picked up in a trade a couple of weeks ago from the Westchester Knicks and has immediately contributed to the Sevens. Walker came out of Texas A&M – Commerce undrafted, signing with the Austin Spurs in 2014. He played for the Westchester Knicks last year and the start of this season before coming to Delaware. While he didn’t shoot particularly well against the Nets (3-9 from three, 5-15 overall), I was intrigued by his potential. He has good size for a two-guard with a decent shooting stroke. He has improved since entering the D-League and has now stepped up for the Sevens. With time and plenty of work, Walker could one day make it to the NBA, but his age doesn’t help his case.

Chances for an NBA Call-Up: 1

Mikh McKinney (PG)

  • 24 years old, 6’1, 170lbs, Sacramento State (2nd year)
  • Acquired from the NBADL available player pool (12/1/16)
  • 8 games, 16.8 MPG, 51.7 FG%, 4.0 PPG, 1.9 APG

– McKinney was picked up a month ago from the available player pool to come off the bench as the backup point guard. The Sacramento State product has some quickness and possesses good vision in the open court. He’s a better distributor than Barber but doesn’t have the same type of scoring ability. He dished out 6 assists in his 24 minutes, finding open teammates in the half-court and out on the break. The Sevens played their best basketball of the game when they went small with both Barber and McKinney on the floor together. Like Laury, McKinney is an average D-League player with little chance of ever making it to the NBA.

Chances for an NBA Call-Up: 0

 Brandon Triche (SG)

  • ­25 years old, 6’4, 210lbs, Syracuse (4th year)
  • Training Camp invitee (2016)
  • 20 games, 20.7 MPG, 39.5 FG%, 34.1% 3P%, 7.7 PPG, 1.9 APG, 2.7 RPG

– Triche didn’t do anything to impress me at the game I attended. He’s an okay player who knows where to be and how to play, but he’s not all that talented. He had 20 points off the bench in the Sevens recent win in Brooklyn, but with his age and size, he won’t ever make it to the NBA.

Chances for an NBA Call-Up: 0

 Carlos Lopez-Sosa (PF)

  • 26 years old, 6’10, 230lbs, UNLV (3rd year)
  • Training Camp invitee (2016)
  • 16 games, 10.1 MPG, 57.9% FG%, 3.0 PPG, 1.0 APG, 1.9 RPG

– Lopez-Sosa doesn’t play much for the Sevens and he didn’t get on the floor at the game I attended. No NBA potential here.

Chances for an NBA Call-Up: 0

 

So while the 87ers might not matter that much this season, Sixers fans should be on the lookout with this Sevens squad in the near future. As the league continues to expand and salaries grow, the talent pool will increase, making it easier for the Sixers to find the next diamond in the rough just 40 miles down the road.

Garrett Catalana

Main contributor to Sixers Nation Facebook & Twitter pages. Writes articles on a variety of topics both about the 76ers, Delaware 87ers, & the NBA. You down with TTP?

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