Joey Whelan is a HoopSpeak guest writer. He covers the D-League Dakota Wizards for KFYR-TV in Bismark and has contributed to SLAMonline and D-League Digest.
Despite its decade-long existence the D-League remains a consistently inconsistent entity, bridging the gap between forward thinking and outdated practices. While some franchises have embraced the practice of developing young, inexperienced talent in the fashion that the D-League was intended for, others (here’s looking at you Larry Bird) believe it squanders valuable time that is better spent learning the life of the NBA.
Then there are cases like Kings rookie Hassan Whiteside, a tantalizing talent in a 7-foot frame whose personal experiences while on D-League assignment (one that ended last week) only served to perpetuate the negative stigma attached to the league while providing further evidence that some teams simply don’t understand how to maximize the use of their affiliate teams.
A 21-year-old rookie out of Marshall, Whiteside’s athletic package, potential as a face up big man and prodigious shot blocking enticed Sacramento to draft him 33rd overall. Yet with less than five years of formal basketball experience, many expected an extended developmental process. So it was unsurprising that the Kings assigned the rookie to their D-League affiliate, the Reno Bighorns on November 29th. However, the next five weeks proved perplexing.
In 14 games in the D-League, the first-rounder started just three times and averaged only 10 minutes of playing time despite being injury-free for the duration of his assignment. Whiteside appeared for more than 15 minutes only once and over his final nine D-League games he averaged an insignificant seven minutes of playing time. For a player desperately in need of game-type scenarios to develop his skills and confidence it would seem as though his assignment served no significant purpose and ultimately could stand