As Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports reported yesterday, the forthcoming American Basketball League (ABL) will begin their inaugural season next January. The goal of the ABL will be to a more equitable, and ideally more likely to result in actual player development, than the NBA Developmental League.
At least that is the goal.
It sounds simple on the surface: they will facilitate the synonymous flow of overseas talent and turn these inherently flawed players into something substantial, something worthy of a NBA roster spot. If that is the case, then the San Antonio Spurs will presumably be at the forefront.
Whether it is trading up in the draft for an unproven rookie to avoid an extraneous long-term contract (e.g: trading George Hill for Kawhi Leonard), offering less than 120% of rookie scale contracts (e.g: Hill, James Anderson, Ian Mahimni), utilizing the D-League as a factory to implement potential new talent and avoiding middling players that earn upwards of $10-14 million per season, the Spurs seem to be ahead of the curve.
Should the ABL prove to be a proven manufacturer of talent, this would allow the Spurs to exploit another small avenue for their benefit. Player development is considered one of their redeemable qualities and continuity plays an immense role; it allows younger players to thrive in a controlled environment rather than a dynamic one.
The Spurs are also considered excellent player developers because they carve roles tailor made for skill set rather than the other way around. This is an often overlooked aspect of player development as most players aren’t skilled enough to handle multiple roles.
If the ABL leans closer to the MLB Minor League system — and extra rules to expedite the process wouldn’t be a bad thing if it means improving the NBA product long-term — and not the D-League, it would be a positive development for basketball players and fans everywhere.
Teams would finally have a “farm” team to rely on and a sound basis for internal improvement. If small-market teams play their cards right, the ABL could become an immense coup utilized to tip the scales back in their favor. (Though large-market teams will still, and always will, hold a significant edge.)
This new source of talent wouldn’t be a deal breaker and likely wouldn’t alter the standings much considering the talent in the league wouldn’t be anything groundbreaking (aside from the rare Jeremy Lin phenomena.)
But it wouldn’t hurt and you can bet the Spurs would find a way to create a competitive advantage.