Donnie Nelson’s ownership of the Texas Legends is a bit unusual. It’s been obvious for some time that the Legends weren’t going to be an ordinary D-League team due to the nature of the purchase and ownership. At the same time, the Legends aren’t owned by their affiliate NBA team, like the Austin Toros or the Tulsa 66ers are. They’re also not partially owned via the hybrid affiliation model, meaning the win-win relationship the Houston Rockets have with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers isn’t a perfect comparison, either. The Legends are just something else entirely, and while we can’t forecast the success of the model until we see it in action, a bit of news surfaced today that does offer some clarity into the nature of the Mavs-Legends dynamic.
The D-League affiliations for 2010-2011 were made official yesterday, and the Dallas Mavericks will be the sole affiliate for the Texas Legends in their inagural season. No other NBA team is afforded a direct D-League partnership without actual ownership, but due to the unique nature of Nelson’s involvement, it makes sense that Dallas is treated a bit differently. Regardless, this is great news. The point of Donnie owning the Legends in the first place is to make the Mavs’ D-League outfit more beneficial to the mothership, and the benefit of operating the team would be diminished greatly if another NBA affiliate were involved. Such a scenario would basically entitle another franchise to have eyes and ears on the inner workings of the Mavs’ system; the Legends will likely run Dallas’ offense and defensive schemes in order to better prepare their prospects for a call-up to the main roster, but doing so while another team (and assigned, hands-off prospects from that team) can take notes is very counterproductive.
Luckily that’s something the Mavs won’t have to worry about. They’ve put in their personnel to run the organization. They’ll have oversight during every stage of player development. They’ll be able to run Maverick plays with Maverick-selected prospects, in what really amounts to a farm team. Even though all of these things have been assumed from the beginning, only now are they finally starting to materialize. This was a big “if,” and now that it’s out of the way, we’ll get to see just how adept Donnie Nelson is at using the D-League system.