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How about the D-League instead of college?

5/6/2011

Latavious Williams did it ... and is still waiting for his first call-up to the Thunder. ESPN.com's Eamonn Brennan explores the reasons the D-League does and does not make sense as a way around the NBA's ban on players straight from high school:

"The D-League is a fascinating place," said Mark Bartelstein, the CEO and founder of Priority Sports and Entertainment who represents NBA stars Danny Granger and David Lee, among others. "There's no one that's there that wants to be there. Everyone that's there is trying to get called up. The referees are trying to get called up. The coaches are trying to get called up. The players are trying to get called up. The scorekeepers are trying to get called up. Everybody's trying to get to the NBA. It's a very interesting environment.

"It's a real minor league system, there's no question. They've done a tremendous, tremendous job building up the D-League. But it's a very cold system. I'm not sure that's where a young man should be growing up."

[D-League Commissioner Dan] Reed is quick to point out the D-League's educational efforts, which include everything from college-degree completion to off-the-court seminars on personal growth and entrepreneurship. And he sees a flip side to the argument that the league could be harsh on developing youngsters.

"Some would argue that's an outstanding environment for a player to develop in," Reed said. "We do try to accelerate our players' development because of the talent level and NBA integration that we have. We think that's a strength. That might not be for everybody, but that's a decision people have to make individually."

I have a feeling the key difference may be branding. Playing on TV for a major college convinces fans, owners and GMs you're the kind of player an NBA team might consider relying on. Playing in the D-League may be rational, in terms of development, but it does little to raise a top players' public profile.