PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Major League Baseball may not be coming to Portland any time soon, but basketball fans can look forward to another hoops franchise gracing the Rose City.
The Portland Trail Blazers announced Wednesday that they would be adding an NBA G League affiliate franchise for the 2023-24 season. The G League, formally known as the D-League, is the NBA’s minor league system used to develop players and coaches. The team will play their home games at the Chiles Center on the University of Portland campus in North Portland.
As of last season, the Blazers, along with the Phoenix Suns were the only two NBA teams without a G League affiliate.
“It’s something Joe (Cronin) and I have talked about since we started in our roles, honestly,” said Blazers President of Business Operations Dewayne Hankins to KOIN. “We’re very excited about the opportunity. It makes a ton of sense to help us develop young talent and bring them to the big league roster and really have a pipeline to help us build towards championships.”
It’s about even more than that though.
If the Blazers wanted to develop their own players prior to this team, they would have to send them to another NBA team’s G League affiliate.
That is obviously not ideal.
“Last year we sent John Butler Jr. to Stockton, and we sent Greg Brown down there,” said Hankins. “In both scenarios, you’re kind of shopping around looking for the right opportunity for them to get minutes, for them to develop. It also gives the team that you send them to a lot of background and book on the player that they’re seeing. They get a real closeup look. For us, we saw that as a disadvantage.”
The Blazers also see this squad as a way for both coaches and executives within their organization to get more experience in different roles and also for the team to test out some business ideas.
That, on top of the competitive reasons Hankins mentioned, made keeping the team in PDX a no brainer.
“We just kept going to back to having it in our own backyard,” said Hankins. “I think that’s what best for development of our players. They can practice with the big-league team, they can be around our team, they can have that environment.”
The addition of this team expands the NBA G League to a record 31 teams for the 2023-2023 season.
“It was very important to our organization to enter the G League with an affiliate here in Portland and strategically strengthen our dedication to player development,” said Joe Cronin, Portland Trail Blazers general manager.
He thanked team owner Jody Allen for making it a priority to have the team ready for the next season.
There are lots of questions surrounding Allen and her ownership of the squad over the next few years as she was put in charge after her brother Paul Allen’s passing. Fans may wonder why she would be interested in starting another team right now considering that situation, but Hankins says that was hardly the case.
“What she’s committed to is winning, so when you bring a conversation and an argument together that’s about helping the team get better, it’s usually a pretty easy discussion,” said Hankins.
The Blazers last had a G League affiliate in the Idaho Stampede from 2012 to 2014. However, Portland just had a single-affiliation partnership, meaning that they controlled basketball operations, but a separate ownership group controlled the business side of things. The team was moved to Salt Lake City in 2016 and is now affiliated with the Utah Jazz.
The team will play a 50-game schedule starting in November.
“The NBA G League continues to grow to meet the developmental demands of NBA teams, and today’s announcement is further proof of the value the league provides to the NBA every day. I can’t wait to watch the team tip off at the Chiles Center next season,” said NBA G League President Shareef Abdur-Rahim.
The Chiles Center dome stadium seats more than 4,800 people and has hosted numerous high-profile events, including the Phil Knight college basketball tournaments in November 2022.
At the end of the 2022-2023 NBA season, nine Portland Trail Blazers had NBA G League experience: Ibou Badji, John Butler Jr., Chance Comanche, Drew Eubanks, Keon Johnson, Skylar Mays, Justin Minaya, Anfernee Simons and Jeenathan Williams.
Currently, more than half the players who play in the NBA have G League experience.
The name and brand of the new Portland team, along with the team’s front office and coaching staff, will be announced at a later date, according to the Trail Blazers.