For the first time since its inception, the Santa Cruz Warriors will host the NBA D-League’s premiere event this weekend. Now in its 11th year, the league’s showcase tips off Thursday night at Kaiser Permanente Arena.
“Our club is absolutely ecstatic that it’s playing in Santa Cruz,” said Warriors President Jim Weyermann. “We’re able to get two more home games in the schedule and those two games can make a huge difference in the season.”
NBA scouts and executives from all 30 teams will gather as the D-League’s top talents compete with the hope of landing a professional contract. The showcase comes at a time in the season when NBA teams are now — as of Jan. 10 — allowed to offer 10-day contracts to potential prospects, a common route for many D-League standouts to earn a shot in the NBA.
“Without question the showcase is our premiere in-season event,” said D-League President Malcolm Turner. “The focus of the basketball world is on Santa Cruz this week.”
The NBA D-League started in 2001 as a minor league system for the NBA, and while small in comparison to baseball’s minor league system with its 160 teams, the league has grown to include 18 teams and over 250 players. Throughout the next five days, the league’s team members will reside in Santa Cruz as they put their talent on display in front of fans and scouts at the showcase.
The league recently increased its talent as more players are opting to stay in the D-League under the watchful eye of NBA scouts and each team’s respective parent organization. On the contrary, playing overseas can result in increased salaries but often lower visibility to NBA scouts.
“It’s a big sacrifice financially,” said Warriors forward James Michael McAdoo. “I obviously had the opportunity to go play overseas, but I felt like I was so close to possibly getting called up [to the NBA] at any moment.”
In addition to taking up a new location after being held in Reno, Nevada for the past three years, this year’s showcase will take on a new format as well. The event has previously been a series of regular season games played in one venue over the course of several days to allow scouts and executives to see everything the league had to offer.
This year the event will take the form of a tournament. The tournament, named the Showcase Cup by league organizers, will feature the top eight teams in the league going head-to-head in a single elimination tournament with a champion being crowned on the final day.
The showcase will still give scouts a chance to see all of the available talent in the D-League as those teams not in the tournament will still be on display with every D-League team — even those not seeded in the tournament — playing at least two games over the course of the event. However, the new structure of the showcase is intended to inspire more competition among players and more excitement for fans.
As many NBA front office executives attend and negotiate at the event, it is often the center of trade rumors around the NBA. Several deals have been brokered at the showcase in past seasons, as the event has the potential to bring an economic boom to the city. Fans, players, coaches, support staff and members of the national media will flood the region, occupying around 2,000 hotel rooms and spending money on dining, shopping and entertainment in Santa Cruz during the five-day event.
“There’s the obvious economic impact to the city, which comes from having 1,700 to 2,000 hotel rooms,” Warriors President Weyermann said. “You’re also going to have a lot of people eating on Pacific Avenue who normally wouldn’t be there for four nights in January.”