Flying a little under the radar, the NBA D-League is expanding this year, adding an affiliate for the Philadelphia 76ers. The Delaware 87ers were very recently established as an official D-League organization, and yesterday they had their “expansion draft” by which they could pick up the rights to 16 players in order to fill out their roster.
Some of you may be aware that the Grizzlies don’t have their own D-League affiliate, but instead, they share 3 D-League teams with the other 15 teams in the NBA who do not have D-League affiliates. Meaning, they basically share a single D-League team with 5 other NBA teams, and they do not have explicit rights to any player on any D-League team.
What this all adds up to, is that as long as Akognon is called up into the NBA by Memphis, he remains a Grizzly. However, if the Grizzlies decide to send Akognon to the D-League over the course of the year, he’ll go directly to the Delaware 87ers.
Basically, then, the Grizzlies have to keep Akgonon on their active roster, or they risk losing him. Or, at least, the situation becomes very muddy. If the Grizzlies send him to the D-Leauge but keep his contract and keep paying him, then he’s still rostered by Memphis, even if he’s playing for the 87ers. Presumably, the 76ers could not call up Akognon to play for them in that case, but since they have rights to everyone on the 87ers, I’m not sure how that works.
This is an extremely interesting development for those into NBA minutiae. Akognon is on an unguaranteed contract until December. If the Grizzlies wanted to try and pick up another player until then, Akognon could be sent to the D-League without technically taking up a roster spot, even while staying in contract, allowing the Grizzlies to try their luck with someone else.
Now, however, that does not seem possible. The Grizzlies probably can no longer store Akognon in the D-League without his rights going to Philadelphia. So, now, if the Grizzlies want to give some more enticing free agent a chance with their last roster spot, they have to give up Akgonon entirely.
This is probably not actually that big of a deal, since, presumably, Akognon was going to get that last roster spot — and keep it — anyway. In fact, the thinking was that the Grizzlies executed the Tony Wroten trade for precisely that reason: Akognon could presumably soak up the last few point guard minutes that Wroten might have gotten otherwise.
So, really, the 87ers getting Akognon’s rights doesn’t do any significant damage. In the end, the Grizzlies are still most likely to cut Willie Reed, and given the lack of really desperate needs, there won’t be much reason to send Akognon to the D-Leage at any point in the season.
This is a clever play by Sam Hinkie (Philly’s GM) though, to force Memphis’ hand with Akognon. If they want him, they have to really want him, and they have to commit to keeping him all year. Instead, the Grizzlies may decide that flexibility is more valuable, and they’ll have to give up Akognon early to save money in search of greener pastures.
That, then, is the real genius of this roster decision by Hinkie: if Memphis decides to keep Akognon, then the 87ers securing Josh’s rights does no damage. On the other hand, if the Grizzlies are even a little bit unsure about whether they want to keep Akognon or not, then Hinkie has given Memphis good reason to part with Akognon sooner rather than later. As such, the 87ers having Akognon’s rights doesn’t hurt Memphis, but it could potentially help the 76ers more than people might expect, long term.