D-League is gaining momentum

Astute NBA fans or transaction addicts might have noticed some teams recently loading up on practice-caliber players, often signing them for well over the rookie minimum only to eventually waive them.

Last month, the Cleveland Cavaliers signed undrafted guard Chris Crawford from the University of Memphis to a rookie minimum contract with a $20,000 guarantee, before waiving him.

The San Antonio Spurs, despite returning all 14 members of their championship roster and adding first-round pick Kyle Anderson, added four players (Bryce Cotton, JaMychal Green, Josh Davis and John Holland) to minimum deals with partial guarantees ranging from $20,000 to $60,000. With the roster maximum at 15 spots, they are all but guaranteed to be waived prior to opening night (Holland already has been let go).

Similarly, even though they have 14 guaranteed deals and one roster opening, the Orlando Magic doled out a whopping $475,000 in partial guarantees to four players (Kadeem Batts, Peyton Siva, Drew Crawford and Seth Curry).

Across the NBA, teams are signing players -- who they know have no chance to make their opening-night rosters -- to deals that guarantee them cash up front, which in turn guarantees a cap hit to their books for a player (or players) who will not be there for Day 1 of the season.

Why would they do this? They are circumventing the NBA Development League's rule on maximum salaries, as well as stocking their D-League affiliate with better talent. Indeed, with the D-League, NBA teams are closer than ever to a true minor league system.

Here's a look at the D-League's history, evolution and outlook.