The Phoenix Suns officially announced their hybrid, single affiliation with the D-League’s Bakersfield Jam on Tuesday, naming Bubba Burrage, who will continue as the Suns head pro personnel scout, as the team’s general manager and bringing on experienced D-League coach Nate Bjorkgren to lead the team.
Phoenix had shared the Jam with the Hawks, Clippers, Raptors and Jazz, but the Suns will now run the basketball operations side under Burrage and thus have a closer working relationship with Ryan McDonough and Jeff Hornacek. The Suns’ player development ideals will be communicated more seamlessly, whether they send a rookie to Bakersfield for a short stint or stash a raw draft pick on the team.
“This investment by the Suns not only demonstrates how important an exclusive NBA D-League affiliation has become to an NBA team, but is also a strong endorsement of the excellent organization and resources (owners) Stan Ellis and David Higdon have put in place in Bakersfield,” NBA D-League President Dan Reed said in a statement.
The move, which was first reported last week, will give several positive tools to the NBA franchise. And it comes at the right time for the Suns. With 15 NBA teams now having one-on-one relationships with D-League squads — either owning them outright or having hybrid affiliations — the opportunity for the other 15 teams to join the trend is running out. There are only 17 D-League teams.
“We have worked well as part of a multi-affiliation with the Jam since 2011 and have the utmost confidence in their organization,” Suns president of basketball ops Lon Babby said in a release. “The hybrid model enables us to manage all aspects of the Jam’s basketball operations. This provides an important opportunity for us to enhance the development of our young players. For example, by implementing the Suns’ style and system of play in Bakersfield, we can make the NBA D-League experience seamless for our players. Bubba and Nate will help make this another important step in our focus on player development.