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Wizards become the 27th NBA franchise to buy a G League affiliate

During his rookie season with the Washington Wizards, Sheldon Mac played several games in the minor-league system but had to join the affiliate of the Philadelphia 76ers because Washington did not own a team. (Matt Slocum/AP)

The Washington Wizards will soon have their own minor-league team.

Beginning in the 2018-19 season, the Wizards will add an NBA G League team. The G League, known as the NBA Development League or NBA D-League before it was renamed this week in a partnership with Gatorade, is the NBA’s equivalent to a farm system. Washington becomes the 27th team to run and operate its own affiliate, joining a leaguewide trend in which NBA franchises have placed a premium on player development.

The name of the team has not been announced and the squad will play its games in the Wizards’ as-of-yet constructed facility on the campus of the former St. Elizabeths Hospital in Southeast D.C. The facility, which will also hold the Wizards’ practice floor and the Mystics’ home court, is scheduled to open in 2018.

In a statement released on Wednesday, Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld echoed the benefits of owning an affiliate that will be stationed near the parent team.

“The NBA G League has been a great resource for us over the years, both for calling up talent and for allowing young players on our roster to gain more on-court experience,” Grunfeld said.  “Having our own team, selecting the front office and coaching staff and being able to implement our system will allow us to further enhance our player and staff development program moving forward.”

Last season, the Wizards used the league as a temporary stop for young players who were not getting playing time in games. However, Washington had to send its players to the Delaware 87ers, the Philadelphia 76ers’ affiliate. In March, Wizards forward Chris McCullough played with the Northern Arizona Suns as the rest of the Wizards played through a Western Conference road trip.

In purchasing its own team, the Wizards will now have ultimate control on the players filling the roster. Beginning next season, under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, NBA teams can sign up to  two “two-way” players; these contracts allow the players to be with the franchise for up to 45 days while spending most of the season with the team’s affiliate.

“It’s going to be interesting to see how the whole two-way contract situation works,” Grunfeld told reporters at the team’s final pre-draft workout on Wednesday afternoon. “Obviously, we will take more advantage of it when we have our own team but we may have some two-way contracts this year also.”