Josh Huestis will spend his rookie season in the D-League
One of the most surprising picks of the 2014 NBA draft was the Oklahoma City Thunder taking Stanford small forward Josh Huestis at the end of the first round. Many had Huestis going late in the second round and some didn’t even have him getting drafted at all, which is why this selection was such a surprise. However, the Thunder didn’t draft Huestis with the intention of having him be on their traveling roster this season. As a matter of fact, they drafted him on the condition that he would be willing to spend his rookie season with the 66ers, who are their NBA Development League (D-League) affiliate, and forego signing his rookie scale contract.
This was all prearranged before the draft and the NBA players’ union has given this move the ok. In essence, this is a domestic equivalent of a “draft and stash” move. NBA teams frequently draft guys who are playing overseas in the first round so that they don’t have to pay them right away and also so that they can have them develop for a few years and then be ready to contribute. What makes this situation unusual and unique is that it is happening with a domestic player who played collegiate basketball in a major conference.
However, just because it is unusual doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea or illegal. If the league doesn’t demand first round picks to play in the NBA right away, then should it really matter if Huestis plays overseas or domestically on the Thunder’s D-League team? As a matter of fact, it’s best if he plays domestically since the 66ers are moving to Oklahoma City, which means he’ll be living, playing, and practicing in their same city while using their facilities. They’ll be able to keep a close eye on him and really foster his growth and development.
This is a win-win deal for the Thunder because they can let him develop, grow, and mature under their watch while also not having him take up a roster spot and cap space. This move in many ways signifies where the league is going in terms of its relationship with the D-League. The league wants all teams to eventually have single affiliation with a D-League team which can then be used as a tool to develop and foster the growth of young players using their own systems and methods. The Thunder are doing just that with Huestis and before long this course of action will likely become a trend rather than an anomaly.
—Ben Parker: follow me on twitter @nba_lord