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Josh Huestis’ agent says D-League scheme arranged before NBA draft

Jul 24, 2014, 9:55 AM EDT

Josh Huestis Josh Huestis

Josh Huestis, drafted No. 29 by the Thunder, is on track to forgo his guaranteed NBA contract (minimum: $734,400) for a D-League contract (maximum: about $30,000).

This plan is entirely reliant on Huestis. He can sign an NBA contract at any time as long as Oklahoma City wants to keep his rights.

Why not do that right now?

What would possess Huestis to give up all that money?

His word.

All along, this arrangement seemed pre-negotiated. Huestis’ agent confirms it was.

Zach Lowe of Grantland:

NBA by-laws state:

Prior to the annual NBA Draft, Members may have preliminary discussions with players eligible for the Draft, but may not discuss the matter of compensation.

Teams often discuss playing overseas with prospects before the draft, and I’m not sure whether that violates the spirit of the rule. However, I can easily see carefully worded conversation that doesn’t violate the letter of the law.

“If we draft you, would you spend next season in Europe?”

Compensation is not explicitly discussed, but a player would obviously research the differences in compensation between a rookie-scale contract and Europe. In other words, though compensation is central to the question and its answer, teams and potential draft picks needn’t discuss compensation directly. It’s a workaround in case the NBA wants to crack down on this rule.

However, playing in the D-league is different. Someone can play in the D-League while on a D-league contract OR an NBA contract. Without discussing compensation with Huestis, how would the Thunder have known which type of contract he was planning on receiving?

Considering Huestis would be the first first-round pick unsigned by his NBA team and headed to the D-League, compensation almost certainly had to be discussed. Prior to Huestis’ situation coming to light, the assumption would have been a first-round pick playing in the D-League would be on an NBA contract. That’s how it had worked every single other time.

The National Basketball Players Association should not take Butler’s words lightly. Rather than another player receiving the two-year guaranteed contract of the 29th pick, Huestis took that slot without taking the salary.

For that to happen, Oklahoma City probably violated  the NBA by-laws – not just their spirit, but probably their letter. I don’t know that, and I know Butler claims the contrary.

But his acknowledgment of a pre-draft deal adds even more circumstantial evidence to suspicions that were already widely held.

  1. goraidersgospurs - Jul 24, 2014 at 10:03 AM

    Maybe he gets a Max deal in a few years, to make up for the lost he took!!!

  2. therealhtj - Jul 24, 2014 at 10:11 AM

    Who knew Mitch Butler became an agent? Yes, it’s the same Mitch Butler from UCLA who bounced around the league a handful of years.

    Good for him – he always had a hustle that exceeded his talent.

    Another funny fact, he played his high school ball at a small private school in LA with Noah Wylie of ER fame.

  3. misremembered72 - Jul 24, 2014 at 10:24 AM

    I don’t like how this could potentially affect future drafts…

  4. phinagain - Jul 24, 2014 at 10:36 AM

    The players’ union needs to step in NOW to end this scheme. Otherwise, this sets a bad precedent and circumvents the CBA. And why is the agent on board with this?
    Team: “We want to draft your client in the first round, but treat him like a second-rounder so he won’t impact our salary cap this year.”

    Agent: “That seems fair.”

    Did I miss something?

    • spursareold - Jul 24, 2014 at 12:36 PM

      They simply need to put in a clause that a first round draft pick cannot sign a d-league contract without the team renouncing his rights, and fight tooth and nail the next time the owners lock them out to keep it in the new CBA, probably in 2017.

  5. smoothaswilkes - Jul 24, 2014 at 11:08 AM

    The NBAPA doesn’t even have a leader in place, so I’m not too sure how anyone expects that they’ll do something about this cheap move by OKC. Notice that not one player that’s in union leadership commented on this move, which ultimately takes money out the pockets of future players. Most likely because the players only care about their own pocket books. If this type of situation had happened in the NFL or MLB, you could bet that this story would have several player quotes condemning the action. Good luck to the players getting any future concessions when the CBA expires in a couple seasons.

    And what does this say about OKC in general? There is no reason for that team to be so cheap what with the revenue from constant sellouts and deep playoff runs. The Harden trade was the first sign that team was going to crumble due to Clay Bennett’s greed. Durant needs to jump ships as soon as he can because he’ll never win a title on that team. They’ve never made any significant free agent signings to improve the team and they’re only as good as they are because they had a few good drafts to build their core.

  6. spursareold - Jul 24, 2014 at 12:34 PM

    KD, RUN, man. This cheap@ss owner will NEVER pay to put a proper team around you.

    • ProBasketballPundit - Jul 24, 2014 at 2:02 PM

      That’s exactly what I was going to say. The Thunder have pulled a lot of weird, legally grey area moves over the last couple years. They paid one of their rookies 80% of the rookie scale where most teams just default to 120%. They tried to get out of paying Kevin Durant’s full contract because of the Derrick Rose rule or something with the new CBA. They tried to get out of paying Derek Fisher’s contract. They refuse to amnesty Perkins even if it would help the team and obviously they let James Harden go over only a few million dollars.

      These all should be a giant red flag for KD, Russell Westbrook, and any free agents who think about signing in OKC. These owners are cheap and will never pay the luxury tax. They make business decisions always instead of basketball decisions. Sometimes business/basketball are one & the same but not always. Not when you have a chance at a championship or two.

      • bluburt - Jul 24, 2014 at 2:46 PM

        Getting a player to commit to the team at a substantially lower amount hurts the team how…?

        If this were the Spurs, everyone would be saying how brilliant the move was.

        Please tell me how this move hurts the Thunder..?

        Now you can make the argument that the player and his agent did the wrong thing, but I don’t know how you can blame this on the franchise…

      • ProBasketballPundit - Jul 24, 2014 at 3:19 PM

        @bluburt I’m only saying that the Thunder as a franchise have done a whole bunch of things lately out of frugality and that their players should be bothered by it. The franchise lies and says they can’t turn a profit because they’re small market so they don’t have to offer max contracts etc… then last year they had something like the third highest profit margins in the league after the Lakers & Knicks.

  7. genericcommenter - Jul 24, 2014 at 1:25 PM

    I honestly don’t see how this benefits the player, at all. I guess it’s up to him to give up money, and maybe he doesn’t want to play overseas- but any guy good enough to be drafted at all could make considerably more money outside of the D League, and this doesn’t guarantee him anything next year. He could have just signed directly into the D League and kept his options open, if he wasn’t going to get more than 30 grand.

    • urodaddy07 - Jul 26, 2014 at 12:05 AM

      @bluburt, getting the player to commit to something like this prior to the draft is also against the rules. The way it played out suggests that there was inappropriate contact between Heustis and OKC. It also sounds like a punk move to me

    • urodaddy07 - Jul 26, 2014 at 12:06 AM

      Agreed, this is why I also believe there is something very shady about this deal.

  8. tangovader - Jul 24, 2014 at 1:51 PM

    This kid got played. By OKC and his agent.

  9. longtallsam - Jul 24, 2014 at 3:27 PM

    They must have payed the agent about $150K under the table to get him to get the player to go along with this.

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