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Players union approves of Thunder’s Josh Huestis arrangement

Jul 24, 2014, 6:30 PM EDT

Josh Huestis, Troy Weaver Josh Huestis, Troy Weaver

The Thunder and Josh Huestis have agreed for the No. 29 pick to turn down his rookie-scale NBA contract and play on a D-League contract next season, an arrangement made before the draft.

The deal is good for the Thunder, who won’t have to pay Huestis this year and now could have five years to develop him before free agency.

And it’s good for Huestis, who probably wouldn’t have been picked in the first round without this promise and is presumably now line for a rookie-scale deal in a year.

There’s only one catch.

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.

As I’ve covered, I can’t even imagine a workaround to the pre-draft negotiations that would technically avoid compensation discussion, let alone adhere to the spirit of the rule.

As a result, I thought the the National Basketball Players Association would have a big problem with Oklahoma City’s maneuvering. After all, the Thunder prevented another player from getting that rookie-scale contract by drafting Huestis and not giving it to him, a set of events that likely would not have occurred without pre-draft compensation talks.

Alas, the players union doesn’t find this problematic.

Zach Lowe of Grantland:

The union actually views the Huestis move as an example of player empowerment that could have major long-term implications. “This is an example of the player flipping the script,” says Ron Klempner, the interim executive director of the union. “The player essentially drafted his team.”

I agree that Huestis has exercised a level of control rarely exerted by players, and that’s good for him.

But the players union should not allow players to do whatever they want when their personal interests adversely affect other players. To the union’s credit, it has successfully bargained for many such restrictions.

The CBA prevents players from making less than a minimum salary. It prevents players from taking extreme pay decreases during a multi-year contract. It prevents players from re-negotiating contracts to reduce the compensation.

As a union, the NBPA restricts players in certain situations in order to protect players as a whole. Why not do that here?

If it seems there’s more to this situation, there is.


The deal is proof that teams have an ambivalent relationship with low-first-round picks, since Oklahoma City is dodging the rookie scale here, Klempner says. But that can cut both ways. “The rookie wage scale was management-imposed,” he says. “Players have always been in favor of more open negotiation for rookies. Maybe [Huestis] will lead to a full reconsideration of the rookie wage scale.”

In other words: If teams want wiggle room with someone picked in the late 20s, then they should grant that same negotiating wiggle room for Anthony Davis and Andrew Wiggins. The NBA has been down that road before, and would fight hard against any removal of the rookie scale, but Klempner has a point.

Before the NBA instituted the rookie scale, high draft picks like Glenn Robinson and Larry Johnson held out for huge contracts. Of course, the union would like to expand salary for all players, including rookies, and this could be an opening. Can you imagine how much Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker would make if they weren’t slotted into set salary ranges?

However, I believe Klempner is making a big miscalculation for two reasons.

1. I doubt the NBA uses the Huestis case as precedent for loosening the restrictions on first-round picks. The league fought for a rookie scale for a reason, and it won’t walk it back now. Even if it means paying picks like Huestis less, the top selections would more than make up for it. Open negotiations for draft picks is a money loser for the owners.

2. The veterans who comprise the NBPA wouldn’t go for it. Every member of the union has already gone through the draft, so they won’t vote to have their wages implicitly cut in order to pay future rookies. Veterans getting paid less than new draft picks was a big point of contention in the Glenn Robinson/Larry Johnson era, and even if such an arrangement helped players collectively, it doesn’t help voting players (i.e., players already in the league/union) at all.

It seems as if the NBPA will let the Thunder slide in pursuit of a bigger goal – freer negotiations for first-round picks – it won’t achieve. Without the union pushing, I doubt the NBA will investigate whether Oklahoma City violated the by-law.

So, I guess the Thunder are mostly in the clear to watch Huestis get D-League compensation due to their pre-draft discussions.

  1. 4thquartermagic - Jul 24, 2014 at 6:42 PM

    Is this the same Players Union who screwed the players during the last CBA?

    Sure seems like it.

  2. johnc44 - Jul 24, 2014 at 6:55 PM

    If a team tells a agent “He would be worth our 1st if he could go to the D-league for a year first to develop more” and the agent said he would do that to play for you they don`t have to discuss compensation because the slot is set & the D-league salary is set so it`s a pretty easy work around.

    • Dan Feldman - Jul 24, 2014 at 7:43 PM

      Except every other first-round pick who went to the D-League did so on an NBA contract. Huestis is doing so on a D-League contract. How do you make the distinction before the draft without discussing compensation?

  3. eugenesaxe1 - Jul 24, 2014 at 7:11 PM

    The kid can say he was a 1st-round draft choice. Can’t really put a price tag on something like, only 30 people on the planet can honestly say it.

    • muhangis - Jul 25, 2014 at 1:04 AM

      Are you that stupid? “Only 30 people on the planet” ????? Learn your math.

      There are 30 players drafted in 1st round every year, *each year there is a draft.

      The league went from 29 teams in ’03 – ’04 to 30 teams in ’04 – ’05 season. So that’s 300 players selected in the 1st rd. in the last 10 years alone.

      *There have been 1364 GUYS PICKED IN THE 1ST ROUND since the inception of the NBA draft in 1947.

      [thanks for wasting my time] …. I’ll just remember eugenesax is really dumb from now on!

      • eugenesaxe1 - Jul 25, 2014 at 3:45 PM

        Obviously I meant every year, but I hope you enjoyed your oh-so-brief moment of internet superiority. Now back to your pathetic life.

    • muhangis - Jul 25, 2014 at 11:24 PM

      No you did not mean obviously every year (or perhaps you would have mentioned that). You said 30 people on the whole planet. <—– It's written in plain English.

      You are one IDIOT! Lol

  4. felser - Jul 24, 2014 at 7:18 PM

    Actually I think player’s union should not back this. Let OK.C. trade their #29 for a #31 or #32 if they don’t want to pay the rookie wage scale.

    • spursareold - Jul 25, 2014 at 10:28 AM

      I can see the post-lottery first round turned into a wasteland of “value” picks, and legit talent sliding into the second round on unguaranteed deals. Yeah, THAT has no potential for abuse.

  5. adeedothatswho - Jul 24, 2014 at 7:19 PM

    Without the rookie wage scale, you would have something akin to what the NFL went through for all those years….the top picks getting far more than many veterans had ever made in total. Management wants it there to prevent the loss on a bust, players want it there so that money goes to other players. It’s not going anywhere.

  6. mackcarrington - Jul 24, 2014 at 7:37 PM

    It only makes sense for the player if the team agreed to pay him for his draft slot, or guaranteed he remain with the organization in some capacity. If he thought he wasn’t going to be drafted at all, he could still have signed a D-league contract with anyone else.

  7. campcouch - Jul 24, 2014 at 8:31 PM

    This doesn’t even matter. This guy has been signed to the D-League, at best he could become serviceable and wind up in OKC or as trade bait. At worst he doesn’t pan out and toils there forever or leaves. The round status is worthless if you’re not getting paid for it. OKC fleeced him and his bonehead agent. They used a pick on a guy for the cheap and have the most minimum obligation to him. I bet we see him in Orlando for a second round pick later.

  8. harshedmellow - Jul 25, 2014 at 12:43 AM

    Kid gave up ~ 800k this next year. That’s astounding. Given the risk of injury it’s extra-astounding.

    • bkbell3 - Jul 25, 2014 at 2:35 AM

      I agree, if he gets hurt or doesn’t play well enough then what will okc do? Do they let him walk and he gets nothing? On the other side he would of maybe been a 2nd round pick with no guaranteed contract if someone actually had signed him. You have to wonder what okc sees in this kid. Would some other team had drafted him in the second round before okc got to pick? Did he have any decent offers from teams over seas? So i guess he didn’t really give up anything if okc wouldn’t have drafted him in the first round without this arrangement. Again what do okc see in this kid?

      • spursareold - Jul 25, 2014 at 10:29 AM

        OKC would F him if he got injured. Hell, they already have with this arrangement.

  9. oasis511 - Jul 25, 2014 at 11:20 AM

    If I understand the numbers and am looking at this correctly, if he had signed as a second-rounder at the league minimum, he would have been paid approximately $500,000 this year, $850,000 next year, and $980,000 the year after that, which all would likely have been non-guaranteed or partially guaranteed.

    The rookie scale is a little flexible, so he can sign next year for 80% to 120% of the scale, which would give him the range between $2.4 million and $3.6 million, which can be guaranteed.

    So, depending on what OKC gives him next year, he could earn as little as $100,000 and as much as $1.3 million more over three years than if he had signed as a second-round pick.

    However, the last time I saw D-League salary numbers, a rookie contract was only worth $12,000, and if he did suffer a severe injury, there would be no requirement for OKC to pay him anything.

    So it’s a very complicated situation, and we can’t say for sure if this will be “empowering” players against the rookie scale or if Huestis will just end up getting screwed over in the long term.

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