Josh Huestis

Are Thunder skirting NBA protocol by sending first-round pick Josh Huestis to D-League?

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Beyond Bruno Caboclo (No. 20 by the Raptors), Josh Huestis was the most surprising first-round pick in the 2014 NBA draft.

Huestis, selected No. 29 by the Thunder, was expected to go in the 50s.

Why did Oklahoma City reach for the Stanford forward? Maybe the Thunder had a plan all along.

Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman:

Two Thunder draft picks remain unsigned, and the arrival of the 66ers in Oklahoma City stands as confirmation that they’re likely destined to spend the year competing in the D-League.

For guard Semaj Christon, the 55th overall selection out of Xavier, it’s a natural landing spot.

But with Josh Huestis, a first-round selection, the Thunder could be on the verge of breaking ground.

As the 29th overall pick, Huestis would become the first player selected in the first round to forgo his rookie season to sign in the D-League. In other words, he’d be the first-ever domestic “draft-and-stash” player.

By taking Huestis with the second-to-last selection in the first round, the Thunder secured another critically cost-effective rookie scale contract. The difference is that standard four-year deal — two guaranteed years and two team options in the final two seasons — would come on the back end of a preliminary year in the D-League and ensures the Thunder would have Huestis developing in its program for at least five seasons.

It’s not clear why Mayberry believes Huestis will decline to sign his rookie-scale contract and sign in the D-League instead, but Mayberry is extremely plugged-in. I doubt this is pure speculation.

If I were speculating, though, I’d guess the Thunder and Huestis made this arrangement before the draft. Maybe Oklahoma City drafted the best player willing to defer his rookie contract.

Such a plan would have advantages for both the Thunder and Huestis.

The Thunder wouldn’t use one of 15 roster spots on Huestis and wouldn’t count his salary against the 2014-15 payroll if he doesn’t sign. Next year, they could sign him to the rookie scale when they’re further from the luxury-tax line. Or if Huestis doesn’t pan out, they’re under no obligation to sign him (though they would lose his rights if they don’t tender him an offer).

For Huestis, this would probably have been the most direct path to a guaranteed contract. If he went in the second round as expected, he could have been sent to the D-League regardless. This way, presumably, there’s a larger promised offer at the end of the road.

However, such an arrangement would have probably violated the NBA by-laws, which state (hat tip: Nate Duncan of Basketball Insiders):

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.

Perhaps there are ways around the rule with careful wording in pre-draft negotiations, but that’s dicey. The NBA generally enforces the spirit, not the verbiage, of its rules.

Brass tacks, here are the numbers involved.

If Huestis signs his rookie-scale contract as nearly every first-round pick does, he’d make between $734,400 and $1,101,600 this season with a guaranteed second year paying between $767,520 and $1,151,280.

Various unofficial salaries have been reported for the D-League, and I’m sure some of the confusion can be attributed to rising rates. But the very highest figure I’ve seen is “a little over $30,000 per year” from Matt Moore of Eye on Basketball.

For Huestis to give up so much money was either pre-arranged or is a huge favor on his part for the Thunder. The NBA – or more likely the National Basketball Players Association – might want to look into what happened here. The union certainly doesn’t want a precedent of first-round picks voluntarily sacrificing salary for owners to save money.

Huestis – unless he and Oklahoma City arranged this scheme before the draft, which would cause its own set of issues that might be outside his control – might want to give this deal another look, too.

If he believes the D-League is the best way for him to develop, he could sign his rookie-scale contract, and the Thunder could still assign him there. He’d make his full salary and count against the parent club’s 15-man roster. But that’s the Thunder’s problem – not his.

To keep Huestis’ rights, the Thunder must have offered him a contract already worth at least 80 percent of scale ($734,400 this season and $767,520 next). He can accept that at any time.

Oklahoma City drafted Grant Jerrett in 2013 and didn’t sign him until late in the season after he played in the D-League. This offseason, the Thunder rewarded him with a multi-year contract.

That show of faith should give Huestis some confidence, but there’s a major difference in the situations. Jerrett, a second-round pick, didn’t get a guaranteed contract on condition of being drafted. Huestis, if Oklahoma City wants to retain his rights, does. That gives Huestis much more leverage.

We’re moving toward a 30-team D-League where every NBA team has its own affiliate. Then, a new set of rules will govern roster and cap limits.

For now, though, with the rules in place, something appears to be amiss. Maybe the only issue is Huestis’ logic, but if it’s anything deeper, the NBA and players union might get involved.

Report: Lakers would trade No. 1 pick if they get it

Los Angeles Lakers coach Byron Scott smiles as the studio begins to fill before the NBA basketball draft lottery, Tuesday, May 19, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
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The Lakers might not even have a first-round pick this year.

Thanks to the ill-fated Steve Nash sign-and-trade, the Lakers owe the 76ers (via the Suns) a top-three-protected first-rounder. As the No. 2 seed in the lottery, the Lakers have just better than a coin-flip chance of landing in the top three and keeping the pick.

But if the Lakers land the top selection, they might not engage in the Ben Simmons-or-Brandon Ingram debate.

Colin Cowherd of Fox Sports:

Is this a good idea? The answer, as usual, is it depends on what they could get.

There’s a logic to adding another young player whose peak would align with Lakers’ core. D'Angelo Russell (20), Julius Randle (21) and Jordan Clarkson (23) aren’t ready to win. It might be better to add someone who will enter his prime when they do.

But the Lakers’ market and prestige make them a popular free-agent destination, and free agents value winning. Moderate improvements that would stick many teams on the mediocrity treadmill could open the door for the Lakers signing a star.

The Lakers should weigh these factors and trade offers logically and decide what to do if they get a top pick.

Of course, there are other factors. Jim Buss faces a somewhat-self-imposed deadline for contending. To the person in charge, what’s best for the franchise’s long-term outlook might not matter as much as a potential quick fix.

Kevin Durant: ‘When I’m talking to women, I’m 7 feet. In basketball circles, I’m 6-9’

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) pumps his fist in reaction to a foul call on Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan (6) in the third quarter of Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinal NBA basketball playoff series in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. Oklahoma City won 112-101. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
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How tall is Kevin Durant?

He’s listed at 6-foot-9, but his teammates have guessed everything from 6-foot-10 to 7-foot-3.

Durant, via Chris Herring of The Wall Street Journal:

“For me, when I’m talking to women, I’m 7 feet,” he said. “In basketball circles, I’m 6-9.”

“But really, I’ve always thought it was cool to say I’m a 6-9 small forward,” he said. “Really, that’s the prototypical size for a small forward. Anything taller than that, and they’ll start saying, ‘Ah, he’s a power forward.’ ”

This mirrors Kevin Garnett, who Flip Saunders once called “6-foot-13” because Garnett didn’t want to get pigeonholed as a center.

But most height fudging in the NBA has players trying to be listed as taller. Read Herring’s piece for a fun look at the hijinks.

LeBron James wants to face Dwyane Wade, Heat in conference finals

Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade (3) and Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) greet each other before an NBA basketball game, Saturday, March 19, 2016, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
AP Photo/Lynne Sladky
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The Heat haven’t gotten past the Raptors. The Cavaliers haven’t toppled the Hawks, for that matter.

But can you imagine a Cleveland-Miami conference finals?

LeBron James can.

LeBron, via Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

“I think naturally of course. That’s since I’ve came back,” James said. “It’d be great to play against those guys in the postseason. Throughout my whole career, I’ve always wanted to go against (Dwyane) Wade in a playoff series. We’ve always talked about it even before we became teammates in ’10. It’s not been heavy on my mind but it’s crossed my mind throughout my whole career.”

LeBron doesn’t realize how bad of an idea this is, which is what makes it such a bad idea.

It isn’t that the Heat are playing better than Toronto right now – though they are. It isn’t that the Heat are a tougher matchup for Cleveland than Toronto – though they are, routing the Cavs twice in three regular-season games (one of which LeBron didn’t play).

It’s that facing the Heat would bring a ridiculous level of drama to the series, and LeBron’s teammates are more equipped to face the Raptors and the fewer distractions that would come with that matchup.

LeBron just wants to be on the court with his friend, Dwyane Wadewith him or against him. I think LeBron can handle that, enjoy that and still produce.

But it undermines his teammate’s focus when LeBron does something like chat with Wade during halftime when they’re trying to prepare for the second half. It can bother teammates when even more attention than usual is placed on LeBron, who’d be THE storyline in a matchup with his old team.

If the Cavs had a choice – and they obviously don’t – they should avoid all that.

But the way the teams are playing, LeBron will probably get his wish.

Seahawks QB Russell Wilson suggests Seattle starts a petition to bring back Sonics

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, left, signs autographs for fans during the Brooklyn Nets NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers at the Barclays Center, Monday, Feb. 3, 2014 in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
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Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson had a dumb idea about the Sonics.

So, he posted it to Twitter:

Yes, because this is how the NBA decides where to place teams.

Seattle’s City Council voted not to sell part of a street to Chris Hansen, essentially blocking a new arena – which is probably for the best. Why build a stadium when you might not even get a team? NBA commissioner Adam Silver says the league isn’t expanding anytime soon, and no franchise appears imminent to move.

But a petition could change all that do nothing – except rile up Wilson’s fans, no matter how detached the idea is from reality.