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?
All along, this arrangement seemed pre-negotiated. Huestis’ agent confirms it was.
Zach Lowe of Grantland:
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.