Players selected in the first round of the NBA draft who sign within three years are given a contract set by the Collective Bargaining Agreement – two guaranteed seasons followed by two team options. Because the team owners and veteran players who negotiate the CBA are incentivized to keep more money for themselves, rookie-scale contracts are relatively low-paying considering the talent and upside of the players on these deals. Therefore, options on rookie-scale contracts are usually exercised with little fanfare.
Yesterday, was the deadline for 2018-19 options and there were a couple notable exceptions – Jahlil Okafor (76ers, No. 3 pick in 2015, would have earned $6,313,832 in 2018-19) and Mario Hezonja (Magic, No. 5 in 2015, $5,167,231). Wade Baldwin (Grizzlies, No. 18 in 2016, $1,955,160) even had his option declined before the season, in conjunction with being waived. Kevon Looney (Warriors, No. 30 in 2015, $2,227,081) and Chris McCullough (Wizards, No. 29 in 2015, $2,243,326) also had their options declined.
A few other declined options came out later in the night:
- Josh Huestis (Thunder, No. 29 in 2014, $2,243,326)
- Brice Johnson (Clippers, No. 25 in 2016, $1,544,951)
- Rashad Vaughn (Bucks, No. 17 in 2015, $2,901,565)
Huestis was drafted in 2014 but didn’t sign with the Thunder until 2015 – part of an infamous pre-draft agreement where Huestis agreed to spend his first professional season on a D-League salary with Oklahoma City’s affiliate in exchange for being drafted then signed to a rookie-scale contract the following year. The idea on the Thunder’s part appeared to be that they’d be better off with a lesser prospect in their system for five years than someone on a typical four-year rookie-scale contract. Now, they’re set to cut Huestis loose after just four, anyway.
Johnson goes on the ledger of Doc Rivers draft picks who didn’t work out. After starting his rookie year injured, Johnson hasn’t gained any traction.
The Bucks were reportedly offering a second-round pick just to get another team to take Rashad Vaughn this year. So, it’s no wonder they didn’t guarantee his salary for next season. Don’t draft players for bad reasons.