67RIEFNS No. 45: Josh Huestis in the D-League

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The NBA is full of talent, personality and suspense. During the offseason, It’s easy to forget how wonderful the league can be. So, I’ve assembled 67 Reasons I’m Excited For Next Season (67RIEFNS). They’ll be presented in no particular order.

Josh Huestis and the Thunder conspired for Oklahoma City to draft the small forward No. 29 and for him to sign in the D-League rather than the NBA this season.

The unprecedented move drew plenty of attention, most of it focused on whether such an arrangement was legal and how the players’ union responded. (Quick summary from my point of view: I can’t even imagine how it was done legally, and the union is misreading the situation.)

But that’s all done now. The NBA hasn’t sanctioned the Thunder, and the union isn’t protesting the move.

Now, we’re left with the under-asked questions about just how well this will work for Oklahoma City.

For Huestis, pegged as a mid-to-late second rounder, it’s a victory as long as the Thunder sign him next offseason. Though they could always back out – part of the reason I’m interested in monitoring this – I’d be shocked if they did. They just made good on a similar arrangement with 2013 second rounder Grant Jerrett, and he was injured.

But did the Thunder really come out ahead by drafting Huestis?

Presumably, they wouldn’t have picked him had he not agreed to sign in the D-League this season. If they gave him a first-round grade – differing from essentially other known draft rating – this is all moot. I don’t think this all moot, though.

The Thunder are essentially betting they can do more with Huestis in five years – one year in the D-League plus a four-year rookie-scale contract – than they could have with their top-rated available prospect in four years. Oklahoma City has a good record of player development, but this would really stretch it. Having a D-League team in the same city could help, though it does only so much.

I think the Thunder would have been better off drafting a better player – say Kyle Anderson, whom the Spurs drafted No. 30 – and paying him how most first-round picks get paid. They’d still be below the tax line, though with less flexibility for a mid-season acquisition.

But most importantly, they’d have a more promising rookie.

If the Thunder are going to come out ahead on Huestis, that starts with developing him this season. Will he be better in five years than Anderson is in four? That’s the important question for Oklahoma City now.