The Thunder have 15 players, the regular-season roster limit, with guaranteed salaries.
So, Dakari Johnson – whom Oklahoma City drafted No. 48 – is doing them a huge favor.
Royce Young of ESPN:
Oklahoma City must have offered Johnson the required tender – a one-year contract, surely unguaranteed at the minimum – to keep his rights. Johnson could have accept that and gone to training camp.The Thunder almost certainly would have waived him. In that event, they could have assigned his D-League rights to their affiliate.
So, Johnson would have been in the same boat as he is now – in the D-League on a D-League salary. (And that’s ignoring the remote, though realistic, possibility Johnson would have played so well in training camp that Oklahoma City would have waived a guaranteed player to make room for Johnson on the NBA squad).
But that course of events would have created an important distinction: Johnson would have been an NBA free agent, free to sign with any team.
As is, Johnson presumably rejected the tender, allowing the Thunder to keep his rights for another year. If he performs well in the D-League, only the Thunder can sign him. They’re probably not doing that unless they make a trade to clear a roster spot. Even then, they might not so they can hold Johnson’s rights longer.
So, why would Johnson agree to this?
The Thunder might have promised Johnson a better contract next season. They signed Josh Huestis – who, as a first-round pick, was in a very different situation – a year after stashing him in the D-League. They’ve built trust.
I’m not convinced Johnson is better off forgoing the required tender, but I also don’t know what assurances Oklahoma City made him.
The Thunder are definitely better off, though. They have their full roster of 15 players and get an extra prospect in the pipeline.