Thunder trade Hasheem Thabeet to the Philadelphia 76ers

Hasheem Thabeet, Maalik Wayns

The Oklahoma City Thunder traded center Hasheem Thabeet (along with cash considerations) to the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday. In return, the Thunder received a protected 2nd round pick (likely highly protected) and a $1.4 million dollar Traded Player Exception as the 76ers are severely under the cap and didn’t need to send the Thunder a player back. The 76ers will likely to waive Thabeet.

The Thunder like to go into the season with at least one roster spot available. This allows them more flexibility for possible trades or to sign a disgruntled veteran for a late season playoff run after the trade deadline. The Thunder had until the 1st of September to do something with Thabeet, as his salary would have become fully guaranteed after that date.

I don’t usually care too much about third string players, but Thabeet was a great locker room presence and the ultimate team guy. His positive attitude rubbed off on anyone he met and he performed well enough on the court whenever he was called upon. I will always the remember the ejection that was rescinded 5 minutes later in James Harden’s first game back in Oklahoma City as a member of the Houston Rockets. Best wishes on your future endeavors Hash.

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Posted in News, Offseason Beat, Trade Talk, Uncategorized

Breaking Down the 2014-15 Thunder Schedule

nba schedule

It’s a rite of passage every August to look at the newly released NBA schedule and predict the record of your team. It’s usually a losing battle as many of the variables that come into play during the season (injuries, trades, chemistry issues) have yet to come to fruition. But we are fans and this is what we do. I always like to look at an 82 game schedule in chunks; no less than 10 games and no more than 25 games. In that amount of time, patterns tend to develop, momentum can be built, and the foundation for a successful season can be established. Unfortunately, as we saw with the Indiana Pacers’ second half last season, it can also work the other way around. Here’s a look at the Thunder’s upcoming season in chunks.

October 29, 2014 – November 14, 2014

I guess I would much rather start the season road-heavy, than end it road-heavy. The Thunder’s first four road games are against teams that made the playoffs last season, while the one home game is against a wild card team. Denver is a mystery to everyone. With so many players coming back from injury, Denver could either surprise everyone in a Phoenix Suns-like revival or they could be the same inconsistent bunch we saw last season. After those first five games, the Thunder host the team they dispatched in the first round last season, the Memphis Grizzlies. From there, it’s easy street as the Thunder face four lottery teams.

Possible Trap: Three back to backs.

  • Record through 10 games – 8-2

November 16, 2014 – December 7, 2014

westbrook thunder barnes warriors

Houston’s depth (or as James Harden would call them “role players”) got depleted this offseason, but they still have Harden and Dwight Howard. After that, it’s a back to back roadie in the oxygen-deficient Rocky Mountains. A four game homestand follows as the Thunder face the Golden State Warriors for the first time in the season. If you remember the first two meetings between these two teams last season, then you’ll definitely have your DVR tuned in if you aren’t at the game. After the homestand, there’s a three game road trip that features 3 lottery teams.

Possible Trap: The Utah game between the Golden State and New York game.

  • Record through 20 games – 16-4

December 9, 2014 – December 23, 2014

The prodigal son (LeBron James) makes his only regular season trip to OKC. How ironic is it the Thunder play James and the Cavs one game and then play Andrew Wiggins and the Minnesota Timberwolves the next? After that, it’s a 3-game West Coast swing that includes the Warriors and the Lakers. Finally, a sneaky difficult two game homestand follows against Anthony Davis and the Pelicans and the Trailblazers.

Possible Trap: At Sacramento. The Kings are one of those teams yearning for respect. They always seem to play lights out against the Thunder at home.

  • Record through 29 games – 23-6

December 25, 2014 – February 11, 2015

The toughest stretch of the season for the Thunder will probably be the 24 games from Christmas to the All-Star break. It was during this time last season, with Russell Westbrook recovering from his third knee surgery in 8 months, that Kevin Durant solidified his status as an MVP candidate. He led the Thunder on a 19-7 tear, against some of the top teams in the league, that had Oklahoma City heading into the All-Star break with the league’s best record.

durant thunder wall wizards

The 24-game stretch can be broken down into two stretches: a 10-gamer and a 14-gamer. The 10-game stretch, from December 25, 2014 to January 16, 2015 features a tough, even-keeled run (five home, five away) against 7 playoff teams (and Phoenix). It starts with the Western Conference Finals rematch on Christmas against the Spurs in San Antonio. The next night its back to OKC to face the Charlotte Hornets. Two night later, it’s down to Dallas for a tussle with the Mavs. And then back home to face the Phoenix Suns to close out the year. The year begins with a home game against the Washington Wizards…you know, the team Thunder fans will be hearing about in their nightmares for the next two seasons. After that its back on the road to face the Warriors. The 10-game stretch finishes with the Rockets and the Warriors (again).

Side note: It feels like we play the Warriors 10 times this season.

The 14-game stretch that follows is probably more difficult because 9 of the 14 games are on the road, including a 5 game Eastern Conference romp. Of the 9 road games, four are against playoff teams from last season, one is against Cleveland, and another is against the mercurial Knicks. Of note on the road games, is one against Washington (yeah, that team again), where the Thunder have not won since the 2010-11 season. Washington DC has become a house of horrors for the Thunder of late.

Possible Trap: All the road games in a short time span.

  • Record through 53 games – 40-13

February 19, 2015 – March 5, 2015

After a week long All-Star break, the Thunder start the second half of the season at home against the Mavericks. They then travel to Charlotte to play the Hornets, and then return home the next night to play Denver. Oklahoma City is lucky in that they don’t have to make transcontinental treks on road trips, but they also suffer with these weird road/home back to backs that take them to one coast and then back home. After another home game (Indiana), it’s back to the West Coast to face Phoenix, Portland, and the Lakers. After a home reprieve (Philadelphia), it’s back on a plane for a prime time match-up against the Bulls in Chicago.

  • Record through 62 games – 46-16

March 8, 2015 – March 24, 2015

In this stretch, the Thunder play 8 of their next 9 games at home, while the road game is in Dallas (a one hour plane ride). Six of the nine opponents are playoffs teams, so it is by no means an easy stretch. It is also a non-tiring schedule, that features only one back to back. If there was ever a time in the schedule for the Thunder to either gain a little ground, or put some space between themselves and those teams under them, this would be it.

  • Record through 71 games – 53-18

March 25, 2015 – April 15, 2015

durant thunder duncan leonard spurs

The final 11 games of the season features 6 road games and 5 home games. In the last couple seasons, the end of the regular season has been road heavy for the Thunder. This season’s home heavy finish is a good reprieve from previous seasons. The Thunder play San Antonio twice during this stretch, so first place in the Western Conference may be up for grabs in these last few weeks of the season. The Thunder play the Texas trio at home during this stretch, while playing Phoenix and Memphis on the road. They finish the season in Minnesota, which may be important if the Thunder are still battling for a seeding.

  • Record through 82 games – 61-21

April 18, 2015 – mid June 2015

NBA champions!!!!! You heard it here first.

All in all, the schedule is pretty balanced. While the Thunder do play a lot of good teams (partly because they are in the Western Conference), there is a lot of time for rest, which should aid the Thunder in the playoffs.

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Posted in Offseason Beat, Random Thoughts

Kevin Durant: The Nurturing of a Legacy

durant usa

On Thursday, word came out that Kevin Durant decided to pull out of the World Championships. He was slated to be the team’s unquestioned leader and its main focal point offensively. Durant’s departure (and Paul George’s injury) has created a bit of a vacuum at the top of the World Championship team hierarchy. James Harden has the most tenure, but do you really want him being the leader of the group? They’ve brought in Rudy Gay to replace Durant’s scoring punch, but c’mon, it’s Rudy Gay. In seeing all this, many media members piled into Durant for abandoning his USA teammates, even throwing out words like selfish and entitled.

In reality, the kid that would play anytime, anywhere, decided to put himself ahead of basketball for the first time. And that completely shocked people, including myself. This is Durant we’re talking about. Go to your local Y or gym. Durant is the kid with the Nike backpack, high socks, and slides on his feet, walking around waiting for a game to kick off. He loves the game so much that he is willing to play it at any under any circumstance. Rucker Park, sure. Drew League, why not. Goodman League, let’s go. USA Basketball, hooping and patriotism put together? Hell Yeah!

But maybe it’s not Durant that’s being selfish. Maybe it’s us. We want our heroes to be there when we want them. Whether they are athletes or superheroes, we want them there at our beckoning. Every time we send the NBA signal into the sky, we want to see them play. Nine months out of the year isn’t enough. Summer league, USA basketball, preseason. We want our heroes at all times. But what we don’t realize is that heroes break down. One of the major themes in the superhero movies of today, is the physical and mental toll the superhero faces as the movie franchise progresses. Whether it’s Batman breaking down in Dark Knight Rises or Iron Man showing his mental and physical wear in Iron Man 3, this theme is one that resonates with almost everyone.

iron man

The common fact is that we break down as we age. We aren’t necessarily afraid of the number associated with our age, but with the inevitability that as that number increases, our bodies will never be the same. So then why do we chastise a player for taking control of his body and choosing not to expend any more energy than he has to? It’s not like this is Durant’s first foray into international basketball. He was the MVP of the World Championships four years ago and was one of the best players in the Olympics two years ago. Both times, he helped the United States win gold. More than likely, Durant will be there in 2016 leading the United States to gold in the Olympics in Brazil.

If anything, this is a sign of Durant maturing. He is no longer this boy wonder that wants to experience everything that is basketball-related. He is now a seasoned vet that is missing one final piece in the puzzle of his career. It’s the hardest one to obtain and one that usually takes heart-breaks and lessons learned to reach. As far as legacies are concerned, Durant has been a stat stuffer in his seven year career: 1 MVP, 4 scoring titles, 1st Team All-NBA 5 years in a row, Rookie of the Year, etc, etc. The championship is one that still eludes him. After reaching (and losing) the 2012 NBA Finals, it was almost a foregone conclusion that the Thunder would be participants in multiples Finals after that. Their core was young and only going to improve, and they just experienced the agony of defeat. But the James Harden trade and injuries in playoff games in consecutive years to Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka, have left the Thunder on the outside looking in of the last two NBA Finals.

durant ibaka thunder

Durant is looking at the bigger picture now. He knew he was tired heading into the playoffs last season. It isn’t Durant’s fault the injury bug bit the team hard this past season or that Scott Brooks doesn’t yet know how to manage his superstar’s minutes. But this is the Durant we know. He never complained, never shied away from the challenge. He just put the team on his back night in and night out and led them to the second best record in the league. In the process though, he played the most minutes in the NBA and probably sapped most of his energy reserves that were needed in the playoffs.

And that’s not even looking at the cumulative effect Durant’s career minutes had on last year’s postseason. In his career, Durant has played in 97% of all possible regular season games. In addition he’s played in 77 playoff games and countless pre-season games. When you begin to add international play, you start to get a picture of the toll Durant’s career is starting to have on his body. And its at this point, that Durant probably said, “Enough!” Durant still loves the game. It has been his provider, his refuge, and possibly, his best friend. But at some point, Durant needed to start looking at his most valuable asset (himself) and protecting that. Because, hopefully, he has many more years left in the league and more “stats” to add to that legacy.

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Posted in Offseason Beat

Kevin Durant and Under Armour – Power Moves

Kevin Durant shoes nike

The saying goes, “Never judge a man until you’ve walk a mile in his shoes.”. The person who initially said that statement probably never met a superstar athlete with a shoe contract. All NBA fans (or wearers of athletic sneakers, for the matter) have walked around in a “man’s” shoes sometime in their lifetime. Be they Jordans, Kobes, LeBrons, KDs, D.Roses, Melos, etc, etc. Most of these shoes have one of 4 insignia on them: the Jordan Jumpman, the Nike swoosh, the Adidas 3-Lines, or the Reebok vector.

With Kevin Durant rumored to be signing a 10 year/$325 million dollar contact with UnderArmour, a new insignia might be forcing it’s way into our collective basketball minds. Under Armour got its start as a football-centric company, with their moisture-wicking clothing and testerone-induced advertising (“We Must Protect This House!”). Within the last 5 years though, UnderArmour  has been making a big push onto the hardwood. Their first big basketball move was signing recently graduated high school star Brandon Jennings, who eschewed the NCAA in favor of playing professionally overseas. Without the constraints of the NCAA, UnderArmour signed Jennings to a multi-year deal to promote their brand overseas. Although he has forged a good career, Jennings never quite became the star he was touted to be coming out of high school.

In September 2013, UnderArmour snagged their current flag bearer for the company’s basketball division. Steph Curry switched from Nike to UnderArmour, bringing clout to the company’s desire to ascend into the conscious (and bank accounts) of basketball fans everywhere. They had an okay stable of players on their roster, but Curry gave them a recognizable star to hang their hat on. But like the great teams in the league, one superstar is good, but two superstars are better.

steph curry shoes

Durant would push UnderArmour into a different stratosphere. The reigning MVP is fast becoming one of the most recognizable figures in the sport, not only nationally, but worldwide. His dominance in international play and constant presence in the later rounds of the playoffs have thrown Durant into the conversation for best player in the world. For UnderArmour’s name to be associated with Kevin Durant’s shoes would be a coup for the upstart company.

There would also be a hometown connection at play with UnderArmour. Their HQ’s are located in Baltimore, MD, which is relatively close to where Durant grew up. It can be speculated that Durant and UnderArmour CEO Kevin Plank have crossed paths numerous times in the DC/Maryland area. While Nike is the “it” brand in the NBA, Durant has let it be known that he is his own man. And if there is anyone that would be willing to take a chance on a hometown product, it would definitely be Durant.

A small side note on Durant: If he signs this deal, he will be on tap to have earned over $500 million for his career in salary and endorsements.

  • 2007 – Nike – $60 million
  • 2007 – Rookie contract – $16 million
  • 2010 – Contract Extension – $85 million
  • 2014 – Rumored Under Amour deal – $325 million
  • ________________________
  • Total – $486 million
  • Sprint, BBVA, Panini, 2K Sports, Skull Candy, Kind snacks, etc = Has to be over $14 million.

Related note: He’s only 25 years old. He’s halfway to earning a billion dollars with at least 10 years of earning potential left. Unless he “Tiger Woods” his life or is visited by the Injury Reaper, the basketball player from Oklahoma City may be well on his way to being one of only a few billionaire athletes. Kind of kills the whole “you need to be in a big market to increase your earning potential” talk.

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Posted in News, Offseason Beat

Josh Huestis and the Paul George Injury

paul george injury

First off, let’s get this out of the way. Josh Huestis is not Paul George. George is a two time All-Star, a two time member of the All-NBA third team, and a member of the 2014 NBA All-Defensive first team. Huestis, on the other hand, barely registered on the draft radar until he was surprisingly chosen at the end of the 1st round by the Oklahoma City Thunder. To say that these two would somehow intersect in the basketball stratosphere, would be surprising at best and insulting at worst. But in the wake of George’s catastrophic leg injury in Thursday’s Blue and White scrimmage, a case could be made that somehow intertwines their two stories.

As I previously wrote, Huestis and the Oklahoma City Thunder agreed to a one of  a kind deal the NBA had never seen. The American born Huestis agreed to become the first domestic draft and stash player that was drafted in the first round. He would hold off on signing his guaranteed rookie contract, and instead, would develop for a season under the guise of the Thunder’s D-League team. Huestis’ earnings would go from a guaranteed high of $900,000 to about $30,000. After a bit of backlash from NBA media members, the truth finally revealed that it was a joint deal concocted by both the Thunder and Huestis and his agent.

durant love coach k colangelo

After the George injury, Dallas Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban got back on his pedestal and started bellowing into his megaphone about the risk the teams were taking with their top players participating in international competition. In some respect, I do agree with Cuban. The NBA team takes all the risk when it comes to their player(s) participating in basketball related activities outside of the team’s scope. Players participating in USA basketball are the best of the best and their salaries usually reflect that. The Indiana Pacers signed George to a max contract (5 years/$92 million) last summer. This past season was the last year of George’s rookie contract, so his extension kicks in this upcoming season. Unfortunately for the Pacers, George will probably spend the first two years of his max extension working his way back into form. By the time he is fully healed, the championship contending Pacers team we’ve seen the the last two season may look entirely different.

While I do agree that NBA teams take the brunt of the risk, I don’t agree with his quest to stop NBA players from playing in international competitions. The USA basketball program under Jerry Colangelo and Coach K has been very organized and has had a near clean track record in regards to the health of the players. If I’m an owner, I would much rather have my guys practicing under the guise of an NBA-like practice, instead of playing with a bunch of no names on the blacktops in Manhattan or at the Drew League. In addition, while the competition between NBA players is fierce, there is probably a modicum of restraint in practice as all the players know the bigger goal in mind is making it to the gold medal game healthy and making it to training camp healthy.

josh huestis summer league

 

The one variable that was different between the Paul George injury occurring in the Thomas and Mack Center and that injury occurring in an NBA arena was the amount of space between the court and the goal’s stanchion. The play itself, a fast break block attempt, is one that happens numerous times in a game. Paul George has probably made that play thousands of times in his life time. This time, all the variables went against him, and he ended up with a grusome injury. That could have happened in the Thomas and Mack Center, just like it could have happened at Pauley Pavillion, just like it could have happened at Rucker Park, just like it could have happened at the Staples Center. Players play. That’s what they do. And they’d rather do it with their peers, as opposed to doing with a coach and a bunch of stationary chairs positioned on the court. As Kevin Durant said, “Steel sharpens steel.” Players push each other to get better. That is a rite of passage every offseason. I’d just rather have it done with Coach K screaming at the players instead of Hannibal “The Most Electrifying”.

But back to Huestis. While the teams are taking all the risk when it comes to international basketball, Huestis is taking all the risk when it comes to his career. The Thunder own Huestis’ rights, but if Huestis were to suffer a Paul George or Shaun Livingston-like injury in the D-League, it will be very interesting to see if the Thunder will just cut their losses and renounce Huestis’ rights, thus making him an unrestricted free agent. That was the objection that a lot of NBA writers put up when they heard about this deal. And that was all before the Paul George injury pierced through each one of our optic nerves. Now that we’ve been reminded that freak accidents happen when human beings are jumping and sprawling all over the place, I’m almost hoping that Huestis makes it out of this next season completely healthy. I have no doubt the Thunder would honor the first two years of Huestis’ contract out of sheer loyalty. Say what you want about how the Thunder operate, but player loyalty is never something they are lacking in. I just hope it doesn’t have to become a decision.

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Posted in NBA, News, Offseason Beat

Summertime Blues: What’s Left To Do?

sam presti

This is always the most boring part of the year for me. Summer league is over with, most of the free agents have signed, the FIBA World Cup is still a month away, and football training camps just started. I like baseball, but not enough to pay attention to it day in and day out. In addition, the stability of the Oklahoma City Thunder franchise makes time seem to drag even more. Don’t get me wrong, though. I enjoy the stability of the team. Our superstars and role players are all signed and the roster, for the most part, is already set.

But the work of an NBA GM is never done. It is during these quiet times that GM’s get most of their leg work done for future moves. Thunder GM Sam Presti has done a great job of creating a stable environment, but there is still work to be done before the season starts. Here are 3 issues the team still wants to take of before the season starts.

1. What to do with Semaj Christon?

Much like Grant Jerrett from last season, the Thunder see a lot of potential in their 2nd round pick-up from this draft. Christon is the prototypical Thunder point guard: long, athletic, and able to get into the lane. What he lacks is consistent perimeter shooting and experience as a floor general. The Thunder saw a little of what Christon is able to produce during Summer League. He averaged 11.3 points, 2.3 rebouds, and 2.8 assists on 48.5% shooting from the field. He played in 4 games and averaged 26.3 minutes per game. He showed a penchant for being a good on the ball defender and averaged 1.3 steals per game. This is a prime example of what the Thunder look for in a point guard.

semaj christon thunder summer league

With Russell Westbrook, Reggie Jackson, and Sebastian Telfair already on the roster, the point guard quota for the Thunder is filled for this season. The question is how do the Thunder hold on to Christon without having a roster spot to offer him? Barring a late offseason trade, the Thunder already have the 15 players they will be going into the season with.

Will they maneuver another Jerrett-like move to hold onto Christon’s draft rights through their D-League affiliate? One thing that may be in the Thunder’s favor is the loyalty they showed to Jerrett last season. Jerrett went along with the move the Thunder made to rescind his rights before training camp, but draft him in the D-League draft. At the end of the D-League season, the Thunder brought Jerrett in for the last week of the season and for the remainder of the playoffs. Christon may see this and give the Thunder a chance to develop him in the D-League with the thought that he might be brought in at the end of this season or next season. The Thunder have been including Christon in a lot of their community related activities this offseason, so it’s obvious they see him as a part of their future.

2. The Hasheem Thabeet / Tibor Pleiss Conundrum

Since 2010, one of the questions asked every offseason for the Thunder is whether Tibor Pleiss would finally come over. The Thunder drafted the German big man with the 31st pick in the 2010 NBA draft and expected him to stay in Europe for a couple seasons to further his development. But with Pleiss turning 25 this year, it’s getting to the point where the Thunder either bring him over and see what type of player they have, or they move on and Pleiss becomes one of those names that gets included in a trade as filler. With the calendar nearing August, it was almost a foregone conclusion that Pleiss would stay in Europe this season.

tibor pleiss

The Thunder, on the other hand, aren’t necessarily in need of a big man. They already have Kendrick Perkins and Steven Adams in tow, and have a team option for Hasheem Thabeet. Next offseason is a different story. Perkins will be an unrestricted free agent after this season, as will Thabeet if the Thunder pick up his option. The Thunder have until September 1st to make a decision on Thabeet. If they don’t waive him before that date, his salary becomes fully guaranteed.

Everything was expected to go as planned. The Thunder would head into this season with their three centers, and Pleiss would stay in Europe for at least one more year of seasoning. Then, on July 27th, international sports website Sportando quoted German national coach Emir Mutapcic as saying, “His agent told us that Pleiss is close to signing in the NBA.” It seems like every offseason there are conflicting reports whether Pleiss would come over or not, but this one felt different. Maybe it’s the fact that Pleiss hasn’t officially signed with a Euroleague team or the fact that no one in the Thunder organization has flat out said, “No, Pleiss is not coming over this season.”

It would make sense for the Thunder to bring Pleiss over this season in order to get him acclimated to playing in the NBA. If he’s going to be the primary back-up next season, he’ll need the experience. Plus, the Thunder have to see what they actually have in Pleiss. The only drawback will be the departure of Thabeet, whom the team loves as a locker room/chemistry guy. From a basketball perspective, though, it would be the best move to bring Pleiss over.

Reggie Jackson’s extension

Other than signing a 3-point shooter, no other move would complete this offseason like signing Reggie Jackson to an extension. Jackson just completed his third season in the league, which makes him eligible for an extension with his current team. If the Thunder fail to sign Jackson to an extension this offseason, then they risk him going into restricted free agency next offseason. This is a scary thought because if a team with cap space offers Jackson a lucrative contract, then the Thunder may have to turn it down and allow Jackson to walk away with nothing to show for it.

The question becomes, “What is Jackson worth?” He’s a 6th Man of the Year candidate with the skills (and chops) to be a starter in the league. In the past year, Jackson has filled in admirably in Westbrook’s absence due to injury, and has been part of the Thunder’s finishing line-up when Westbrook has been healthy. The Thunder, and Jackson, for that matter, are probably paying close attention to what happens in the Eric Bledsoe/Phoenix Suns contract negotiations. Jackson’s situation is very similar to Bledsoe’s, who was a 6th Man of the Year candidate for the Los Angeles Clippers, playing behind Chris Paul, before getting traded to the Suns where he became a full time starter. The Suns recently offered Bledsoe a 4 year/$48 million dollar contract, which Bledsoe rejected.

San Antonio Spurs v Oklahoma City Thunder - Game Three

To the Thunder, Jackson is not worth $12 million a year. With max level contracts for Durant and Westbrook already in the books, and Ibaka receiving $12.3 million per season, the Thunder can’t really give out another max or near-max level contract. With Perkins and his $9.4 million dollar contract coming off the books after this season, the Thunder could hypothetically offer Jackson a 4 year, $30 million dollar contract. Anything more than that, and the Thunder are compromising their ability to sign Durant, Westbrook, and Ibaka to future extensions.

Besides the money, another sticking point may be Jackson’s desire to be a full-time starter in the league. In his exit interview, Jackson made that desire known to the public. The Thunder like to start a traditionally sized, defensive minded shooting guard in the Thabo Sefolosha mold and probably would not commit to starting a duel combo guard starting line-up. In Jackson’s mind, if he’s able to get the money and the starting job, he may be willing to wait out this year and go to restricted free agency next season. If that’s the case, the Thunder may just have themselves another James Harden situation.

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Posted in Futures Report, Offseason Beat

Josh Huestis: The Intern

huestis summer league thunder

On July 19th, Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman wrote a story suggesting the Oklahoma City Thunder were thinking about making rookie Josh Huestis to first domestic draft and stash player. Basically, Huestis would delay signing his guaranteed contract for one season while he plays in the D-League with the Oklahoma City (formerly Tulsa) 66ers. He would receive a D-League salary (currently about $25,000), and would train exclusively with the 66ers for the 2014-15 season.

Overseas draft and stash players are common practice in the NBA. Teams draft foreign players and allow them to continue to develop overseas. The player, while attached to their overseas team, does not count towards his NBA team’s salary cap or roster spot allotment. It’s a win/win for both sides involved with little to no risk. The player develops overseas on the foreign team’s dime at no cost to the NBA team, while also being a tradeable asset. Then, when the player is ready to come over, he informs the NBA team, and if he was picked in the first round, his salary scale starts from where he was drafted. Business as usual.

For some reason, though, the news of a domestic draft and stash caused a bit of an uproar around NBA media circles. The uproar was caused by not knowing whether the deal was predetermined or whether they negotiated this deal with Huestis after he was drafted. Kind of like, “Hey, we (the Thunder) did you a huge favor by drafting you in the first round, so this is what we need you to do for us.” That last statement almost sounds like the textbook definition of quid pro quo that is used in workplace sexual harassment videos. People in the national media were throwing around words like slimy and unethical, without even knowing what the parameters of the agreement between the Thunder and Huestis were.

Josh Huestis, Carrick Felix

In reality, the Thunder, Huestis, and Huestis’ agent Mitchell Butler, all agreed to this before draft night. What irks me the most is the media painting Huestis as this star-struck neophyte who was ripe for the picking by the big, bad Thunder organization. In fact, it was the complete opposite. This was a power move by an extremely intelligent young man. He turned what was going to be an unpredictable voyage as a 2nd rounder or undrafted free agent into a predictable journey to the NBA with guaranteed money waiting for him. In essence, he chose to be an intern with the organization that promised to pay him later, than to Frank Sinatra his way into the unknown (overseas, D-League, rejected training camp invite) by doing it his way.

If anything, Huestis should be applauded for his pragmatism. The stories are too numerous of players who give up their college eligibility based on pre-draft hype, which ends with them dropping into the 2nd round or worse. But this young man knew the reality of his situation, and snatched up a grand opportunity when it presented itself. Huestis was also pragmatic enough to understand that an extra year of tutelage may not be a bad thing for his NBA future. Huestis already has an NBA body and an NBA skill (defense). But complete players have lasting power in the NBA. So if Huestis is able to build his game in the D-League and, hopefully, become a future contributor on a championship contending team, then his stock rises that much more.

Huestis has taken a career that was destined for stops in Fort Wayne and the Philippines, and transformed it into one where he actually sees the NBA light at the end of the tunnel. He’s upped his earning potential immensely and now sits on the precipice of setting himself up for life. Huestis graduated from Stanford this May, and did what some of his fellow graduates did…got an internship. The difference is that his internship ends with him guaranteed to garner between $1.5 and $5 million dollars in the next 3-5 years. That, my friends, is a hell of a 5 year plan.

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Posted in D-League/Tulsa 66ers, Futures Report, Offseason Beat
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