Category Archives: G-League/OKC Blue

Articles involving the Thunder’s D-League team, the Tulsa 66ers.

Thunder sign Daniel Hamilton to a two-way contract

Bryan Terry – The Oklahoman

The Oklahoma City Thunder announced, on Thursday, they signed Daniel Hamilton to the franchise’s first 2-way contract. The Thunder selected the 6’6″ guard out of UConn with the 56th pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. In his final season at UConn, Hamilton was named 2nd Team All-ACC.

Last season, Hamilton played on the Thunder’s G-League affiliate, the Blue, where he averaged 14.9 points, 8 rebounds, and 4.7 assists in 31.2 minutes per game. His rebounding average led all qualifying rookie guards last season in the G-League.

He’s also played for the Thunder in summer league the last two years. This past summer league, Hamilton led all players in assists per game for the Orlando Summer League at 6.8.

As a 2-way player, Hamilton has the ability to join the Thunder for 45 days. The rest of the time, he’ll be with the Blue. Hamilton’s contract will be between $75,000-$275,000, depending on how many days Hamilton spends with the Thunder. In addition, Hamilton’s deal will not count against the team’s salary cap or 15-man roster.

Hamilton has a good basketball pedigree. His older brother, Jordan, played 5 seasons in the league with Denver, Houston, New Orleans, and the Clippers. His younger brother, Isaac, currently plays for UCLA.


Thunder sign Yannis Morin

After signing Dakari Johnson yesterday, the Oklahoma City Thunder have now signed 24 year old French big man Yannis Morin. The news was first reported by international website Sportando. 

Morin is an athletic 6’11” PF/C who can develop into a prototypical big man for the pace and space NBA. He moves well without the ball and can even float out to 3-point territory to space the floor. He’ll initially to be a rim runner, but he has good mechanics on his shot and may develop into a pick and pop option. He’s a little on the light side and may need some time in the weight room before he has an impact in the NBA. 

Morin played with Le Havre of the French Pro B League last season averaging 6.8 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. He played with the Thunder in this recent summer league, appearing in 4 games. Morin was scheduled to play with Chalons-Reims of the LNB Pro A league next season, but opted out of his deal to join the Thunder. 

According to Steve Kyler of, the thinking is that this might be a 2-way contract to allow Morin to develop in the G-League with the OKC Blue. 

Here’s a highlight of Moran to get to know him a little. 

Thunder sign Dakari Johnson

dakari johnson

According to Shams Charania of the Vertical, the Oklahoma City Thunder have signed center Dakari Johnson to a guaranteed two year deal. Johnson, who was drafted by the Thunder in the 2nd round of the 2015 NBA Draft, has been playing on their D-League affiliate for the past two seasons.

Johnson is a big, burly center in the Kendrick Perkins mold. He’s a legit 7-footer with a 7’2″ wingspan. He played two seasons at Kentucky, mainly at back-up center, averaging 15.2 minutes, 5.8 points, and 4.3 rebounds over 78 games. On a different team he may have had better numbers, but playing for Kentucky meant Johnson was usually lower on the depth chart. In Johnson’s two seasons in Kentucky, the players ahead of him were Julius Randle, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Willie Cauley-Stein. All three of those players were selected in the Top-10 of their respective drafts.  Continue reading Thunder sign Dakari Johnson

Seven things from Summer League

Charlotte Hornets v Oklahoma City Thunder

With Thursday’s loss in the 3rd place game, the Oklahoma City Thunder finished out the 2017 Orlando Pro Summer League with a record of 2-3. After winning their first 2 games of summer league, the Thunder went on to drop their next three to finish in the fourth position of the 8-team league.

There honestly isn’t much that can be gleaned from this year’s summer league team. When you are a perennial playoff team, summer leagues are usually to see what you have in the cupboard, as the main dishes of the team usually don’t have to play summer league. Of the 13 players who were available to play for the Thunder, only about five have realistic chances of playing in the league.

Here are seven things from summer league: Continue reading Seven things from Summer League

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.

OKC Thunder: 5 Things to watch for in Summer League

reggie jackson summer league thunder

Summer League is one of my favorite parts of the NBA year. It’s a fan’s first chance to see what the rookies can do with some of the their more veteran, but still young future teammates. It’s a chance to see how those 2nd and 3rd year players have improved over the offseason. And it’s a chance to see some relative unknowns scrap and fight for the chance to make it onto a training camp roster.

Here are 5 things I’ll be for in this Summer League:

1. The “Veterans”

Four of the players on the Summer League roster have NBA experience, with 3 of them having started games for the Thunder last season. If Durant, Westbrook, Ibaka, and Jackson are what make the Thunder great, then Jeremy Lamb, Andre Roberson, Perry Jones, and Steven Adams are what makes them contenders. Superstars are superstars, but they still need help. And that’s where these four players come into play. Their continued development is tantamount to the success of the team.

From Perry Jones, I would like to see some offensive aggressiveness. When Jones was on the floor last season, he seemed content with taking what the defense gave him. But his physical tools are made for an offensive attacker. Length, agility, and other-worldly athleticism would make him a nightmare for a defense. Add to that the fact that he showed the ability to knock down an open 3-pointer, and you have all the makings of someone that can score consistently in the league….if he wants to.

From Jeremy Lamb, I would like to see him attack the basket and draw contact. Lamb showed the ability to make shots from the perimeter, but settled too many times for jumpers or floaters in order to avoid contact. If Lamb were more inclined to absorb contact, he may see his scoring average jump from the increase in free throw attempts. Also, I’d like to see Lamb improve on his one on one defense.

adams jones roberson thunder

From Andre Roberson, I’d like to see him hit a corner three consistently. But more importantly, I’d like to see him diversify his offensive game. If the shot isn’t falling, work on getting to the basket. I truly see a Tony Allen dimension to Roberson’s game, and that’s not a bad thing.

One of the reasons why people laud Steven Adams when comparing him to Kendrick Perkins is because Adams has the tools to develop an offensive repertoire. I would like to see how Adams has worked on his offensive game in the post. Is he developing a go to shot (i.e. jump hook) or a consistent jumper from 5-15 feet out? Also, I’d like to see him defend without fouling as much.

2. The Rookies

Summer league was made to showcase young players, especially the rookies. The Thunder, for the 2nd year in a row, bring three drafted rookies into Orlando. Mitch McGary, Josh Huestis, and Semaj Christon will all get a chance to showcase their skills surrounded by players that will be on the roster with them. This becomes the great unknown of the summer league equation. You get a sense of what these rookies play like, but when the collegiate shackles come off, it can be an entirely different story.

mitch mcgary michigan thunder

I’m interested to see how McGary plays coming off the back injury. Will he be limited or rusty? I remember what he did in the NCAA Tournament two years ago, but didn’t see much of him last season. As far as Huestis goes, I still can’t find a decent scouting video (shame on your DraftExpress). I have no idea what to expect from him.

But I’m most interested in Semaj Christon. Not necessarily because of him, but more because I know the other two rookies are on guaranteed contracts. I see a lot of the same physical attributes in Christon as I see in Jackson and Westbrook. Maybe not the brute explosiveness, but definitely the length and athleticism. If Christon can somehow impress, will the Thunder take a similar approach with him as they did with Grant Jerrett last season? Stashing him in Tulsa will allow the Thunder to develop him, without taking up a roster spot.

3. Grant Jerrett

Speaking of Grant Jerrett, he’ll also be on the team. The team decided not to opt into his team option for next season, but, apparently, that was just so they can give him a guaranteed raise. The team probably won’t do that until they figure out who they are signing in free agency (Pau Gasol, Mike Miller, Anthony Morrow, etc). Also, the team may be wanting to see how Jerrett has improved over this past season. A great showing by him may make the need for a 3-point shooter a moot point.

4. Defend the championship

summer league thunder champions

In case you don’t remember, the Thunder won the Orlando Summer League last season. They went a perfect 5-0 and got to take a picture with cool hats when it was all said and done. The good thing about it was that none of the games were complete blow-outs. The Thunder won their games by an average of 6.6 points. In my opinion, other than individual player development, the most important thing about summer league is placing the players in tight game situations, and seeing how they react to that pressure.

5. Other players

I’m a fan of the Thunder, but I’m also a fan of the league. Summer league allows me to see young players on other teams. It allows me to scout the other teams’ rookies and young players. Here’s a list of players from other teams that I will be interested to see:

  • Boston Celtics – Kelly Olynyk, Marcus Smart, and James Young
  • Brooklyn Nets – Mason Plumlee
  • Detroit Pistons – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Tony Mitchell, and ex-Thunder DeAndre Liggins
  • Houston Rockets – Isaiah Canaan
  • Indiana Pacers – Roger Mason Jr. (Why is this veteran playing in summer league?)
  • Miami Heat – Shabazz Napier
  • Orlando Magic – Aaron Gordon, Victor Oladipo, Elfrid Payton
  • Philadelphia 76ers – Nerlens Noel and Pierre Jackson

The Thunder and the 66ers: Paying Dividends

lamb tulsa 66ers thunder

Last season I wrote about the Oklahoma City Thunder’s extensive use of their D-League affiliate, the Tulsa 66ers. After the Harden trade, the Thunder found themselves in the peculiar position of being a contending team, while also having a handful of players that they needed to develop. In the Harden trade, they received a good stopgap in Kevin Martin and an apt apprentice in Jeremy Lamb. The Thunder used Martin as their 6th man off the bench, and he performed serviceably for them, notching averages of 14.0 ppg and 2.3 rpg on 43% 3pt shooting. The wild card in the trade was Lamb, the rookie out of Connecticut who was the 12th pick in the 2012 NBA draft.

Lamb was used in spot duty throughout the season, but spent most of his time in Tulsa where he averaged 21 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1.2 steals per game in 21 games. There is no doubt that that experience helped Lamb in his transition to be a major cog off the bench for the Thunder this season.

Reggie Jackson spent only 3 games in the D-League last season, but he made his mark known. His per game averages for those 3 games were an astounding 28 points, 7.3 rebounds, and 8.3 assists on 60% FG shooting and 36% 3-pt FG shooting. After that 3 game stint, Jackson went on to get the majority of the back-up point guard minutes on the team and eventually led to Eric Maynor being traded to the Portland Trailblazers. That move paid dividends when Russell Westbrook went down in the second game of the 2013 NBA playoffs. Jackson performed well in his first foray as an NBA starter. Even though the Thunder lost in the 2nd round of the playoffs, Jackson provided enough of a steady hand that the Thunder knew, regardless of how the Kevin Martin negotiations went in the offseason, that they had a true 6th man already under contract.

jackson rose bulls thunder

While Jeremy Lamb was an unknown heading into the season, it was known that he would be part of the rotation. What wasn’t known was how Perry Jones III would fit into the equation. Would he be in the rotation? Would he be shuffled back and forth between Tulsa and Oklahoma City? What is known is the Jones was a combination of size, speed, and athleticism that is unparalleled in the league, outside of Kevin Durant and Paul George. A 6’11 hybrid that can possibly play every position not named point guard.

The key to Jones’ success is if he ever learns how to harness all the raw talent and ability into something feasible on the basketball court. Early returns this season have proven inconclusive. He has shown flashes of being a good rotation player, but also gets caught doing a lot of floating on the floor. Also, due to the rotation, he may be the odd man out at the moment. A little bit of extra seasoning in the D-League may be beneficial to Jones. Not necessarily an entire season’s worth, but maybe 10 games in 3-4 game stints would do wonders for this development. Continue reading The Thunder and the 66ers: Paying Dividends

Oklahoma City Thunder: Lessons from Summer School

okc summer league champs

The Oklahoma City Thunder finished summer league with a 5-0 record, and were crowned champions of the first ever Orlando Summer League Championship. While it is cause for celebration, it’s important to remember that this is Summer League. A league where at least 50% of the participants will log as many minutes in the NBA as you and I. Regardless of talent level though, there were a lot of things to take from summer league. Here are a couple:

1. Reggie Jackson is ready to make The Jump. The Jump is the term for when a player starts to understand the nuances of the professional game and it slows down for them. Kevin Durant led the league in scoring his 3rd season, Russell Westbrook made it to his first All-Star Game and made 2nd Team All NBA in his 3rd season, and James Harden won 6th Man of the Year in his 3rd season. In his one full game in summer league, Jackson broke the Orlando Summer League record with 35 points, bringing the Thunder back from a 12 point 4th quarter deficit with 23 of those points coming in that final quarter. He completely dominated getting to any spot on the floor that he wanted. While I don’t expect a repeat performance during the NBA season, I do think that Reggie is ready to take that next step in his development. Continue reading Oklahoma City Thunder: Lessons from Summer School

The Thunder and their D-League usage

Rio Grande Vipers v Tulsa 66ers

The NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement brought changes to how teams could use their D-League affiliates. As NBADL president Dan Reed said, “The new CBA will deepen the level of integration between NBA D-League and NBA teams, and marks the next stage of our league’s evolution as the official minor league for the NBA. By encouraging more robust use of our league to accelerate the development of NBA players and prospects, over time we believe this agreement will lead to more NBA teams operating their own NBA D-League affiliate, an increased number of NBA players that develop in our league, and an even better in-arena experience for our fans.” In other words, the NBA felt the restrictions placed on player movement from the D-League to the NBA were hindering the D-League’s ability to reach its full potential as a true developmental/minor league for the NBA. 

In the previous CBA, a team could only assign a player to the D-League up to three times per season. This lack of flexibility made it difficult for teams to assign players because the assigned player still counted on their 15 man roster. Normally, a team would assign a player to the D-League and leave them there for a three to five game stints, if not longer. While this allowed for some consistency with the player, it became an issue for the team if they had to recall said player due to injuries on the NBA roster. It didn’t matter whether it was a 1 game stint or a 10 game stint, it still counted as a D-League assignment. In the new CBA, a team has no limit as to how many times it can assign a player with 3 years or less experience in the league.

 This new rule becomes very advantageous to teams that have their own D-League affiliate. Currently, there are 11 teams in the league that have their own D-League team. The rest of the 19 teams have to divide their assigned players amongst the remaining 5 D-League teams. The teams that have their own D-League affiliates are able to run the same system throughout their NBA and minor league teams. This leads to a level of consistency in all facets of the organization. Even though the players may not be the same on either level, the defensive and offensive systems can be consistent throughout. On these 11 teams, players that are shuffled back and forth between the “farm” team and the NBA team don’t have to learn new terminology or new schematics between the different teams. The schema remains the same and the confidence that usually accompanies consistency starts to show through.


 This has been very evident with the Thunder’s young players. Oklahoma City is in strange position of being a contending team with young players to develop. Most contending teams have veteran-laden rosters and don’t have the time to develop young talent. Though the Thunder’s roster is young throughout, the main core is veteran enough, having gone through 3 successive playoff runs that culminated with a loss in the Finals last season. With great players comes the cost of paying these superstar players. The Thunder currently have $54.2 million allotted to its top 5 players (Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka, Kevin Martin, and Kendrick Perkins). That number jumps up to $54.3 million with Ibaka’s extension kicking in, but that is without Martin, as he becomes an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season. Assuming that the Thunder re-sign Martin, the Thunder are looking at $60+ million in salary for 5 players next season. The need for cheap labor (rookies and young players) becomes very necessary as a team tries to balance being a contender with balancing the proverbial NBA checkbook.

kd rw

 When you are battling for playoff positioning throughout the season, there aren’t many opportunities to develop young talent. Every game counts when a team is looking to secure home court advantage. A slip up here or there can be the difference between a team playing a deciding game at home or on the road. Non-playoff teams have all the time and patience in the world to develop young talent at an NBA level. The Thunder experienced a little bit of this last season when they were forced to play then rookie guard Reggie Jackson heavy minutes as the back-up point guard after Eric Maynor went down 9 games into the season with a torn ACL. Jackson struggled throughout the season in this role and was relegated to the end of the bench by the end of February after the Thunder signed Derek Fisher. With Maynor back this season, the Thunder have been able to send Jackson back and forth between the D-League and the Thunder.

 One of the advantages of this system is that it allows young players to build their muscle memory and confidence. Athletes, especially basketball players, live off of muscle memory. Muscle memory is defined as a form of procedural memory that involves consolidating a specific motor task into memory through repetition. When a movement is repeated over time, a long-term muscle memory is created for that task, eventually allowing it to be performed without conscious effort. An example of muscle memory would be typing. Once you learn where the letters are on the keyboard, you can begin typing at your heart’s content without looking at the keyboard. Basketball involves a lot of fast-twitch muscularity due to the read and react nature of the sport. You see a defender leaning in one direction and you react by driving in the opposite direction in a split second. This type of muscle memory can only be duplicated in in-game settings. During the season, teams cannot scrimmage during every practice to replicate in-game situations. The only way to develop this type of muscle memory is to actually play in the games. If a team is not willing to let its young players develop on the NBA floor, the next best option is in the D-League.


 That muscle memory is extremely important when a player a called upon to give you 5-6 good minutes in a game. When Jeremy Lamb was put into a game against the Detroit Pistons at the beginning of the season, he played 3 minutes, committed 1 turnover and 2 fouls. He played and looked like every bit of the rookie that he was. But after a couple of games in the D-League in which he averaged 23 ppg, 4.9 rpg, and 3.3 apg, Lamb’s number was called again against the Atlanta Hawks. This time, he performed beautifully in his 5 minutes, scoring 5 points, grabbing 1 rebound, and getting 1 steal, all while effectively guarding Josh Smith, who had 5 inches and 40 pounds on him. I can’t definitively state that there is a direct correlation between Lamb’s time in the D-League and his performance in that one game, but the confidence he played with definitely had something do with his time in Tulsa.


 Reggie Jackson is another one of those players that has benefitted from his time in Tulsa. After providing a spark off the bench in a game versus the New Orleans Hornets as an energy player, Jackson was sent to the D-League for a 2 game stint in which he averaged 32 ppg, 8 rpg, and 7 apg. Jackson logged significant minutes in the game prior to his 2 game stint and then logged 13 minutes in the prime time game against the Miami Heat on Christmas day. While he didn’t come anywhere close to averaging the number he put up in Tulsa in those two games, the confidence he played with shows a maturation to his game. Even more significant in the Miami game is that he played the back-up point guard role, while Maynor received a DNP-CD.

 The Thunder have also been sending rookie Perry Jones III to the D-League, along with 2nd year wingman DeAndre Liggins and 3rd year center Daniel Orton. While these players have yet to have a breakout moment in the NBA this season, the ability to play in the D-League and then practice with the NBA team will only improve the skill-set and their confidence. Jones III’s development is of utmost importance to the Thunder, as his skill set as a tweener forward will give the Thunder a serious weapon in the front court as they move forward. 

jones iii

 Confidence and playing time are two of the most important things in the development of a young player. While NBA teams may not be able to provide the young players with copious amounts of playing time, they can provide them with an avenue (the D-League) to continue developing and improving, all while playing basketball in real game situations. The Thunder hope that the pipeline from Tulsa to OKC will provide them with cheap, young talent that will allow them to maintain their championship contending core.