Josh Huestis finally gets his deal: OKC signs D-League draft-and-stash for 4 years

Josh Huestis will finally get to wear his Thunder jersey outside the NBA rookie photo shoot. (Nick Laham/Getty Images)
Josh Huestis will finally get to wear his Thunder jersey outside the NBA rookie photo shoot. (Nick Laham/Getty Images)

One year after making the somewhat shocking decision to use the 29th pick in the first round of the 2014 draft on Josh Huestis, a lightly regarded prospect who may well have fallenout of the draft entirely if he hadn't agreed to become the NBA's first-ever "domestic draft-and-stash" player, the Oklahoma City Thunder have formally brought the Stanford swingman into the big-league fold.

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Huestis has signed a four-year contract to join the Thunder, according to RealGM's Shams Charania. It's evidently a garden-variety rookie-scale deal, with the first two years fully guaranteed, while Years 3 and 4 are team options ... except that, as ESPN.com's Royce Young notes, it'll wind up being a bit richer, since the 2015-16 rookie scale starts higher than last year's did:

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That $32,200 initial pay bump came at a cost, though. Per the terms of the pre-draft deal that Huestis' representatives reached with the Thunder, the 6-foot-7 wing had to spend his entire first professional season with the Oklahoma City Blue, the Thunder's D-League team, making somewhere around $25,000 for a year of work rather than the full freight of his first-year rookie salary.

Kicking Huestis' rookie deal down the road a year afforded general manager Sam Presti quite a bit of flexibility. It kept him from having to cut another player on a guaranteed contract to free up a roster spot for a first-round pick. It kept the Thunder's jam-packed and expensive roster from veering into luxury-tax territory. (OKC would later wind up paying the tax anyway, thanks to midseason deals for the likes of Dion Waiters and Enes Kanter.) It kept the Thunder from having to pay a first-round rate for a player unlikely to pitch in immediately, but whom they considered capable of becoming a contributor down the line.

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Huestis agreed to what many considered a bum deal because, well, it made him a first-round NBA draft pick. Committing to delay his arrival for a year or more assured Huestis would eventually get a four-year deal and guaranteed roster spot on an NBA team, and landed him on a perpetual contender where he felt like he'd get the best opportunity to develop into a viable NBA player.

His D-League play didn't necessarily scream future star. He averaged 10.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, 1.6 blocks and 1.1 assists in 33.1 minutes per game for the Blue, shooting just 37.2 percent from the field and 31.6 percent from 3-point land despite taking more than six attempts per game. But despite his willingness to stay down for another season if "it would make me a better player," Huestis now has a spot on the Thunder roster, thanks to Presti's moves to offload Jeremy Lamb and Perry Jones III. And while his addition does cost the tax-paying Bennett more than just the outlay in salary:

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... Oklahoma City's summertime deals, headlined by matching the Portland Trail Blazers' $70 million offer sheet for Kanter and re-upping Kyle Singler on a five-year, $25 million deal, indicate that, at long last, the Thunder are down for being a taxpayer. Bring on the redshirt rookie, then!

How much burn Huestis will actually get at the big-league level, however, remains to be seen. For one thing, he's coming off a "torn pectoral muscle suffered in the weight room in May," according to Young, though he's expected to be ready for OKC's fall training camp. For another, he profiles as a defense-first, shoot-from-the-corners-occasionally guard/small forward who doesn't offer much versatility ... and the Thunder already have a more athletic and experienced guy like that, in incumbent starter Andre Roberson. And, barring injury, there wouldn't seem to be a ton of minutes available, with the returning Kevin Durant, Roberson, Singler, Waiters and sharpshooting Anthony Morrow filling up the two and three spots, and Oklahoma City's plethora of bigs — Kanter, Serge Ibaka, Steven Adams, Nick Collison and Mitch McGary — making it unlikely that new head coach Billy Donovan will be champing at the bit to install the rook as a small-ball four man.

Even if he winds up more frequently passing out towels than needing one, though, it seems like Huestis comes out of this a winner by sheer virtue of getting the kind of security he might never have seen had he not sacrificed his first pro season. If nothing else, the 23-year-old Thunderer doesn't seem to have any regrets himself. From an interview earlier this month with Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman:

“I think it was a great decision,” Huestis told The Oklahoman on Wednesday. “I think it was the best decision that I could make in terms of my own career. I think having an opportunity to play in the D-League for a year has really taught me a lot and has prepared me to move forward in my career. And I think if I had to make the decision again I would make the exact same one.” [...]

“I’ve always stayed steady (and) been happy with the decision I made,” he said. “There was never a time when I questioned it. I have faith in the organization. I have faith in myself that I’ll be able to take this past year and move forward and become a better player for it.”

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Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at devine@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

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