Exploring The Impact Regarding NBA D-League’s New Draft Rights Rule (And Other Potential Rule Changes)

Updated: July 26, 2014

The Oklahoma City Thunder and their No.29 pick Josh Huestis created a storm of opinions since their domestic “draft-and-stash” idea was first reported. At the base of the move, is a new rule in the NBA D-League set to begin in the 2014-2015 season, but how will it be received across the NBADL?

Or, has it actually even been received by those in the NBA Development League?

When researching the upcoming rule (which was officially announced on March 4, 2014, and emailed in a press release format from the league), NBADL sources which DleagueDigest.com contacted were not totally convinced the rule had been implemented. DleagueDigest.com is waiting for an official web link from the league of the release, but an official announcement was apparently made in early March, and obviously the Thunder and Huestis’ agent received that memo.

This is not the first time which the Oklahoma City Thunder organization has flexed it’s understanding of the inner workings related to the NBA Development League. Prior rookie players which played for their affiliate first include Ryan Reid, Robert Vaden, Latavious Williams and Grant Jerrett.

Also, the Thunder were creative in grabbing DeVon Hardin (the 50th pick in the 2008 NBA Draft) for their affiliate. Hardin signed into the D-League late (in December, after the draft) in order for OKC to confidently snag him for Tulsa.

The Thunder had the draft rights for each of the aforementioned players, and each player was essentially “draft and stashed” in the NBA D-League similar to what Huestis is reportedly scheduled to do. However, the main difference is that Huestis is a first round pick, the previous rookies were not, and the Thunder had to go through nefarious means to acquire them for the 66ers. Also, Huestis has a guaranteed contract coming his way when he signs with OKC, a luxury the previous group of players were not guaranteed.

Yet, the Huestis situation has opened the door to a rule that can have a significant impact on the future of the NBA and NBA D-League. The new rule would’ve helped Pierre Jackson and his situation from a season ago in the NBA D-League. If the new rule was not in place for the upcoming season, there’s a chance OKC and Huestis (if they weren’t able to finagle the draft) would eventually be in a situation similar to Pierre Jackson and Idaho last year.

The Draft Rights Rule as explained in the March 4th press release states, “under the new rule, NBA D-League players who are on an NBA team’s ‘draft list’ will have the opportunity to automatically play for their NBA team’s NBA D-League affiliate both prior to the NBA D-League Draft and at any point during the season.  In the case of players who join the NBA D-League mid-season, NBA D-League teams will have 24 hours to claim or relinquish rights to the player whose draft rights are retained by their NBA parent club. An NBA team’s ‘draft list’ consists of players for whom that team holds exclusive NBA contract signing rights.”

Clearly, NBA and NBA D-League teams who are in one-to-one affiliations (which is now 17 of the 18 teams in the NBADL) stand to benefit from the implementation of this rule. It allows maximum opportunity to develop rookie players without risk of the NBA parent club losing that player to another team. As the league attempts to move towards a complete one-to-one setup, perhaps this rule will give enough incentive for NBA teams to reassess having a one-to-one setup, or not. But, is this necessarily a good thing?

The Fort Wayne Mad Ants are the lone multi-affiliate franchise in the NBADL as we enter the 2014-2015 season. The organization took home the NBA D-League title last season, and under their unique setup entering this season, the Mad Ants will likely have some new guidelines which they’ll have to balance as they stand to be the NBADL affiliate for 13 NBA teams. As the push for single affiliation continues, Fort Wayne’s success has been a shining light in the opposite direction, and proof that single affiliation isn’t necessary in order to win games in the NBADL. However, with the Draft Rights Rule, and rules which DleagueDigest.com discovered from sources during the research of the Draft Rights Rule, the days of multi-affiliate NBADL team(s) may be dwindling fast.

After speaking with multiple NBADL team sources, DleagueDigest.com learned that there’s potential for two more rule changes that could play a role in favoring one-to-one setups. According to these sources, there have been discussions on changing the total assignment players from three players to four assignment players.

The assignment rule currently states that NBA teams can protect three players cut from their training camp roster. This rule change would move that to four players. This would mean NBA teams would dish out the $25,000(ish) guarantee to players as invites to their training camp, with the plan being that they would play in the NBADL if they didn’t make the NBA roster. This is also a nice way for NBA teams to potentially double a projected NBA D-League player’s salary, which can give players added incentive to stick with the NBA parent club while playing for their NBADL affiliate.

Also, DleagueDigest.com learned of a potential new rule which would eliminate the tryout player option for NBADL teams. This would carry significant impact as well. For example, a player who has contributed to DleagueDigest.com this off-season, Bryan Davis, was a tryout player for the Reno Bighorns last season. Davis was the only Reno player to play in all 50 games for the Bighorns and was a noted contributor on both ends of the floor. KC Rivers and Ra’Shad James were two other tryout players who had an impact with Reno last season.

Obviously, Reno is just one of the teams that have used the tryout rule to their advantage, but also a great example of how it can benefit a team. Despite Reno being in a single affiliation with the Sacramento Kings, one could see how the allowance of tryout players could possibly help a multi-affiliate NBADL franchise, as tryout players can assist in roster building without the need of assignment players.

If this rule is eliminated, the draft will likely be deeper, but it will also even the playing field out because now teams that didn’t put the work in to using all forms of roster building to their advantage won’t have that option, and instead teams will essentially be built around the four guys that the NBA parent team cuts.

Now, these rules are figured to only be in the discussion stages, and have not been confirmed by any league officials. However, if one, or both of these rules were to be implemented, it would be yet another reason for NBA teams to look more into a one-to-one setup due to advantageous player development opportunities.

The Josh Huestis story (which has been explored in great detail by Grantland’s Zach Lowe, and SB Nation’s Mike Prada) has shed light on a rule change (and potential rule changes) that will impact the future growth of the NBA D-League. The league, which is in search of a new President, is at an important stage in it’s development, and future rules including the Draft Rights Rule will ultimately decide the league’s overall impact with the NBA.

As the league morphs, will it strengthen it’s relationship as the NBA’s true minor league system, or will a rule change steer that progress in a different direction? The answer to that question may hinge on Oklahoma City’s success with Josh Huestis, and the Draft Rights Rule.




  1. Dennis Justice (Beelieve In Asheville)

    July 26, 2014 at 7:37 pm

    This article only validates why my group was formed. It was formed to urge the Charlotte Hornets to put their D-League team in Asheville.

    The NBA is nudging the D-League into a one-per-one arrangement. The upcoming CBA, the pending boatload of cash the players and the NBA teams will get with the next television deal, and the reality that all the recent NBA champions are getting their own teams all scream the one-per-one dream will come true and very soon.

    My group was formed as a potential gateway to bring NBA D-League teams to the south. We could set up an arrangement to force other southern NBA teams to act.

    Look at the NBA team most shafted by the current situation: The Indiana Pacers. For until the other 12 NBA teams that share the Mad Ants get their own D-League team, they are being denied opportunities.

    There are at least 18 votes I bet among the owners to force the hand of the remaining teams.

    The dream is about to be realized.

    Dennis Justice
    BEElieve In Asheville

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