In 2014, the Oklahoma City Thunder made headlines for their decision to select Stanford forward Josh Huestis in the first round of the NBA Draft with the intent of adding him to their NBA Development League affiliate, the Oklahoma City Blue. He was called the league’s first “domestic draft-and-stash” player.
The Thunder could do this through a rule that was implemented just three months before they drafted Huestis. The “draft rights player” rule allows NBA D-League teams to directly acquire players on their NBA parent club’s draft list, bypassing the usual NBA D-League player selection processes, including the NBA D-League Draft and the in-season waiver wire.
NBA teams can utilize this rule by declining to sign a drafted player to an NBA contract and instead having him sign a contract with the NBA D-League. A player’s status as a draft rights player supersedes any other NBA D-League player rights — meaning he will automatically play for the NBA team’s minor-league affiliate.
Prior to implementation of the rule, players whose draft rights were owned were not eligible to be protected by the NBA parent club’s NBA D-League team. This led to teams playing in the NBA D-League for a different organization than the one that drafted them — such as Pierre Jackson in 2013-14, when he was drafted by the New Orleans Pelicans, not signed, then acquired by the Idaho Stampede with the fourth overall pick in the 2014 NBA D-League Draft.
In 2014-15, six players were acquired by NBA D-League teams through the draft rights player rule: Thanasis Antetokounmpo (New York Knicks/Westchester Knicks), Alec Brown (Phoenix Suns/Bakersfield Jam), Semaj Christon and Josh Huestis (Oklahoma City Thunder/Oklahoma City Blue), Jordan McRae (Philadelphia 76ers/Delaware 87ers) and Xavier Thames (Brooklyn Nets/Fort Wayne Mad Ants).