Why Thunder can’t send players down to the D-League

With the injury to Enes Kanter, many ask: Why can’t Oklahoma City just call up Dakari Johnson or someone?

Many think this is an easy solution to Oklahoma City’s big man problem and could be a temporary solution. We see it in baseball’s minor league system all the time. Call up a player, and have him play 9-10 games while the person rehabs for recovery. This isn’t MLB so, it doesn’t work like that.

Simple answer: Because you’d have to cut a player for that to happen, giving up any rights to said player.

Someone mentioned sending down Semaj Christon, who is under contract with the Thunder, not the Blue, for Dakari Johnson, who’s under contract with the Blue, not the Thunder. Christon already has played for the Blue this season, giving those with this idea some man power for it.

You’d have to cut Christon for this to work. Oklahoma City wouldn’t be able to call him up and he’d be able to sign somewhere else. On top of losing all rights, the Thunder would still be responsible for his salary on the salary cap. Then, you’d take on the contract of Johnson. When you sent him back down to the D-League, which would be fine, but Christon would be gone.

When the Thunder would sign Johnson, they’d essentially lose his draft rights. Which means he wouldn’t be protected in any way after being cut. Any NBA team could swoop in and sign him. You would be essentially wasting the rights on two players. Some of the drafting and depth Oklahoma City would be gearing to with the domestic draft and stash would be all for naught.

The new CBA has worked to fix some of these issues. They’ll create two spots for “two-way” contracts. The NHL already has it. You pay a player NBA salary when he’s with the team and a D-League salary when he’s sent down. For players like Christon and Johnson, this could be a target for them. They’ve also upped the pay for D-Leaguers as well for those two-way deals. Those could be anywhere from $50,000-70,000.

Many also asked why we didn’t sign someone like we did in 2014-15 when everyone was hurt. You have to have at least four players hurt before you get a disabled player exception. The only other caveat you have on that, besides the players, is it has to be before January 15. Then, if you submit the claim before the 15th, you can only use it up to March 10. Kanter may not be back by then.

Some of the same concerns when many mention just releasing a player, such as Kyle Singler. While the Thunder are a max 15-player roster, Oklahoma City is already $2 million over the salary cap. They do not have a lot cap room to do anything. What players would be available for the Thunder to sign that could help? Nate Robinson? Nope, he can’t help. Maybe Dorell Wright, who’s playing in China. He’s essentially Anthony Morrow, but I’d put my money on Morrow. If they felt they wanted to sign someone, let’s say Johnson, to a 10-day contract, they would lose his rights doing that, too.

There’s why Oklahoma City isn’t calling up any D-Leaguers anytime soon. When all 30 teams have D-League teams, you’ll eventually see the league go to a similar system MLB currently has.  Until then, we’re stuck in our situation.

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