Former Kentucky center Dakari Johnson will sign with the Thunder’s D-League affiliate, GM Sam Presti said today to media, including Royce Young of ESPN.com (Twitter link). Oklahoma City drafted the 7-footer 48th overall this past June, though it’s no surprise that he’s not joining the NBA roster for the start of the season, particularly since the Thunder already have 15 fully guaranteed deals. Oklahoma City retains Johnson’s NBA rights even as he heads to the D-League.
Johnson was the 33rd-best prospect on Chad Ford’s ESPN Insider rankings heading into the draft, while Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress had him 45th, closer to his draft position. He averaged 6.4 points and 4.6 rebounds in 16.3 minutes per game, though he had to compete for playing time with top pick Karl-Anthony Towns and No. 6 selection Willie Cauley-Stein, among others, on last season’s stacked Kentucky team. Johnson, a Leon Rose client, saw more playing time in summer league, with 26.7 MPG, and while his 7.6 PPG were unremarkable, his 8.6 RPG showed his strength on the boards.
Oklahoma City has made frequent use of its D-League team to stash draft picks in recent years. The Thunder struck an innovative deal with Josh Huestis in 2014, agreeing to use the 29th overall pick on him in exchange for his promise to play in the D-League this past season. The team also had 2013 No. 40 pick Grant Jerrett and 2014 No. 55 pick Semaj Christon sign in the D-League.
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