The Method Behind the Move: Daniel Orton's Hour in Tulsa

Daniel Orton was a Tulsa 66er for 64 minutes. Why didn't the Thunder just keep him out of camp?
If we kept track of these things -- and maybe, with advanced metrics invading all corners of the hoops world -- Daniel Orton's a good bet for The Guy Who Spent The Least Amount of Time in the NBA D-League Before Getting Called Up.

It's a hotly sought-after title.

Basically, it went like this:

  • Orton, who played 16 games with the Magic last year and two games in the NBA D-League in 2010-11 (after going No. 29 in the 2010 Draft to cap off Kentucky's historic wave of five first-round picks) spent camp with the Thunder. He saw the court just once in preseason, but showed what he can do with consistent minutes, going off for 13 points and three boards against Charlotte on Oct. 16.

  • But when training camp ended, Orton didn't make the Thunder's final roster (though 87 players with NBA D-League experience did show up on Opening Night rosters).

  • There was a catch, though. (Cue eery Halloween music. Like this.)

  • The Thunder waived Orton -- along with Andy Rautins and Hollis Thompson -- in order to send them all to the Tulsa 66ers, their NBA D-League affiliate. Because none of the players had their rights held by another NBA D-League team, they fell under the Affiliate Player Rule, which meant that Tulsa had first dibs on the trio.

  • The 66ers acted accordingly, claiming all three. Then, 64 minutes after sending the press release about claiming Orton, Tulsa sent another that the Thunder had Called-Up Orton for the first one of the year.

  • So why not keep him outright?

  • If the Thunder had kept Orton past training camp, he no longer would have qualified under the Affiliate Player Rule (which provides for training camp cuts). If the Thunder had cut him during the year, he would have entered the NBA D-League General Player Pool, had he chosen to go to the D-League.

  • So the Thunder, wanting to keep Orton in their 'program,' so to say -- one of the biggest perks about single-affiliations, which the Thunder (and 10 other teams) have with their NBA D-League affiliate, is that you can install your own coaching staff and system -- basically hinted that they'll be shuffling him to and from Tulsa a great deal this year. It's a method that's proven helpful for a few teams (take Vernon Macklin in Detroit and Fort Wayne last year), especially for raw big men.
And it's a method we should expect to see a lot more of as the league continues to grow.