In a move that perplexed pretty much every Thunder fan I knew, including myself, the Thunder selected Josh Huestis with the 29th pick of the 2014 NBA Draft.
Coming onto the Thunder roster, Huestis knows he has a lot to prove. While his defensive shutdown of Andrew Wiggins in the 2nd round of the NCAA Tournament is certainly a performance to be admired, the shooting percentages he posted in college leave a lot to be desired. During the Summer League, he played in 4 games, logging significant minutes in 2 of them. So what did Huestis prove to the Thunder when given the opportunity?
Grizzlies: In 9:02, he scored 2 points off of 1-for-4 (25%) shooting. He added 2 offensive rebounds and a block to his numbers, but also logged a turnover and a personal foul as well.
76ers: In 26:03, and his first start, he scored 6 points off of 1-for-6 (16.7%) shooting, including a dismal 0-of-4 (0%) from beyond the arc. At least he managed 4-for-6 (66.7%) on his free throws, because his only other contributions to this game were 2 personal fouls and 4 turnovers.
Nets: He did not play, as he was one of five players given the day off.
Pacers: In 18:13, he scored 7 points off of 1-for-3 (33.3%) shooting, including missing his lone attempt from long range (0%). He did drop a pretty nice 5-for-6 (83.3%) from the free throw line, however. He also decided to add 3 rebounds (1 off., 2 def.) to his numbers, as well as even out his assist-to-turnover ratio (1 of each). And finally, he posted 2 personal fouls, and ended up seeing one of his shots blocked outright.
Heat: In 25:28, he scored 17 points off of an impressive 6-for-8 (75%) shooting, although the 3-point percentage isn’t the most impressive at 33.3% off of 1-for-3. However, Huestis was good on all 4 of his free throw attempts (100%), and was just terrorizing the opposition on defense. He ended his day with 4 rebounds (2 off., 2 def.), a steal, and a block. He picked up his usual 2 personal fouls, but he really shored up that assist-to-turnover ratio for this game (3 assists, 0 turnovers).
Totals: In 83 minutes and 46 seconds, or roughly 21 minutes per game, Huestis’ per-game averages are as follows: 8 points off of 42.9% shooting (12.5% from 3-point range), 81.3% free throw shooter, 1 assist, 2.3 rebounds (1.3 off., 1 def.), 0.3 steals, 0.5 blocks, 1.8 personal fouls, 1.5 turnovers, and 0.3 blocks against.
When you watch Huestis, you sense the high-intensity of his game. It’s apparent when you see his hustle on defense, as he simply knows how to disrupt opposing offenses and take them out of their game plans.
Offensively, however, his game still needs a ton of work. If you need a quick 3-pointer to swing momentum and get you back in the game, Huestis is not the man you trust with that shot. He’s not very good at creating scoring opportunities either, as a simple hand in his face will hurt his shooting percentage severely. He is a pretty good shooter at the charity stripe, however. So, in order to have any kind of impact at the offensive end, Huestis’ best bet is to drive the lane and hope to draw the foul.
At 230 lbs., Huestis honestly can’t be expected to compete with the big bangers in the low post either. And with Kevin Durant chewing up most of the floor time at the 3 spot (and deservedly so), and Reggie Jackson most likely taking on the 2 position, Huestis will not only have a hard time seeing the floor for the Thunder during the regular season, but his incredibly spotty shooting will honestly render him a long shot for a spot in the final 12-man rotation.
At this stage, it’s looking as though the NBA D-League’s Tulsa 66ers will be the landing spot for Huestis this upcoming season, as he is far from a finished product at this stage of the game. He needs to improve as a shooter, as defense is, quite honestly, the least of the Thunder’s concerns at this stage. At least one more reliable scorer, and a solid big man on the interior were the necessary focal points of the Thunder this offseason. They may have addressed the big man issue, as I will look at in the very next installment of this series, but they certainly didn’t do it by drafting Huestis. And to be honest, it doesn’t look as though he’s going to help their 3rd reliable scorer problem either. It looks as though the Thunder decided to address that issue by signing Anthony Morrow, who is a 42.8% 3-point shooter over his 6-year NBA career.
The only way I see this kid coming off of the Thunder’s bench at all is to help out on defense when Durant gets moved to the 4, and the Thunder decide to play “small ball”. Although, to be honest, even that role will probably go to Andre Roberson, as Roberson has actual NBA floor experience. Besides, most people view Huestis as a simple Roberson clone anyway. Plus, I truly believe that Jackson will be able to hold his own on defense against most of the 2 guards in the NBA. Simply put, Huestis doesn’t really give the Thunder anything they didn’t already have, which will not help his chances, even in terms of riding the bench this upcoming season. Sorry, Huestis, but you still have a lot to prove first.