The Oklahoma City Thunder surprised everyone at the end of the first round again by selecting Josh Huestis out of Stanford 29th overall.
Don’t get me wrong when I say this, because Huestis definitely has a chance to stick in the NBA. He’s a long defensive stopper in the Thabo Sefolosha mold — who is the exact player he’d be replacing as Sefolosha is a free agent this offseason. However, given what was on the board at the time of this selection, I’m not entirely sure what Sam Presti and company were thinking. This reeks of another Andre Roberson situation, where it seems like the Thunder may have just slightly out-thought themselves and left better players on the board.
Now that those words are out of the way, let’s talk about the player himself. Huestis was probably the biggest winner of the workout circuit this season, as he went from a player very few expected to be drafted to a first rounder. For reference, Huestis was not even invited to the NBA draft combine this season, which makes him the first collegiate player I can remember to be a non-combine invitee first-rounder.
The reason that you draft a guy like Huestis is to play defense. Huestis was a three-time All-Pac 12 defensive team member, and has an excellent frame for the NBA at nearly 6’8 with a 7’1 wingspan. His crowning achievement to top off his career was holding Andrew Wiggins to four points on 1-6 shooting in the NCAA Tournament as Stanford knocked off Kansas. He does just about everything well on defense: he stays in front of his man, forces steals, blocks shots, and rebounds well for his size. That’s not at all going to to be the problem for his professional prospects, and I’d expect he is one of the few rookies on the wing that has the ability to step in and make a positive defensive difference.
Huestis’s problems is on offense. Basically, we’re talking about a negative, non-factor on that end. His shot is pretty inconsistent, he doesn’t have a great handle, doesn’t have a good first step, and had a negative assist-to-turnover ratio over the past two seasons. Huestis doesn’t have enough of a jumper yet to be a threat from the outside. Defenses are going to be able to throw Huestis’s defender at Kevin Durant every time that he’s on the floor, which could cause problems for the Thunder offense.
The problem here isn’t fit. Huestis definitely has a shot to stick with the Thunder and be useful. The problem is that there were pretty clearly superior players on the board, especially in K.J. McDaniels out of Clemson. McDaniels is basically Huestis on athletic steroids with the same zeal for defense.
Huestis might work out, but this may have been a case of Presti getting slightly too cute.