Thunder Surprise The Experts Again
By Randy Renner
As usual, Thunder GM Sam Presti did the unusual on draft night, at least unusual as far as what most fans and media members thought he might do.
None of the names most of us were thinking about and talking about were chosen by the Thunder. And they didn’t make any trades in the first round to move up or out of the draft. Instead they drafted a couple of guys, Mitch McGary and Josh Huestis who are very similar to a couple of players who have played big roles for the Thunder over the years, Nick Collison and Thabo Sefolosha. And then right at the end of the night the Thunder picked up Xavier guard Semaj Christon from the Charlotte Hornets in exchange for some cash.
Michigan big man Mitch McGary was thought of as a possible lottery pick but then he played just eight games last season for the Wolverines before a back issue forced an end to his season. He’s also had an issue in the recent past with marijuana, testing positive for weed during the NCAA Tournament.
Presti doesn’t usually roll the dice on these kinds of things so you have to believe he is convinced that McGary’s back won’t be an issue moving forward and neither will the wild weed.
If McGary stays healthy and out of trouble the Thunder could have themselves a steal. McGary is big and powerful and a force on defense, but he’s pretty limited on offense.
The Thunder need more depth down low because both the contracts of Kendrick Perkins and Collison expire at the end of next season.
In those eight games he played at Michigan last season he averaged 9.5 points and 8.3 rebounds. He shot 54.5 percent overall and 66.7 percent from the free throw line.
In two seasons at Michigan, McGary appeared in 47 games and averaged 7.8 points, and 6.6 rebounds in 20.6 minutes per contest. During his freshman season, McGary was named to the NCAA Final Four All-Tournament Team after helping lead the Wolverines to the National Title game. During tournament play, McGary averaged 14.3 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 1.7 blocks while shooting .678 percent from the field.
McGary was selected as a preseason Associated Press and USA Today First-Team All-American in addition to being named a preseason candidate for the John R. Wooden Award, Naismith Award and USBWA's Oscar Robertson Award entering the 2013-14 season. After appearing in eight games during his sophomore season, McGary missed the final 27 games of the year after undergoing back surgery.
Huestis is a guy whose stock had been rising and is considered an elite defender at the college level. Last season at Stanford the 6-7, 213 pound small forward averaged 11.2 points on 45.1 percent shooting overall and 33.8 percent on threes. He also averaged pulling down 8.2 rebounds and picking off 1.2 steals a game.
Huestis has a 7-1 wingspan and because of that can guard multiple positions and the Thunder love that about him. On offense, like McGary, Huestis doesn’t bring much right now. He averaged just 12.5 points per 40 minutes. But his shot is improving and he has shown some ability to knock down corner 3s.
The big thing about Huestis is his defense. In fact scouts who’ve seen him actually compared him to Sefolosha, the Thabo of earlier anyway, a guy who can lock down players at several different positions and hit a 3-ball.
Huestis spent four seasons at Stanford and averaged 7.5 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 135 career games. During both his junior and senior seasons, Huestis was named to the Pac-12 Defensive Team and at the conclusion of his sophomore season, he received Pac-12 Defensive Team Honorable Mention honors.
This past season, Huestis scored in double-figures on 19 occasions and concluded his collegiate career as the all-time leading shot blocker in Cardinal history.
In two seasons at Xavier, Christon averaged 16.2 points, 4.4 assists, 2.8 rebounds and 1.4 steals in 64 career contests. Christon became only the second player in school history to hit the 1,000-point mark as a sophomore.
Christon was a unanimous 2014 First Team All-Big East Conference selection and a member of the 2014 All-Big East Tournament team. After leading the conference in scoring during his freshman season, Christon was named the Atlantic-10 Conference Rookie of the Year. He scored in double-figures in 50 of his last 53 games, including the final 22 contests of the 2013-14 season.
All three players are expected to be in Oklahoma City on Friday for meetings and physicals at the INTEGRIS Health Thunder Development Center and then they will meet the media and some fans at the Oklahoma History Center Friday afternoon.