(WTLC's Joey Conger is scouting the Thunder's D-League team, the OKC Blue, in order to get a first person take on the Thunder's two D-League draft picks from last draft, Josh Huestis and Semaj Criston. Here is his first report.)
During the 2014 NBA Draft, the Thunder made one of the more puzzling moves. With the 29th pick, they selected Josh Huestis. The combo forward out of Stanford was projected to go in the late second round, or maybe not even get drafted at all. Oklahoma City followed up in the 2nd round by drafting point guard Semaj Christon out of Xavier. Both have spent the entire season with the Oklahoma City Blue, the Thunder’s D-League affiliate, and both seem to fit into the Thunder’s plans going forward. Let’s take a look at what the Thunder may have found.
Huestis was a four year player at Stanford. The 6’7, 230 pound defensive specialist showed great improvement in college, particularly on his jump shot. In the 2014 NCAA tournament, Huestis locked down someone named Andrew Wiggins in a second round upset. The Thunder surprisingly took Huestis in the 1st round and subsequently turned him into the NBA's first ever "draft and stash" player (don't forget - it was Huestis' idea).
Coming out of college, Huestis was a 34% three point shooter his last two years at Stanford. The Blue coaching staff are trying to mold him into a prototypical "3-and-D" guy. For comparison's sake, he’s shooting 33% so far this year. If you know anything about basketball, you know that the three point line is a couple feet longer in the NBA than in college. So, the fact that he’s transitioned relatively well to the new distance is fantastic. As far as mechanics go, I think his shot looks great. He’s balanced, good release, and follows through. He should really improve his shooting within the next couple of years.
As an absolute ceiling, I’d say Josh Huestis could become Ron Artest, formerly Metta World Peace, now Panda’s Friend. He has the size and length to be a versatile defender. At his peak, Artest was a guy that could guard four positions and give you 15 on the other end. If everything, and I mean EVERYTHING works out right, that could be Huestis.
As a more likely comparison, I’d say, the one and only, master of pump fakes, Thabo Sefolosha. If Thabo put on about 20 pounds, and Huestis developed a shot, then lost it, then got it back, they’d be twins. Both are good defenders, however, I do think Huestis can be more versatile, only because he can guard fours.
Another good comparison would be Draymond Green. Green and Huestis have the same body type. While Green isn’t a great shooter, he’s a capable one and if Huestis develops into that, the Thunder would have a good asset on their hands.
Christon has technically already been traded twice in his career. The pick that he was drafted with was a part of the Shabazz Napier trade from Miami to Charlotte. Then, OKC bought the pick from Charlotte and took Christon. Christon is a 6’3 point guard from Xavier, where he spent two years.
At Xavier, Christon put up 16 points, and 4 assists per game. So far with the Blue, Christon is averaging 18 points and 6 assists per game, while being named to the D-League All Star team. He’s currently shooting 24% from three. That’s terrible. Like Andre Roberson terrible. Christon will get better shooting the ball, but he’ll never be a knockdown shooter.
As much as it pains me to say this, and believe me, it does, Christon’s NBA ceiling is Reggie Jackson. This may be hard to remember, but Reggie was actually a really good backup point guard for a while. If anyone can think back that far, Jackson actually didn’t play meaningful minutes until his third year in the league. Christon’s third year in the league just happens to coincide with DJ Augustin’s contract ending. Hm.
The comparison with Jackson really is fitting. Christon is a super athlete, that is an absolute menace in the open court. His finishing around the rim is excellent, but he tends to rely on his right hand too much, especially with his floaters. As a passer, Christon is really underrated. He may not be Chris Paul, but he sets up his teammates really well whilst driving and kicking out to shooters.
Fortunately for him, defense is where the comparison ends with Jackson. Christon is a very capable defender. He doesn’t tend to let his man by him, and I was really impressed with his closeouts.
If he can develop at least a respectable jumper, and cut down on turnovers, Christon could be with the big league team for a long time, as a backup point guard. I think that if there’s a roster spot open, highly unlikely, Christon could spend some time with the Thunder learning from Russell Westbrook and DJ Augustin. That scenario is really unlikely, so I’d expect another year in the D-League for Christon, and then get called up in 2016-17.