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2017-18 Oklahoma City Thunder player grades: Josh Huestis

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A project on the verge of becoming a solid role player. But is it too late?

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Charlotte Hornets Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Full Name: Josh Sutton Huestis

Nickname: “Cowboy”

Years in NBA: 3

Contract Status: UFA

Notable Factoid: First player to make it to the NBA via a 1st round G-League (formerly D-League) draft and stash. A marginal talent, got picked in the first round with one of the more aggressive plays in NBA draft history.

Player History:

For a complete history, see WTLC’s Bobby Chancellor’s 2015/16 Huestis grade.

There is very little to add for 2016/17, as Huestis played fewer minutes with the Thunder than the previous season, but Huestis did have his best season in the developmental league:

basketballreference.com

Pre-season Expectations:

Huestis followed up his solid season with the Oklahoma City Blue with a nice showing at the 2017 Orlando Summer League where he averaged 15 pts/gm (3rd on the team) and 6.8 rebounds (2nd). But it was Josh’s solid defensive play and improved shot-making in the pre-season that earned him more minutes during the regular season.

Huestis game-winning “Block Party” against Melbourne UTB:

For the first time since turning pro, Huestis was beginning to look NBA ready, and expectations entering the season, although guarded, were hopeful.

Regular Season Grade: C+

Huestis’ season was a mixed bag. Defensively, Josh exceeded expectations, but then fell short offensively. Still, at the end of October, with the Thunder’s record sitting at 4 and 3 and Huestis sporting a +28 accumulative +/-, I was surprised the team opted to not pick up their $2.2M option on Josh for 2018/19. When you consider Andre Roberson missing 30 games in the 3 previous seasons, that seemed like a relatively cheap insurance policy for a team that has set Robes as their defensive focal point.

Now, $2.2M is ALL the Thunder can offer Huestis this summer and it may come up short for a 6’7”, 230 lb defensive specialist with a 7’1” wingspan (read here for more info), who is really beginning to understand how to effectively guard any position on the court AND doesn’t demand the ball on offense.

Post Season Grade: Incomplete

I didn’t give Josh a grade for the post-season because he only played spot minutes in 4 games and it wouldn’t be fair to grade a player on such a small sample size.

Most Memorable Game/Moment:

Without a doubt, the road win against Golden State on February 6th.

After losing Andre Roberson to a ruptured patellar tendon injury on January 27th, the Thunder were reeling after dropping 4 of their next 5 games. With Josh starting in place of Roberson, the Thunder forced 25 GS turnovers and held the Warriors to just 28.6% from beyond the arc.

Something tells me Presti’s “Urkel” moment for not picking up Josh’s 2018/19 option came soon after that game.

Future Expectations:

When Huestis and his agent, Andy Miller, stepped into Sam Presti’s office and offered the draft and stash deal four years ago, Huestis understood he needed time to reach his goal of playing in the NBA.

If you took the time to read Bobby Chancellor’s grade and the extra info on Josh’s physical gifts link, (if you didn’t, please do so now for a better understanding of my next comments), you realize that Huestis checks every box for the tools an elite defensive player needs.

Unfortunately for Josh, Montana is not a basketball hotbed and he has been playing catch-up since his birth father, Poncho Hodges, convinced his adoptive parents, Bonnie Huestis and Gary Walsh, to let him spend the summer with him in LA and play against top AAU competition. Most of Josh’s NBA peers started playing AAU ball by age 10 or 12, thus it is easy to see why, at age 26, Huestis is still, in many ways, a project. A project that, IMO, is on the cusp of being the player he wants to become.

***

Player Grades Explained:

C: Met expectations

Josh’s defensive game could be graded as high as a B+, possibly even an A-, but his offensive game was a train wreck. A shooting percentage of 33% overall and 28.7% puts the Thunder offense at a decided 4 against 5 disadvantage when he is on the floor and a miserable 30% stroke from the free-throw line makes him an easy target for hacking and forcing his banishment to the bench in critical moments no matter how elite a defender he may become.

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Minnesota Timberwolves Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

If the Thunder choose to and are able to, retain Huestis’ services next season, he should spend his off-season developing his perimeter defense and working with the best shooting coach he can find.