Presti Thrilled to Select McGary, Huestis

By Nick Gallo | Thunder Basketball Writer | mailbag@thunder-nba.com

Improving all aspects of the team in the offseason involves a myriad of factors for the Thunder, but the first opportunity comes on draft night. After Thursday night’s 2014 NBA Draft, Thunder General Manager Sam Presti and his staff feel great about the team's position to take the next steps in the process as the summer continues.

With its year-round scouting and evaluation process, the Thunder takes the draft very seriously and treats it as an integral part of its team-building and culture-developing process. Coming off of a 59-win season, Presti and his staff were thrilled to select University of Michigan’s Mitch McGary at No. 21 overall and Stanford University’s Josh Huestis at No. 29.

“We’re really excited to welcome Mitch and Josh to the organization,” Presti said. “We think both of those guys fit the profile of the types of players that we’re looking for. We’re really excited to watch them grow within the organization.”

McGary, a forward and Chesterton, Ind., native, played two seasons in Ann Arbor. In his two seasons, McGary averaged 20.6 minutes per game, 7.8 points and 6.6 rebounds, including 4.4 offensive rebounds, per contest while shooting 58.8 percent from the floor. In the NBA, Presti said he believes McGary can play both the power forward and center positions and that his physicality can be a factor on both ends of the floor.

“We’re thrilled to add a player like McGary,” Presti said. “He’s a guy who has an incredible amount of intangibles that we look for. Number one, he brings an energy and a physicality to the floor. He’s a guy that plays with a great basketball IQ and is able to play a couple different positions.”

At 6-foot-10, 255 pounds, McGary is a high-energy big man who played in the Big Ten, one of the most highly competitive conferences in the NCAA. During his freshman year, McGary was named to the NCAA Final Four All-Tournament team and started all six of the Wolverines’ tournament contests that season. Heading into his sophomore year, he was a preseason candidate for the John R. Wooden Award, the Naismith Award and the USBWA’s Oscar Roberson award. During his career, McGary recorded seven double-doubles and was a part of two Michigan teams that compiled a combined 59-17 record.

Not only does the Thunder believe McGary can be a factor on the floor, but his value as an incredible teammate will bring an added element to the organization. As the Thunder looks ahead to not just next year but future seasons, Presti said he believes McGary will fit into the organization’s overall plans.

“When you have a player who you thinks fits not only your playing identity, but also fits into your roster building construction as you look forward, I think (McGary) was not only a playing addition but also a strategic roster-building addition as well,” Presti explained.

Huestis is a small forward from Stanford University. The Great Falls, Mont., native started all 36 games during his senior season, averaging 11.2 points and 8.2 rebounds in 35.2 minutes per contest while shooting 33.8 percent from the 3-point line. Huestis’ size, quickness and length have all helped him become one of the premier collegiate defenders, which is a skill set the Thunder believes can translate to the next level.

“Josh is a guy who has tremendous winning qualities,” Presti said. “He’s a guy who has tremendous length. He’s able to guard multiple positions. The other thing about him that is very apparent is that he may be one of the best athletes who has walked through our gym.  His athletic testing numbers, in combination with his intelligence as a player and team member, makes a very intriguing package for us.”

During his four-year career in Palo Alto, Huestis played in 125 games, averaging 25.0 minutes, 7.5 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. His senior year, the 6-foot-7, 230-point forward earned a Pac-12 Defensive Team selection for the second consecutive year and registered 69 blocked shots, increasing his Stanford-record to 190 career blocks. Huestis also earned a Pac-12 Defensive Team Honorable Mention selection during his sophomore year. The Thunder prides itself on being one of the best defensive teams in the league, and the addition of Huestis fits the mold of player who can impact the game on that end.

“One of the things that we identified after watching him is that he’s a low-mistake player on the defensive end,” Presti said. “His ability to be in schemes, not only as a young player, but as an elite athlete, is really impressive. This is a guy who, as we look out and we look forward, has the size but also the speed to deal with a lot of different situations on the floor.”

The Thunder also acquired the draft rights to Xavier guard Semaj Christon, who was drafted 55th overall by the Charlotte Hornets. Christon averaged 16.2 points, 4.4 assists, 2.8 rebounds and 1.4 steals per contest while being named to the Big-East Conference’s First Team.

As July 1 rolls around and free agency commences, the Thunder will continue to look at every avenue possible to enhance the roster heading into the 2014-15 season. Thunder players and coaches themselves will be continually working to improve throughout the off-season, with Summer League in Orlando commencing in just over a week.

“Tonight was just one step in the process of evaluating all of our options in the offseason,” Presti said. “We’re going to look at everything we can to improve the team. We feel really good about where we are and the base that we have.”

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