Thunder Rookies Making Progress in Summer League
By Nick Gallo | Thunder Basketball Writer | firstname.lastname@example.org
Exactly two weeks ago, the trio of Mitch McGary, Josh Huestis and Semaj Christon were eagerly anticipating the NBA Draft, but none knew where they might end up.
Today, all three are with the Oklahoma City Thunder in Summer League in Orlando, taking part in the annual competition that gives rookies their first opportunity to truly play professional basketball. All three players have been an integral part of Darko Rajakovic’s Summer League squad so far in Orlando, as the team spends Thursday practicing before Friday’s Championship Day, where the Thunder will likely play in the 7th-8th place game.
More important than the wins and losses for the rookie triumvirate is the progress they are beginning to make as players and the relationships they’re building with the coaching staff and one another.
“This was the best fit for me and I’m happy overall with where I ended up,” McGary said. “Everything worked out perfectly for me to be in this situation.”
“It’s been incredible,” Huestis said. “It’s a family out here. I could tell it right away.”
“It’s been both (exciting and a whirlwind),” Christon said. “It’s been good to get out there and get a chance to play with all the guys on the team and against the other teams too. It’s a good experience.”
All three players have seen success here in Orlando, and shown off how their talents may translate to the NBA level. McGary ranks 12th amongst all players competing here by averaging 13.7 points per contest, and he’s done so on 50 percent shooting, while also racking up 6.0 rebounds and 1.0 assists per contest. Huestis has averaged 5.0 points and 1.7 rebounds per game, while playing lock down perimeter defense, while Christon has averaged 9.3 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game so far here in Orlando.
Each player brings a unique skill set to the table, and the Thunder coaching staff is using this week as a baseline to determine where each man will need to make improvements for the rest of the summer. Regardless of specific tasks, all three rookies are using Summer League as a springboard to prove their work ethic and dedication to getting better.
“I’m just going to keep playing every day and focus on the team,” Christon said. “Whatever happens, happens. I’ll be happy where I am.”
“I’m somebody who every single game I want to be as consistent as possible,” Huestis said. “I want you to know what you’re going to get from me. I see myself as very blue collar, a dirty work guy. I love to do the little things, the stuff that not everybody likes to do, but the things that help the team win.”
“I’m just trying to play with a lot of energy, stay active and trying to get my team extra possessions,” McGary said.
After Friday’s Championship Day game, the Thunder will immediately return home to Oklahoma City, where work will continue for each of these rookies. McGary’s bullish nature in the paint, ball-handling and passing ability will be areas he can use as his calling card, while Huestis looks to his defense and perimeter jumper as ways to make an impact. For Christon, it is his strength, athleticism and attacking nature. After this week in Summer League with their new coaches and one another, all three are looking forward to getting into the INTEGRIS Health Thunder Development Center and getting straight to work.
“I just want to do everything I can to get better,” Huestis said. “I take pride in always trying to improve and doing whatever I can to help the team win. We have a great staff here. I’m looking forward to getting back to Oklahoma City for the rest of the summer, staying in the gym and doing all I can to get as good as I can.”