Is The 'Thunder Way' Getting In The Way?

Sunday, June 29th 2014, 11:04 pm
By: News 9

Well done, Sam Presti. You've done it to us again.

Oklahoma City had an opportunity in last Thursday's NBA Draft to pick multiple players the casual basketball fan had heard of and knew a little about. Names like Rodney Hood of Duke, Shabazz Napier of Connecticut and Cleanthony Early of Wichita State were just a few of the household names on the board when the Thunder stepped to the plate with pick No. 21.

We should have known Presti would be himself with the Thunder's two picks, which means any conventional wisdom should have been thrown out the window. OKC instead took Mitch McGary, who played in just eight games this past season at Michigan, and Josh Huestis out of Stanford.

The natural reaction, especially with the Huestis pick would be, "Huh?"

McGary showed flashes of his potential in the 2013 NCAA tournament, when he wowed the basketball world with his play in helping Michigan reach the national championship game. He's much more of a known commodity than Huestis, who is probably most well-known for holding former Kansas star Andrew Wiggins to four points on 1-of-6 shooting in Stanford's upset of the Jayhawks in this year's NCAA tournament.

To common folk, yours truly included, the selection of Huestis with players like Early, Kyle Anderson of UCLA and K.J. McDaniels still on the board is a complete mystery. However, Presti and his staff have shown over the years that there is a very specific set of criteria they look for in a player and Huestis obviously fit that model.

It's the Thunder Way, and the implementation of that in the past drafts has propelled the Thunder to the upper echelon of the NBA.

However, at what point is the Thunder Way not enough for Oklahoma City to win a title? At what point do you have to try to bring in the best player in the draft or free agency, regardless of if that player fits the model citizen description you want your players to have?

You would be hard-pressed to find anyone in the basketball world—outside of the OKC draft room of course—that thought Huestis was the perfect player for the Thunder at No. 29. It would be even more difficult to find someone who thought Huestis was a first-round talent.

If you look closely, you'll notice a striking resemblance to last season's draft for OKC: big man, followed by an athletic defender/rebounder no one had going in the first round. Looking at it from that perspective, it would appear the Thunder worked off a formula rather than trying to meet needs.

The Thunder had some specific needs coming into the draft: backup big man, backup point guard and shooters. OKC checked off the first two with McGary and the acquisition of Xavier point guard Semaj Christon. (Side note: I think getting Christon from Charlotte for cash was the best move the Thunder made in the draft. Christon is the best player of the three from a pure talent standpoint and won't have a lot of pressure to be a huge contributor right off the bat. Very important move by Presti with Reggie Jackson looking at a big payday down the road.)

The third issue has not been addressed. Huestis was a career 31 percent 3-point shooter at Stanford and while he is an excellent defender and rebounder, the Thunder already has Andre Roberson on the roster—unless they don't believe in Roberson anymore, which would be a pretty quick trigger for OKC.

There is still free agency to address that need, and any others the Thunder brass feel need to be addressed. Whatever happens, we hopefully won't be expecting Presti to differentiate from his past ways. We won't be surprised this time.