Every year, there are a handful of players selected in the NBA Draft who don’t join their team right away. A good number of them head overseas for seasoning in a process recognized as ‘draft and stash.’
These players essentially have agreements with the NBA team who drafted them, to play overseas in the event that there isn’t a roster spot available for them immediately. The NBA team keeps the player’s rights and monitors their progress.
When the Oklahoma City Thunder selected Josh Huestis with the 29th overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, they made a similar, yet very different arrangement. Huestis essentially became the first ‘draft and stash,’ player to remain stateside.
Instead of venturing to a different country, Huestis spent the first year of his professional basketball career with the Thunder’s G League affiliate, the Oklahoma City Blue.
“It was the right situation,” Huestis told Ridiculous Upside. “It was an opportunity to be close to the organization that drafted me so they could have a direct impact on my development, my game and everything like that.”
Huestis would join the Thunder the following year, but he only played in five games his rookie season and spent most his time in the G League with the Blue. He spent a total of three seasons with the Thunder before the team declined to pick up his fourth-year option in advance of the 2017-18 NBA season.
During his time in the NBA, he never was fully able to crack the Thunder’s rotation. He only received sparse playing time his first two years. Although he did play in 69 games including ten starts his last year in Oklahoma City, that was when they decided to part ways.
Having spent the majority of his professional career in the G League, he’s seen the level of competition expand and grow to the point where it’s become a real pathway for players looking to get to the NBA.
“I think the G League is definitely on its way up, I think it’s continuously improving,” Huestis said. “You see all the players in the NBA now who have taken the path through the G League and have had success at the next level. So I think this is definitely a viable option for guys.”
Huestis himself has seen success in the G League. The 2016-17 season was his best to this point when he averaged 14.6 points per game on 44.5 percent shooting from the field, 38.5 percent from the three-point line, 6.2 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks.
As he’s navigated through the G League the past few years, he’s come to see it as a place where he can be challenged and where he really has to stay alert at all times.
“The competition is high level, it’s elite. There’s a lot of amazing players, there’s a lot of talented guys in the league,” Huestis said. “I feel like it just gets better and better every year. It’s tough, you’ve got to stay working, stay on top of your game because there’s a lot of really talented guys.”
It was a rough start to this season for Huestis. He appeared in training camp with the San Antonio Spurs, but suffered a broken foot and was out of action until this past January. When he was recovered, he joined the Spurs G League affiliate, the Austin Spurs, but didn’t quite look like the player he was becoming.
He played in 28 games with Austin and put up 8.2 points per game and 4.4 rebounds, but he only shot 33.7 percent from the field and 31.4 percent from the three-point line. He did show glimpses though of the defensive player on the perimeter that he has the tools to be.
Bouncing back from this injury, he’s confident that he has plenty to offer to an NBA team.
“I’m just a glue guy,” Huestis said. “I see myself as a guy who can knock down open shots, play defense, be a blue-collar hard worker, and a good team guy.”
It remains to be seen where Huestis’ professional journey takes him next. An invite to summer league with an NBA team could be on the horizon. Overseas is an option, as is the G League once again. But for now, he’s just trying to work on his game and show that he can be a legit NBA rotation player.
“You just try to get better, you never stop trying to improve,” Huestis said. “I think I still have a lot of improving to do and I still have a lot of upside left for me to tap into.”