Josh Huestis

Josh Huestis Receives Camp Invite From Spurs

Former Thunder swingman Josh Huestis has received a camp invite from the Spurs, Fred Katz of MassLive.com tweets. The news was confirmed by Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune (Twitter link).

There’s been little news regarding Huestis since he entered unrestricted free agency this summer. The Thunder didn’t pick up his fourth-year option prior to last season.

Huestis wasn’t able to establish a steady rotation role with Oklahoma City until his third and last season with that organization. He saw action in 69 games and averaged 2.3 PPG and 2.3 RPG in 14.2 MPG but shot just 28.7% from long range. He also saw spot duty in four postseason games.

The Spurs currently have 14 players with contract guarantees, so there is a roster opening if Huestis shines in training camp. The Spurs have Rudy Gay, Lonnie Walker and Dante Cunningham as small forward options but the retirement of Manu Ginobili could open the door for Huestis.

The 6’7” Huestis was a late first-round pick in 2014 out of Stanford and spent the bulk of his time in the G League prior to last season.

Northwest Notes: Lillard, Grant, Huestis, Bjelica, Towns

Fresh off earning All-NBA honors this week, Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard has reportedly requested another meeting with team owner Paul Allen, according to John Canzano of The Oregonian. The reason for Lillard’s alleged requested meeting is not provided but this is not the first time that Lillard’s camp sought a face-to-face will Allen.

Lillard met with Allen in January to discuss the organization’s plan for the future. For what it’s worth, Lillard responded to this latest report on Twitter and dismissed the report and the source of it.  After being swept by the Pelicans in the postseason, Lillard addressed the possibility of Portland breaking up with the backcourt of himself and C.J. McCollum.

“I don’t agree with it,” Lillard said breaking up the Blazers’ backcourt (via Ashish Mathur of Pro Hoops Digest). “I think it’s that simple. I think it’s the easiest thing to say. I don’t agree with it, though. I’m not the guy making decisions.”

Lillard earned the All-NBA nod after enjoying another productive season in Portland, averaging 26.9 PPG and 6.6 APG.

Check out more Northwest Division notes below:

  • Jerami Grants improvement since he joined the Thunder has been a point a pride for both himself and the organization. As he heads for free agency this summer, Grant — who has admitted he wants to return to the Oklahoma City — may have priced himself out of the team, Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman writes.
  • Josh Huestis proved himself this season but his next NBA chapter may be with an organization other than the Thunder, Erik Horne of The Oklahoman writes. Huestis’ pending unrestricted free agency — just like Grant’s  — is complicated by the financial complications Paul George‘s free agency presents and how he fits on the roster long-term.
  • Timberwolves big man Nemanja Bjelica cannot wait for the opportunity to suit up for the Serbian national team. “I love to play at home,” he said, “and I can’t wait to do it again, soon. Being supported by thousands of fans is the best, and this unity around the national team gives us a lot of extra energy.”
  • During an appearance on The Lowe Post podcast with colleague’s Zach Lowe and Brian Windhorst, Adrian Wojnarowski said he feels that Minnesota would move on from Tom Thibodeau before trading Karl-Anthony Towns (via UPROXX). “I think their owner would trade management/the coach before he would trade Karl-Anthony Towns,” Wojnarowski said. “I don’t think they would allow that. I just don’t believe they’d allow that kind of decision.”

Free Agent Stock Watch 2018: Oklahoma City Thunder

The Thunder are in a unique position with a unique superstar and this upcoming summer will play a major role in how that ultimately plays out. Unsurprisingly, the team’s short-term fate depends on where Paul George signs and that could very well depend on where LeBron James signs.

With a committed George, the Thunder boast one of the league’s most intriguing cores and a front office with a rich history of landing major assets. Without him, it’s not so much of a stretch to picture the club back in the lottery for the first time since 2015.

Carmelo Anthony, PF, 34 (Down) – Signed to a five-year, $124MM deal in 2014
In less than a year, Anthony went from being a coveted veteran star to a radioactive presence with an albatross contract. The 33-year-old has an early termination option for 2018/19 but isn’t about to wave goodbye to the $28MM season he’s been eyeing up since he signed for it back in 2014. Anthony will be back in Oklahoma City next season and has already said that he has no desire to come off the bench. Godspeed, Thunder fans.

Corey Brewer, SG, 32 (Up) – Signed to a one-year deal in 2018
The Thunder added Brewer down the stretch as a replacement for the injured Andre Roberson. The perimeter defender not only subbed in admirably for Roberson, but carved out a role in the team’s rotation heading forward should he decide to return. Brewer is coming off of a comfortable $24MM deal signed in 2015, so don’t expect him to chase the biggest offer he can find if it looks like the Thunder will be able to remain competitive. That said, the club will need to offer more than the peanuts it got him for at the tail end of 2017/18.

Nick Collison, PF, 37 (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $2MM deal in 2017
For the past 15 years, Collison has been a part of the Thunder franchise and there’s always seemed to be a mutual respect between he and the organization. While his days as a key rotation piece are in the rearview mirror, there’s no denying that his presence in the locker room has had a positive impact on the team. The big man hasn’t made a public decision regarding retirement at this point but it may be more likely than not. If Collison does decide to play in 2018/19, expect it to be announced well into free agency after the team’s other dominoes have fallen.

Raymond Felton, PG, 34 (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $2MM deal in 2017
Few would argue that there will be a long list of teams fighting to sign Felton this summer but it’s hard to consider his lone season in Oklahoma City anything less than a success. Felton proved that he can be an effective, cheap bit player for the Thunder, as evidenced by the 6.9 points and 2.5 assists per game he posted in just 16.6 minutes of action. Had he not performed as well as he did, there’s no guarantee he’d even land another full-time gig.

Paul George, SF, 28 (Up) – Signed to a five-year, $92MM deal in 2014
While his first season in Oklahoma City could have gone better from a team perspective, George did little to obfuscate his case for a max contract. It seems inevitable that the star will head west to the Lakers but let’s take the guy at his word if he says he’s at least interested in the notion of returning to the Thunder. The franchise would be well equipped for the next half decade if they could lock George in with Westbrook and Steven Adams, but will that be enough to sway the California native? Wherever he goes, he figures to be earning the max allowable.

Jerami Grant, PF, 24 (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $4MM deal in 2014
Grant was a solid and intriguing depth piece for the Thunder this season, but may be one of the players most impacted by the team’s tight finances. The former second-round pick will see interest from other teams this summer and while OKC could go over the cap to retain him, doing so would have serious luxury tax implications.

Josh Huestis, PF, 26 (Down) – Signed to a three-year, $4MM deal in 2015
Despite world-class athleticism, Huestis hasn’t firmly established himself with the Thunder in three seasons. That being said, he saw consistent action for OKC in 2017/18 in limited minutes. Given that the team will have so much of its payroll tied up in a handful of players in 2018/19 and beyond, the unrestricted free agent could have some appeal as a dirt-cheap option already familiar with the system.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Northwest Notes: T. Jones, Mitchell, Jefferson, Huestis

Timberwolves point guard Tyus Jones played well when Jeff Teague was sidelined with a sprained knee ligament, but there’s no thought about making him the starter, relays Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune. Jones ranks in the top five in the league in assists and steals per turnover and is number one in defensive real plus-minus. Still, coach Tom Thibodeau trusts Teague, who was one of Minnesota’s prize offseason additions, and won’t consider a change.

“Jeff has been around a long time, and Jeff has done a lot of winning,” Thibodeau said. “That’s probably the most important thing.”

There’s more today from the Northwest Division:

  • Rookie guard Donovan Mitchell has become the MVP for the Jazz in a difficult season, according to Mike Sorensen of The Deseret News. The 13th overall pick is leading all rookies in scoring at 18.8 points per game and has four 30-point performances already. Utah was focused primarily on Mitchell’s defensive prowess when it acquired him in a draft-night trade with the Nuggets, so the scoring has been a pleasant surprise. In his other midseason ratings, Sorensen picks Ricky Rubio as the team’s most disappointing player and Royce O’Neale as the most pleasant surprise.
  • The Nuggets plan to use veteran forward Richard Jefferson as part of their rotation for the rest of the season, tweets Chris Dempsey of Altitude Sports. Coach Michael Malone said he wants to see “what we have” in the 37-year-old, who has been playing about eight minutes per night and is averaging 1.6 points through 13 games.
  • After spending most of his first two seasons in the G League, Josh Huestis may have found a role with the Thunder, writes Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman. Terrance Ferguson has taken over as the starting shooting guard with Andre Roberson injured, but coach Billy Donovan has turned to Huestis as a late-game defensive stopper. Huestis, who played just seven combined NBA games during his first two years in the league, is enjoying the opportunity. “It comes down to defense,” he said.

NBA Competition Committee To Review Out-Of-Bounds Replays

Just last week we highlighted how the growing tension between NBA players and officials had gotten to a point where leaders of their respective unions felt compelled to meet. Then, in response to an NBA Officiating Last Two Minute Report, LeBron James came out and stated that the issue irking him most about the officiating is when an official refuses to acknowledge that an infraction occurred (per Dave McMenamin of ESPN).

Now, based at least in large part on a call missed by the officials during the Bucks win over the Thunder on Friday night, the NBA’s competition committee will look into making missed out-of-bounds calls replayable, according to Royce Young of ESPN.

The controversial non-call occurred with less than 5.0 seconds remaining in the game. The Bucks called timeout and set up a play for Giannis Antetokounmpo, who spun around Josh Huestis and finished with a dunk over Russell Westbrook. However, replays visible in the arena clearly showed that Antetokounmpo stepped out of bounds on his way to the hoop.

Unfortunately for the Thunder, the officials were not permitted to review the play because it did not meet the criteria to trigger a review. In order for a review to be triggered under the current replay system, the officials would have needed to make a call on the floor signaling that Antetokounmpo was out of bounds.

As succinctly explained by head official Derrick Stafford after Friday’s game, “In any reviewable matter, there has to be a whistle called on the floor. There was no whistle blown for the play, so we couldn’t review it.”

The NBA’s competition committee will meet in March to discuss this and other issues, but a change, if any, would not be implemented until the 2018-19 season.

Northwest Notes: Westbrook, Huestis, Abrines, Jones, Jazz

In the middle of the Thunder’s resurgence and winning streak has been reigning NBA Most Valuable Player, Russell Westbrook. As Oklahoma City has tried to create a balance for Westbrook and two other All-Stars, Carmelo Anthony and Paul George, the team has struggled to find consistency. Playing behind Westbrook’s lead and not with him trying to lead is how the Thunder will find success, ESPN’s Royce Young writes.

After a slow start, OKC is in fifth place in the Western Conference with a 20-16 record. Anthony believes that Westbrook’s hot streak and the team’s improved play are no coincidence.

“I think the fact that Russ is just playing — not trying to defer to anybody, to any one of us — just playing his game and letting us play off him … I think he’s much more effective by doing that rather than deferring to myself or Paul,” Anthony said. “We know what we bring to the game. We understand it. We accept it. And by that, he’s able to just play his game, relax and do what he does best. We need that. We need that Russ out there. Not the one who defers to us. Let us figure it out.”

Check out other Northwest Division news below:

  • After the Thunder lost to the Bucks on Friday, head coach Billy Donovan said the team needs Alex Abrines to play better, Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman writes. Abrines, 24, got the start on Friday but OKC was down 24 points after one quarter and he never returned. “My feeling is that Alex needs to help our team, and trying to find ways to get him going would be positive for our team,” Donovan said. “That’s why I kind of started him.”
  • Following Abrines’ removal, Josh Huestis got the chance to play the rest of the game and showed some defensive promise against the Bucks, Dawson writes in a separate story. 
  • With Jeff Teague sidelined 2 to 4 weeks with a left knee sprain, Tyus Jones will take over the Wolves‘ starting point guard role for the second time this season and he feels prepared, Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune writes. “Just because it’s not the first time now,” Jones said. “It’s something I’ve done, something we’ve gone through as a team. I’m just ready to go. My first-time experience, I learned it was still just basketball. You’re in the game to start rather than coming in a few minutes into the game, but it’s just basketball at the end of the day.”
  • The month of December has not been kind to the Jazz as the team searches for an identity, Eric Woodyard of the Deseret News writes.

Woj’s Latest: OKC, Huestis, Trade Market, Suns

In the latest episode of The Woj Pod, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski was joined by ESPN’s Bobby Marks and Royce Young to discuss a handful of topics from around the NBA. Since Young covers the Thunder, much of the conversation focused on Oklahoma City’s early-season struggles, but the ESPN trio bounced around the league to touch on several other teams and subjects too.

Let’s round up a few highlights…

  • Despite the fact that the Thunder expressed a willingness to go deeper into luxury-tax territory next year to keep Paul George and Carmelo Anthony around, Wojnarowski is very skeptical, suggesting it will probably just be a one-year run with the current roster. “This would be an incredible [tax] bill for the New York Knicks, the Lakers or Steve Ballmer to pay, never mind Clay Bennett in a small market like Oklahoma City,” Woj said.
  • Meanwhile, Young and Marks questioned the Thunder‘s decision to decline Josh Huestis‘ fourth-year option, indicating that it was likely related to tax concerns. The trio observed that the idea of replacing Huestis with a minimum-salary veteran goes against the draft-and-develop strategy the Thunder have practiced in recent years.
  • With the Cavaliers looking vulnerable and several Eastern Conference teams off to decent starts, Wojnarowski believes that the wide-open nature of the conference could have an impact on the trade market. One executive tells Wojnarowski that it wouldn’t be surprising to see some talent head from the West to the East, since Western teams are less inclined to believe there’s an opening to make it to the Finals, with the Warriors looking as strong as ever.
  • According to Wojnarowski, the Suns were initially seeking a good young player and a first-round pick – or two – in exchange for Eric Bledsoe. Of course, the return Phoenix got from Milwaukee in exchange for Bledsoe didn’t come close to that. Bledsoe’s value had taken a hit because of the public nature of the situation, but Marks points out that most teams already have solid point guards and weren’t ready to make a major trade so early in the season, further limiting the Suns’ options.

Northwest Notes: Murray, Aminu, Hernangomez

The Nuggets have an opportunity to develop Jamal Murray into a significant part of their franchise for years to come, they just need to make sure that they handle things better than Denver’s NFL counterpart has handled their quarterback situation, Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post writes.

Those unfamiliar with the Broncos depth chart need only know that the club has attempted to eke into the postseason with a short-term quarterback rather than organically developing their younger, higher-ceiling, long-term quarterback. Kiszla fears that a hasty acquisition of Eric Bledsoe could put the Nuggets in a similarly short-sighted position.

While nobody is denying that Bledsoe is a solid NBA player, Kiszla writes that the Nuggets would be better off giving Murray the opportunity to learn to be a solid starter. The club should push his learning curve to find out just what he’s capable of.

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

Thunder To Decline Josh Huestis’ 2018/19 Option

The Thunder will not exercise their fourth-year option for 2018/19 on forward Josh Huestis, according to Michael Scotto of Basketball Insiders. The move will put Huestis on track to reach unrestricted free agency in the summer of ’18.

The 29th overall pick in 2014, Huestis would already be in his fourth NBA season if he had signed his rookie contract the year he was drafted. Instead, he spent his first professional season in the G League before eventually inking his four-year rookie deal with Oklahoma City in 2015.

That move was meant to give Huestis a little experience before he had to adjust to the NBA, but he has still been slow to develop for OKC. He only appeared in seven total games in his first two seasons with the Thunder, having been frequently assigned to the team’s G League affiliate, where he could get regular playing time.

Huestis’ fourth-year option would have counted for $2,243,326 against the Thunder’s cap next season. That’s not a huge amount, but if the club hopes to retain Paul George and/or Carmelo Anthony, every dollar saved will come in handy.

Northwest Notes: Crawford, Barton, Huestis

It wouldn’t be much of a stretch for Timberwolves guard Jamal Crawford to be considered the best bench player of the past decade. In fact, Kent Youngblood of the Star Tribune writes, the 37-year-old recently became the second player in the past 35 years to score 10,000 off the bench.

Crawford was no slouch as a starter back in the day – he averaged 20.6 points per game with the Knicks in 2007/08 – but it wasn’t until he slotted into a reserve role with the Hawks that he started winning. Now the veteran is looking to make an impact on the revamped Timberwolves.

It’s an important role, it really is,” Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau said. “A lot of times you have guys who don’t get recognized in the boxscore, but it’s so important to winning. Setting screens, sprinting back in defensive transition. If a guys does that, it helps you win.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • Having made a point of being extra aggressive, Nuggets guard Will Barton has started off the 2017/18 campaign with a bang, Christopher Dempsey of Denver’s official site writes. Barton has averaged 15.4 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game so far this season.
  • A years long G League experiment has resulted in Josh Huestis carving out a modest role in the Thunder‘s rotation. The club will have until October 31 to decide if they like what they’ve seen enough to exercise the fourth year of his rookie contract, Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman writes.
  • A slow start to the season has cast doubt on Andre Roberson‘s role in the Thunder rotation, Erik Horne of The Oklahoman writes. While Roberson struggles, head coach Billy Donovan has experimented with various lineups.