Tahlequah Daily Press

Thunder/NBA

June 27, 2014

Thunder drafts McGary, Huestis in 1st round

OKLAHOMA CITY — Sam Presti isn't worried about Mitch McGary's past issue with marijuana.

The Thunder took the Michigan big man with the 21st overall pick. He played just eight games last season after electing to have back surgery. He then tested positive for marijuana and faced a suspension, so he left school after his sophomore year.

The way he handled the situation impressed Presti.

"He took accountability," Presti said. "He showed that he was remorseful. He said publicly that he's really learned from it. We've done an incredible amount of due diligence on him. If I wasn't comfortable with the work we've done the last three years, then we wouldn't have moved forward."

McGary, at 6-foot-10 and 255-pounds, averaged 9.5 points and 8.3 rebounds last season. Oklahoma City might be looking toward the future at the power forward and center spots. Starting center Kendrick Perkins and reserve power forward Nick Collison are entering the last year of their deals. Presti said he likes McGary because he's intense and can play both power forward and center.

The Thunder took Stanford's Josh Huestis with the 29th pick. Oklahoma City will get No. 55 pick, guard Semaj Christon, from the Charlotte Hornets in exchange for cash, the Hornets said. The Hornets had acquired the rights to Christon from the Miami Heat.

The 6-foot-7 forward, averaged 11.2 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game as a senior last season and helped the Cardinal reach the Sweet 16. He was named to the Pac-12 Defensive Team both his junior and senior years. His selection makes sense because starting shooting guard Thabo Sefolosha is an unrestricted free agent, and Huestis fits what the Thunder want from that position — a lockdown defender who can also make open threes.

"He may be one of the best athletes that's walked through our gym," Presti said. "His athletic testing numbers, in combination with his intelligence as a player and team member makes a very, very intriguing package for us."

Christon, a 6-foot-3 point guard from Xavier, averaged 17 points, 4.2 assists and 1.3 steals last season as a sophomore. He fills a need because one of Oklahoma City's reserve point guards from last year, Derek Fisher, now is coaching the New York Knicks.

The Thunder have selected wisely over the years. They drafted much of the team that reached the NBA Finals in 2012 and the Western Conference finals three of the past four years, including Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and Reggie Jackson. The Thunder picked up solid contributors Steven Adams and Andre Roberson on draft night last year.

The newcomers join a Thunder squad that is knocking on the door of an NBA title. Oklahoma City is coming off a 59-23 campaign that ended with a loss to the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference finals.

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