Josh Huestis, 6-foot-7 small forward, Stanford
Without putting up gaudy scoring numbers or playing for the most high-profile team, Huestis has become a viable draft prospect because of his unique game. A big-time athlete, Huestis is regarded as a high-level defender, with the ability to guard multiple positions on the next level. At the same time, he’s far from a finished product on the other end of the court and even as a defensive specialist will need to shore up some of his deficiencies.
Career highlights: The Montana native played sparingly as a freshman, averaging 2.3 points and two rebounds per game, then emerged as an important reserve as a sophomore, averaging 5.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and 1.2 blocked shots per game, as Stanford won the NIT. His junior year, Huestis posted per-game averages of 10.5 points, nine rebounds and 2.1 blocks, while shooting 46 percent from the field and earning Pac-12 all-defensive team honors behind games like his 10-block performance against Seattle and 17 points, nine rebounds and six blocks against Arizona State. As a senior, Huestis averaged 11.2 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game, while shooting 33.8 percent from 3-point range for the second consecutive season and again making the conference’s all-defensive team, with outings like 11 points and 18 rebounds against USC and 22 points and 12 rebounds against Arizona highlighting his final campaign, which ended in the Sweet 16.
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Strengths: A fantastic shot-blocking presence for a wing player, Huestis makes great use of his length and explosiveness, but his high motor is the key to how he impacts games defensively, flying around the court as a help defender, locking in on his man and guarding both big men and quick guards. With his above-the-rim finishing ability, he’s also a constant threat in transition, on the offensive glass, finishing off of teammates’ penetration or as a broken-play scorer, all areas where he doesn’t need the ball in his hands or plays called for him. While Huestis still isn’t a great outside shooter, he’s made enough strides in that area to show promise, as well as possessing the ability to score over smaller defenders in the post and as a straight-line driver, he can get to the rim, not to mention rebounding very well for his size and position.
Weaknesses: Offensively, Huestis isn’t a highly skilled player, lacking both the ball skills to create for himself or teammates consistently and reliable-enough shooting to knock down open jumpers on a regular basis. He proved capable of guarding big men in college, but even with his strong frame, that could be too tall of a task on the next level, literally and figuratively. But the biggest concern about Huestis is as a scorer, as he has to demonstrate some level of competence as a true wing player in half-court situations so that his team isn’t playing 4-on-5 on offense.
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Draft projection: Gradually becoming a mid-to-late candidate for the second round, even if Huestis isn’t drafted, he’ll certainly be on a team’s summer-league roster and will be afforded the chance to show what he brings to the table in a setting that should help him fully showcase his ability. Depending on where he lands, that should even carry over to the structure of training camp, as his defensive prowess, rebounding ability, explosiveness and motor are all very evident and could appeal to a team with needs in any of those departments. If he can eventually develop a reliable long-range jumper, Huestis could have a long, productive career as a substantive 3-and-D player, perhaps cracking a rotation early in his professional career, though seasoning in the D-League or overseas isn’t out of the question if he doesn’t find the right fit.