LAS VEGAS — After three years in the NBA, Josh Huestis is in uncharted territory. The former Great Falls CMR standout and first-round pick of the Oklahoma City Thunder is a free agent.
Huestis has spent the summer in Las Vegas training at Impact, a basketball player development facility, with other professional players. He’s been playing 5-on-5 as often as possible, going out of his comfort zone to improve his game, gain confidence and push himself to test his limits.
Improving is critial for Huestis, a 26-year-old role player, as he searches for his second contract in the NBA.
“Staying in (the NBA) is just as hard as getting to the NBA. Trying to extend it as much as I can,” he said. “My whole life, just being able to play multiple years in the leage and have multiple contracts has always been a dream of mine.”
Oklahoma City decided not to pick up the fourth-year team option on Huestis in October, so he’s been prepared for the process of free agency. Huestis has played with Russell Westbrook during his entire tenure and Carmelo Anthony this past season — both of whom gave Huestis advice on his impending free agency.
“Just to do what’s best for me in terms of myself, my family,” Huestis said. “Everybody’s goal at the end of the day is to win a championship. Obviously, I want to take that into account — take into account my family, financial situation, as well as the place I’m going to be able to contribute the most.”
Huestis, a 6-foot-7 forward, has the tools to be an elite defender in the NBA with his mix of length and athleticism. He shot just 28.7 percent from 3-point range last season, though, so he’s focused on improving his shooting stroke. With his length and athleticism, an improved 3-point shot would fit Huestis to the mold of the modern ‘3-and-D’ wing in the NBA.
Teams around the NBA covet those players, as shown by the one-year, $15 million deal Trevor Ariza signed with the Phoenix Suns, according to Yahoo! Sports, after playing a key role in the Houston Rockets’ playoff run this spring. With teams needing to fill their rosters, as well as their salaries, Huestis has many potential landing spots.
However, there is one spot Huestis holds close to his heart.
“I’ve been (in Oklahoma City) my whole career so far. It’s home. If it works out that way, I would obviously love to go back,” he said.