With the 21st pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, the Oklahoma City Thunder selected Mitch McGary from the University of Michigan.
McGary is a 6-foot-10, 255-pound power forward whose draft stock soared after a surprising freshman season in which he helped Michigan to the NCAA title game. But he returned for a sophomore season with the Wolverines despite being considered a top 10 pick in last year’s draft only to battle back injuries and ultimately miss the majority of the season following back surgery.
He appeared in only eight games this season, averaging 9.5 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.9 steals in 24.6 minutes. As a freshman, McGary averaged 7.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.1 steals in 19.7 minutes. He appeared in all 39 games.
McGary, 22, declared for the draft after testing positive for marijuana in this year’s postseason, an infraction that carries a one-year suspension under NCAA rules.
McGary was widely projected to be a second-round selection this year following his injury-plagued season, but the Thunder again showed it will not hesitate to select a player higher than he is projected if the organization feels he is the right fit.
During his two years at Michigan, McGary earned a reputation for being a hard worker, a quick learner, a relentless rebounder and an all-out hustle player. He showed his ability to step away from the basket and hit mid-range shots, as well as battle for offensive rebounds and putbacks. McGary is not a back-to-the-basket scorer at this stage of his career, but he has good athleticism and all-around skills for a player his size. His ability to pass from the high post, attack the basket with one or two dribbles and finish around the rim made him a constant offensive threat.
With the Thunder thin behind Serge Ibaka at power forward, McGary could be an eventual replacement to Nick Collison, who turns 34 days before the start of next season.
As a freshman, McGary stood out on a team that featured four other NBA prospects. He teamed with 2013 National Player of the Year and last year’s ninth overall pick Trey Burke, as well as Tim Hardaway, Jr., who became last year’s 24th overall selection. Teammate Nik Stauskas was selected eighth overall by Sacramento in Thursday night’s draft, and Glenn Robinson III was expected to be selected in the second round.
With the 29th pick, the Thunder selected Josh Huestis, a 6-foot-7, 230-pound small forward from Stanford. Huestis, who averaged 11.2 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 1.9 blocks as a senior, is heralded as one of the best athletes in the draft and a player capable of defending multiple positions. He also was considered a second-round selection. But once again, the Thunder proved that draft position is not as important to the team as selecting a player the franchise feels is the right fit.
The Thunder did not enter the night with a second-round pick.