Oklahoma City Thunder: What to watch for with OKC's main summer league players

As many as seven players on the Thunder’s summer league roster could be wearing Thunder jerseys next season. So as the week unfolds, here is what you should be watching from the Thunder’s main summer league players.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: July 4, 2014
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Much is at stake over the next seven days for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Pride is in play, and legacies are on the line as the Thunder looks to defend its 2013 summer league championship

Just kidding.

But don’t underestimate the value of the next week. When the Thunder walks into this year’s Orlando Pro Summer League, opening its five-game slate with a 4 p.m. contest against Memphis, a good portion of Oklahoma City’s projected 15-man roster will be on hand. For the team’s young players, this setting will provide another pivotal opportunity to develop. For everyone else, it’s a chance to see just how much the pups have grown or, in some cases, still have to learn.

As many as seven players on the Thunder’s summer league roster could be wearing Thunder jerseys next season. Five of them we know will be in town.

So as the week unfolds, here is what you should be watching from the Thunder’s main summer league players.

STEVEN ADAMS

Has a skill: Physical play is what Adams does best at the moment. He bangs against anyone and earned a reputation in his rookie season for being a pest. But we saw signs throughout last season of Adams being capable of much, much more than being a mere nuisance. He rebounds well, is fantastic at running the floor, catches and finishes around the rim and is a solid passer.

Needs to drill: Defense is what Adams needs to do better. He had some nice moments on that end as a rookie. But there were many more where he was baffled in pick-and-roll coverage and a step slow or simply lost in other team concepts. It was to be expected out of a rookie with a limited basketball background. But shoring up those defensive skills will be critical for Adams to blossom into the player many believe he can be. Free-throw shooting is also a sore spot. Adams shot just 58.1 percent from the foul line last season.

He’ll have a successful summer league if: He limits his mistakes defensively, shows a little more polish on the offensive end and continues to flaunt the all-out hustle that made his rookie season a success.

JOSH HUESTIS

Has a skill: Since the night he was drafted, all we’ve heard about is what a great defender Huestis is. We’re about to get our first glimpse at what he might be capable of at the next level. Huestis is said to be capable of guarding small forwards and power forwards because of his size, strength and length. The Thunder at this point is not looking for much else from Huestis outside of defense, hustle and consistent effort, all the things that got him drafted.

Needs to drill: Offense is not Huestis’ strong suit. He’s developing as a shooter but struggles to put the ball on the floor and create his own shot. He knows his strengths and tries to limit his weaknesses, so don’t expect him to transform into Rudy Gay. But those offensive areas are some of the things Huestis can really work on in this summer league setting.

He’ll have a successful summer league if: He lives up to the hype as a defender, rebounder and hustler. Anything he provides offensively will be icing on the cake. But we’re looking for Huestis to wow us in at least one game with his defensive effort.

PERRY JONES III

Has a skill: He’s 6-11, with long arms and world-class athleticism. There isn’t much Jones can’t do on a basketball court. He’s a rapidly improving shooter, a useful defender and a terror in transition.

Needs to drill: His energy. It was the knock on him coming out of college, and after two years it remains a question mark. There are times when Jones is just out there, not making an imprint on the game in a positive or negative way. He’s talked about needing to learn how to get the most out of his athletic ability and turn it into productivity. Now would be a great time to practice doing that. It’s the most critical thing for Jones at this stage in his career.

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by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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