- The Season's Over -

Hasheem Thabeet or Bust for OKC Thunder

May 21, 2009

Connecticut Huskies center Hasheem Thabeet

Hasheem Thabeet Photo Credit: Icon SMI

With the third pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, the Oklahoma City Thunder select…

Who?

After Blake Griffin is taken first overall by the Los Angeles Clippers (sorry, Blake), the two next highest-rated prospects left on the board will be 18-year-old Spanish PG phenom Ricky Rubio and 7-3 shot-blocking menace Hasheem Thabeet of Connecticut. The Memphis Grizzlies pick second, and at this point it’s up in the air as to which of these two they’ll take.

With Mike Conley Jr. showing marked improvement in the second half of last season, there may not be a great need for Rubio; God knows they could use Thabeet’s size. But, then, the Grizz still don’t seem overly attached to Conley, and could use the opportunity to finally send him to Portland in a trade that’s made too much sense for too long, then pin their PG hopes on Rubio.

They’d also be doing the Thunder a big favor, allowing OKC to jump on Thabeet and finally complete their core of young up-and-comers that features Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, and Russell Westbrook. A rebounding, shot-blocking, defensive presence in the middle is one area this team still sorely lacks for–the 22-year-old Thabeet would fill this role immediately and likely step into the starting lineup from Day 1. The Thunder already tried to fill this gap by trading for Tyson Chandler, but were scared off by health concerns.

Maybe that was a blessing in disguise.

In his third collegiate season, Thabeet led his Huskies to the Final Four in averaging 13.6 points, 10.8 boards, and 4.2 blocks per in 36 games. The native Tanzanian didn’t even pick up a basketball until he was 15, which means that even at 22–a bit old by some standards when it comes to the draft–there’s still plenty of room for improvement, especially on offense. Lucky for the Thunder, offense is one aspect of Thabeet’s game they can afford to wait on.

He seems like a perfect fit. Rubio, on the other hand, does not. If Thabeet goes to Memphis, GM Sam Presti should have a backup plan–a pre-arranged trade–ready to execute immediately.

Why Hasheem Thabeet or a trade should be the Thunder’s only options after the break…

That’s not a knock on Rubio. I’m sure he’ll be a fine player. I’m just not sold on the idea of moving the 6-3 Westbrook to shooting guard; if the Thunder aren’t confident that ETB favorite Thabo Sefolosha can step into that starting role, and feel they need to immediately upgrade the SG position, they should do so via a trade for a proven veteran, using that #3 pick as the main bait.

The Thunder don’t need another young project like Rubio promises to be running the show; they’ve reached somewhat of a saturation point when it comes to youngsters. And while Westbrook had some ups and downs during his rookie season, they were mostly ups, and he’ll only improve upon his impressive freshman campaign that saw per-game averages of 15.3 points, 5.3 assists, 4.9 boards, and 1.3 steals. There’s also this guy.

Here’s a thought: how about calling Detroit Pistons GM Joe Dumars, who’s open to trading just about anybody on his roster not named Rodney Stuckey, and talking about Richard Hamilton? Hamilton is exactly the kind of All-Star caliber talent with a proven track record of winning that could have a positive influence on the young Thunder team, not to mention help them win some games. At 31 years old, the well-conditioned Hamilton still has a good 4 years left in him; if Ray Allen can still do it at 34, Hamilton can at 35.

A package of Hamilton, Jason Maxiell, and the Pistons’ first second-round pick (35th overall) for a player (Robert Swift?) and the third-overall pick–a pick which the Pistons would use on Rubio, shifting Stuckey over to Hamilton’s vacated spot at SG–might make sense for both teams.

Of course, that’s just one possible trade scenario. But when it comes down to the words that come out of David Stern’s smug little mouth on June 25, here’s what Oklahoma City Thunder fans should be hoping for:

“With the third pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, the Oklahoma City Thunder select Hasheem Thabeet from the University of Connecticut.”

OR

“We have a trade.”

Related Reading:
- Welcome Back, Shaun Patrick Livingston
- Russell Westbrook Giveth, and Russell Westbrook Taketh Away
- Thabo Sefolosha Moseys Down to Oklahoma
- Kevin Durant is Doing Just Fine at Forward

8 Comments »Posted by Brian Spencer on May. 21, 2009 at 2:33 am in NBA

8 Responses

Have you heard the chatter that Westbrook or Green and OKC’s #3 pick could be up for trade to the Clips for 1st overall? Ft. Worth paper reported it and The Baseline reposted it. Maybe I’m crazy, but I see Jeff Green as having a better pro career than Griffin- he’s got way more skills and is a more versatile piece that I could see doing a lot for a good team in the future, where Griffin seems like a rotation PF, maybe a career starter at best.

There’s always the option #3, not mentioned by you: Draft another young player for either offense (James Harden) or upside (Jordan Hill.) Any thoughts?

Posted by: Brendan K. on May 21st, 2009 at 5:40 pm

Why on earth are you putting any stock in a ft worth paper’s speculation about OKC?

I completely agree with you on Hasheem Thabeet. He will be in a thunder uniform this summer. I love the guy and he has great upside. He’s pretty impressive for only playing basketball for like 6 years and he can only improve from here.

Posted by: Leah on May 21st, 2009 at 6:22 pm

Because the franchise has had such great success with foreign-born, offensively limited project centers in the past? I think Thabeet is obviously better than Sene/Petro, but I don’t know how much better he’ll end up being than his current ceiling.

Posted by: Brendan K. on May 21st, 2009 at 10:09 pm

I hadn’t seen that rumor, Brendan; I’m not sure I believe it. I’ve been very critical about the questionable picks (and ultimately misses) the Sonics’ made at center over the years, but that was then, this is now. Is Thabeet a can’t-miss prospect? Not necessarily. But the fact remains that they have a gaping hole in the middle, that Thabeet is the highest rated center available in this draft, and as long as Westbrook is on the roster, it just doesn’t make sense to draft Rubio (who apparently doesn’t want to be there anyway).

They can’t be afraid of drafting Thabeet because of the Sene/Petro/Swift picks; the Detroit Lions have struck out something like 10 times trying to draft a franchise quarterback, but that doesn’t mean they should stop trying and shouldn’t have drafted Matt Stafford. As for option 3… that essentially amounts to a depth pick, right? Jeff Green and Kevin Durant are the starting 3 and 4–any true PF pick is just depth, and that’s usually not what you’re looking for with a top-three pick.

Posted by: Brian Spencer on May 21st, 2009 at 10:30 pm

Well, Brian, first, I’d say there is NO player in this draft who’s a top-notch center prospect, meaning everybody is either a “depth pick” (plays a position accounted for by the current roster) or else a sign that moves need to be made (like Westbrook out of the PG role, which is a highly debatable topic.)

Mostly, I think we disagree on the immediate future of the OKC Thunder. Look, you if put Rip Hamilton on this team tomorrow, they still won’t make the playoffs for 3 years at the earliest (median age of Green/Durant/Westbrook in 2010: just under 25, which would be the youngest of any this year’s playoffs teams’ starters.) That means you get a Rip who’s helped mentor the younger guys (maybe) at a weak seed, tehy lose first round, and then Rip retires at, say, age 36.

My problem with Thabeet is not really the franchise’ recent bad luck with bigs (that was a dig at Leah), but rather the fact that he is, by nobody’s estimation, the anywhere near the best prospect available at #3 or later in this year’s draft. Nobody is projecting him to be Motumbo, let alone Hakeem. If I drafted him, I’d be happy if he turned into the Samuel Dalembert from a couple of years ago, at best (which would be nice, just not a value equal to the 3rd pick overall.)

The Thunder have cap space and youth. Why not trade down a couple of spots? A swap of the #3 pick for Washington’s #5 and Javale McGee has been floated, according to Chap Ford. Why not use 2009 to grab another best-young-player-available or 3 with their absurd number of picks, and see where the Thunder are in another year? This team will improve no matter what (the core players are too good and too young not to, just look at their progress this year) and taking, say, Demar DeRozen or Jordan Hill at #5 would be, in the absolute worst case scenario, another addition to your hand full of trading chips.

The Thunder have too many options availablet o them to settle on Thabeet at #3. If Rubio won’t play for OKC (as his agent has threatened), there are other ways to develop the team.

Posted by: Brendan K. on May 22nd, 2009 at 2:56 am

All good, fair points Brendan; I think our slight difference of opinion simply boils down to our differing thoughts about Thabeet’s potential to be a good fit for the Thunder over the long run. And that’s okay, we can just agree to disagree on that one.

Posted by: Brian Spencer on May 22nd, 2009 at 4:21 am

As ever, Brian. As ever…

;)

Posted by: Brendan K. on May 22nd, 2009 at 10:42 am

LOL I’m from the year 2011 where Brendan K’s comment is hilarious!!!

“Have you heard the chatter that Westbrook or Green and OKC’s #3 pick could be up for trade to the Clips for 1st overall? Ft. Worth paper reported it and The Baseline reposted it. Maybe I’m crazy, but I see Jeff Green as having a better pro career than Griffin- he’s got way more skills and is a more versatile piece that I could see doing a lot for a good team in the future, where Griffin seems like a rotation PF, maybe a career starter at best.”

Posted by: matt on March 1st, 2011 at 10:44 pm

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