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News » Taking a big man is a risk

Taking a big man is a risk

Taking a big man is a risk
Fans are fascinated with 7-footers.

Maybe it's because the average American male is 5-foot-10.

Most mock drafts are projecting the Thunder will take UConn 7-foot-3 center Hasheem Thabeet with the No. 3 pick in the June 25 NBA Draft.

But what is the track record for 7-footers in the NBA ?

There are always exceptions. But an in-depth look at the past 24 drafts during the lottery era reveals you'll usually be disappointed if you select a 7-footer that isn't the No. 1 overall pick.

Most 7-footers selected No. 1 overall have become perennial All-Stars, players like Tim Duncan, David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, Shaquille O'Neal and Dwight Howard.

The other list - 7-foot lottery selections that weren't the top pick - features very few All-Stars. In fact, many are big men that never fulfilled their potential.

If Thunder general manager Sam Presti decides to use the No. 3 pick on Thabeet - provided Memphis doesn't select the Tanzania native - will Thabeet develop into another Tyson Chandler or Dikembe Mutombo or another Jonathan Bender or Mo Sene?

Jonathan Who?


Bender was a 7-foot high school project from Picayune, Miss. The fifth selection in the 1999 draft, Bender was viewed a potential dominant big man. Like so many other 7-footers, he was more hype than production during his seven seasons.

You're probably familiar with Sene. A Senegal native with limited Basketball experience much like Thabeet, Seattle selected Sene 10th in the 2006 draft. The Sonics hoped Sene would develop into an athletic force in the paint. Everyone is still waiting.

Of the 30 7-footers in the lottery not selected first overall, only eight have averaged 10.0 or more points in their careers, only four the past decade - Dirk Nowitzki, Pau Gasol, Brook Lopez and Chris Kaman.

Nowitzki is an aberration. He's one of the league's top players but is more of a perimeter threat than an in-the-paint bruiser.

Gasol is another European product whose game is unique.

Lopez had a solid rookie season and could be a future All-Star, the rare exception.

Kaman is a solid but certainly not a center you build your franchise around.

That's why talk of Thabeet lacking an offensive game is what you usually get out of most 7-footers.

Half of the 7-footers not selected No. 1 overall in the lottery era have failed to average 8.0 points or 6.0 rebounds, big men like Felton Spencer, Darko Milicic, Eric Montross, Robert Swift, Luc Longley and DeSagana Diop.

The team that ends up with Thabeet can only hope he is more like Chandler or Mutombo than Spencer, Milicic, Montross, Swift, Longley or Diop.

Chandler and Mutombo don't provide much offense but have bolstered defenses with intimidating shot-blocking and rebounding.

That's Thabeet's M.O., although there are questions about many parts of his game.

Whichever team grabs Thabeet, that GM will be lucky if he compiles stats similar to Rik Smits, Roy Tarpley, Benoit Benjamin and former Oklahoma State star Bryant "Big Country" Reeves, the only other four 7-footers not taken No. 1 overall that averaged at least 10 points a game.

History shows just because you select a 7-footer, it doesn't guarantee he'll develop into an intimidating big man that every team craves.

Big men or big busts?

Taking a 7-footer with a lottery pick can be a gamble, unless you're drafting No. 1 overall. Here are five non-No. 1 lottery picks who shined, and five who didn't live up to the hype.


Pick Year Player, Ht. Pts. Reb. Blk. 9 1998 Dirk Nowitzki, 7-0 22.7 8.6 1.0 3 2001 Pau Gasol, 7-0 18.8 8.7 1.7 10 2008 Brook Lopez, 7-0 13.0 8.1 1.8 2 1988 Rik Smits, 7-4 14.8 6.1 1.2 7 1987 Roy Tarpley, 7-0 12.6 10.0 1.1


Pick Year Player, Ht. Pts. Reb. Blk. 6 2003 Chris Kaman, 7-0 10.4 8.3 1.4 2 2003 Darko Milicic, 7-0 5.5 4.0 1.2 5 1999 Jonathan Bender, 7-0 5.6 3.2 0.6 8 2001 DeSagana Diop, 7-0 2.1 3.9 1.1 10 2005 Mo Sene, 7-0 2.2 1.6 0.4


Grizzlies moving up?

The Memphis Grizzlies have the No. 2 pick in the June 25 NBA Draft. But the Grizzlies will explore trying to trade up and swap picks with the Los Angeles Clippers so they can land former Oklahoma standout Blake Griffin, the Memphis Commercial Appeal reported.

The Grizzlies also will listen to offers to move down in the draft, possibly acquiring an established NBA talent, or staying at No. 2 and possibly grabbing Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio, the paper reported.

"We've got a long way to go," Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace told the Commercial Appeal.

Wallace said there was cordial talk - and no threats - when he met with Rubio's agent.

"We had a productive and wide-ranging discussion. It was a good meeting," Wallace told the paper.


Iverson's demands

Allen Iverson said he'll refuse to play a complementary role. After this past season's debacle in Detroit, the nine-time All Star might have a difficult time finding a team willing to meet his demands.

→The Celtics will extend a qualifying offer to Glen "Big Baby" Davis, but coach Doc Rivers said it will probably come down to what Davis can get on the open market.

Ron Artest, who turns 30 in November, is a free agent, but it's uncertain what teams might be interested in the talented but enigmatic guard. Artest's agent is expected to ask for a four-year, $40 million offer.

→Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni loves Stephen Curry. New York is expected to select the Davidson guard if he's still available at the No. 8 pick.

→The Houston Rockets plan to buy a draft pick and raid rosters of cost-cutting teams to try to maintain momentum they gained this season, pushing the Lakers to seven games in the second round.

→Rivers, 47, said he would like to continue coaching "for a long time" but could see himself taking a sabbatical in the next couple of years "to re-energize."

→Detroit, Oklahoma City and Memphis are three teams holding the most salary-cap room. The Pistons expect to be aggressive in a buyer's market. The Grizzlies and Thunder haven't indicated whether they'll be aggressive.

→Wizards coach Flip Saunders has hired Randy Wittman and Sam Cassell as assistants. Cassell, a Baltimore native with three championship rings, played for Saunders in Minnesota.

→Finalists for the 76ers coaching vacancy include Eddie Jordan, Tom Thibodeau, Kurt Rambis and Dwane Casey. Rambis, 51, is the intriguing candidate.


Keeping score

At last week's draft lottery, NBA commissioner David Stern took a humorous shot at the media, specifically sportswriters. Stern joked that because sportswriters love analyzing statistics, maybe league officials should place a reporter's prediction accuracy on press credentials.

"The best news is no one keeps score of what reporters project or predict," Stern was quoted. "So you guys are home free."

Hey, Commish, I'll take the heat.

Before the playoffs, I predicted the Lakers over the Cavs. Both teams have work to do, but I'll stick with both predictions.

Preseason predictions? Not so good. I picked the Hornets and the Celtics in the NBA Finals. On the positive side, I correctly predicted the MVP (LeBron James); the Trail Blazers were the team on the rise; the Kings were the team in decline; and I correctly forecast 14 of the 16 playoff teams.



'Favorite arena'

Thunder players and other NBA players and coaches each week address an NBA topic. This week's subject - favorite arena - had some players choosing their home arena, but not everyone.

Kobe Bryant: Madison Square Garden

→David West: Staples Center

→Nick Collison: ARCO Arena

→Byron Scott: old

Reunion Arena

→Kevin Durant: Ford Center

→Jeff Green: Verizon Center

→Greg Oden: Rose Garden

Robert Swift: Thunder Dome

→Grant Hill: Madison Square Garden

Robin Lopez: Oracle Arena

→Jason Richardson: don't have one

→Chucky Atkins: Madison Square Garden

→Desmond Mason: Ford Center

→Danny Granger:

Conseco Fieldhouse

→Kirk Hinrich: United Center

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: May 27, 2009


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