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News » Thabeet comes with risk

Thabeet comes with risk

Thabeet comes with risk
You would think Hasheem Thabeet is exactly what the Thunder needs.

You would think everything from his size to his shot blocking and rebounding would fit perfectly with Oklahoma City and that Thunder general manager Sam Presti wouldn't hesitate to take him and run if he's available when the No. 3 pick rolls around in next month's NBA Draft.

But yet there is a real question about whether the Thunder will fall into the temptation of Thabeet, the 7-foot-3 center from Connecticut who is rated as a top three prospect. It's a question because Thabeet's game has so many questions.

What we know about Thabeet is he's a game-changing interior defender. We know his 4.2 blocked shots per game and 10.8 rebounds at UConn last season only begin to tell the full story of how much of an impact he has at the defensive end.

But we don't know whether those skills alone are enough to win over the Thunder . Don't know whether Thabeet will ever develop into anything more than a defensive presence. And don't know whether he has the heart and hunger to be all he can be or is simply an example of a big man who had the game forced upon him.

"When it comes to workmanlike research and just being meticulous and thorough, I don't think there is a better GM in the NBA than Sam Presti," said Jonathan Givony, president of the Web site "So if anybody is capable of getting to the bottom of who Thabeet is, what his potential is, what he brings to the table, how he fits on a team, I honestly think he's No. 1 in that regard."

Givony, citing unnamed sources, reported on his site Wednesday that the Thunder has spent more time scouting Thabeet than any other NBA team. Presti, when asked about Thabeet late Tuesday night, acknowledged only that the Thunder has tracked him and lumped him into a group of players the team will continue evaluating.

But while interior defense is the Thunder's most glaring weakness, it's imperative that the franchise avoids using a first-round pick on its fourth center in six years who could have little to no impact. Presti inherited a roster that had disappointing big men Robert Swift, Johan Petro and Mo Sene and ultimately passed up Brook Lopez in last year's draft in favor of Russell Westbrook.

"I don't think you make a guy the third pick in the draft because you think he can be a great shot blocker and rebounder and anchor your defense," said ESPN NBA analyst Tim Legler.

"I think for the third pick in the draft, you want this guy to be somebody who can continue to evolve offensively and eventually be a guy who maybe can average 14, 15, 16 points a game to go with double-digit rebounds and three blocks. Then you've got an All-Star."

Legler said he expects Thabeet to have an immediate impact defensively. He's a natural shot blocker who reads and reacts to situations and has great timing, Legler said.

"And he's very athletic as far as going block to block," Legler said. "He's not a guy that has to have the ball brought to his face to block a shot. He can go get them on the other side of the lane."

Thabeet doesn't have good hands, preventing him from cleanly catching passes and going up quickly and powerfully inside. His pick and roll defense needs a lot of work, he struggles with his balance and he is not yet strong enough to hold his position on the low block.

But Thabeet, 22, didn't begin playing Basketball until he was 15. And that could be the silver lining that indicates there's much more potential to tap into.

"He's got a ways to go," said Mike Anthony, who covers the Huskies for the Hartford Courant. "But I think he's got a pretty good career ahead of him."

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: May 23, 2009


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