The new premium on point guards was pointed out in the NBA playoffs. Players such as Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Tony Parker, Chauncey Billups, Rajon Rondo, Derrick Rose, Aaron Brooks, Mike Bibby, Rafer Alston, Mo Williams and Andre Miller all enjoyed incredible success throughout much of their postseason stints. The list of centers who had significant impacts on their teams? Well, that cluster is considerably more concise. "The game has changed to where it’s not being played with true centers anymore,” said one NBA scout. "But you could give yourself a considerable advantage if you’re one of the few teams that have one.” Fortunately for Oklahoma City, the Thunder already has Russell Westbrook, who figures to soon join the league’s elite list of guards. And so the time has come for Oklahoma City to decide how important a true center is for this roster going forward. The draft is 10 days away. Connecticut’s 7-foot-3 center, Hasheem Thabeet, still could be available when the Thunder picks No. 3. It could be a franchise-changing conclusion. On one hand, interior defense is clearly the Thunder’s most pressing need. Coach Scott Brooks and Co. preach defense daily but don’t have anything close to the anchor in the middle that is the linchpin on many of the league’s best defensive teams. Nine of the 10 teams that finished the season ranked in the top 10 in opponent scoring made the playoffs. The common denominator: all had an interior defender or shot-blocker at the center position. (Nine of the 10 teams that finished at the bottom 10 in opponent scoring missed the playoffs. All but two — Chicago and Phoenix — lacked a difference-maker defensively at center.) But on the flip side, with its roster under construction, the Thunder isn’t in a position to draft for need. Many observers around the league think the Thunder should select the best player available, regardless of position and in spite of Oklahoma City’s gaping hole in the middle. "A lot of teams feel it’s way more important to have a Brandon Roy than a center,” said the scout. "A guy who can run the high pick-and-roll, get to the free throw line, make plays for others. It’s not even close. You’re dead in the water if you don’t have that guy.” ESPN basketball analyst Doug Gottlieb, the former Oklahoma State point guard, said centers still have their place. "Point guards make you instantly competitive and much more watchable,” he said. "But you better be able to stop people from scoring.” Thabeet, many think, can bring those stops. The Tanzania native has been compared favorably to low-post defenders such as Dikembe Mutombo and Samuel Dalembert. But while Thabeet’s shot-blocking and rebounding skills might fit perfectly on the defensive end for the Thunder, it’s his limited offensive game that raises questions and might hinder Oklahoma City from moving toward its desired identity. "The most important thing is, does he fit the makeup of your team and how you want to play?” the scout said. "It’s great to have a guy who can rebound and block shots. But offensively, does he mess up your team and what you’re trying to do? That’s what’s up to each individual franchise to figure out.” The Thunder has more thinking to do than most.