The Desire for DeJuan Blair
I received an e-mail this afternoon from a fan who, like many Thunder fans, is wondering why OKC didn’t draft DeJuan Blair instead of Byron Mullens. In this e-mail, the author talks about how every explanation he’s heard about why the Thunder and other teams passed on Blair was because of his well-documented knee concerns.
But the writer goes on to question how much risk really was involved if all it cost the Thunder was a second-round pick after Blair fell out of the first round. Then, the e-mailer pens one of the best lines I’ve read since the Thunder relocated:
San Antonio got a steal and the Thunder got stomped in this matter. The glaring weakness for the Thunder this year has been a constant lack of rebounding, and Blair would have been the answer to this deficiency. We could have had Wes Unseld but instead we have Steve Stipanovich.”
I can’t honestly say I was familiar with the career feats (or lack thereof) of Stipanovich until looking him up. And I have no idea whether Mullens will prove to be Stipanovich, Swift, Schintzius or Smits. But one thing we definitely ought not to do is declare Blair the second coming of Unseld.
Blair can ball, no doubt. He’s a beast on the block and a bully on the boards. His 28-point, 21-rebound performance Wednesday night against the Thunder marked only the fifth time since 1992-93 that a rookie has posted a 20-20 game and the first time since his teammate, Tim Duncan, did it in March of ’98. Shaquille O’Neal, Alonzo Mourning and Joe Smith are the other three.
But Blair might not have been a good fit on the Thunder. Sure, that might sound silly after seeing him slay the Thunder on Wednesday night. The thing to remember, though, is the Thunder is building for the long haul. In San Antonio, Blair is cheap production off the bench for a Spurs team that is a championship contender as currently constructed. In Oklahoma City, the outlook is for five, six years down the line.
The Thunder didn’t have a second-round pick in 2009, but I certainly can’t argue with anyone’s logic if they reason that OKC should have sent cash to any team drafting early in the second immediately when Blair slipped out of the first 30 picks. Cash-strapped teams like Washington, Portland and Denver, drafting 32nd, 33rd and 34th, respectively, all ahead of San Antonio at 37, certainly would have listened.
But the draft, as we all know, is based on potential. Are we to assume Blair has more upside than Mullens? The Thunder might have made the right call in passing on Blair. OKC might have blown it. Only time will tell. But where will Blair be when Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Jeff Green are hitting their strides five years from now? How will those knees, with their missing ACLs, have held up? Will Blair still be the same outstanding dirty worker or just an ordinary 25-year-old with no lift?
Strange, though, that the e-mailer cited Stipanovich. My quickie research informed me that he was the second overall pick behind Ralph Sampson in 1983. He played five fairly productive seasons before, of all things, knee injuries derailed his career.
Suppose the Spurs drafted Stipanovich?
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