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OKC Thunder: Hasheem Thabeet comes with risk

BY DARNELL MAYBERRY Published: May 21, 2009
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.

Sizing up Thabeet
We asked ESPN NBA analyst Tim Legler to dissect five areas of Hasheem Thabeet:

→MOTOR: I think he’s got a good motor. He seems like he plays hard. That’s what I look for.

→HEART: That’s a tough thing to categorize unless you see him every day. That’s the kind of question I’d have to be around a guy to say what I think of his heart.

→DETERMINATION: Yeah, I think he’s determined. I’d definitely say he’s a guy that wants to win. That’s a big factor.

→PASSION: Hard to tell. When you’ve seen a guy limited times it’s tough to say.

→TOUGHNESS: That’s a question mark. Because when you look at what DeJuan Blair did to him in the game they played Pitt, and Blair had 20-plus rebounds and 20-plus points and he’s giving up eight inches, you start to question things like that a little bit when you see a performance like that out of an undersized power player that just shoved him all under the rim, out of bounds and everywhere. He just had his way with him because he wanted it more. That’s going to raise a question about his toughness.

By Darnell Mayberry


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