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OKC Thunder: Hasheem Thabeet has yet to live up to potential

Big man out of UConn was drafted No. 2 overall, but still hasn't reached an elite level.
by Berry Tramel Published: June 26, 2013

MIDWEST CITY — Hasheem Thabeet sauntered into the Carl Albert gym Tuesday to hang out with 50 basketball campers.

If you picked out the two tallest kids, and one stood on the other's shoulders, he still wouldn't be eye level with Thabeet.

At 7-foot-3, Thabeet stood high above everyone. Sort of like he did four years ago this week.

On June 25, 2009, Thabeet was the second overall pick in the NBA Draft, taken by the Memphis Grizzlies.

Blake Griffin went first. James Harden went third. Tyreke Evans was fourth. Steph Curry seventh. DeMar DeRozan was ninth, Brandon Jennings 10th, Jrue Holliday 17th, Ty Lawson 18th and Jeff Teague 19th.

There were some ballplayers in that draft.

Thabeet has yet to join the club.

The Tanzanian, blessed with natural charm and height that makes NBA general managers drool, is among the league's all-time draft busts.

Michael Olowokandi, Kwame Brown, Darko Milicic. That's company you don't want to keep. But that's where Thabeet was headed when he signed with the Thunder last summer. And still might be.

Thabeet played 66 games for the Thunder and 770 minutes. Numbers not all that different from Thabeet's rookie year with the Grizzlies (68 games, 883 minutes), when Memphis quickly grew disenchanted with their premium draft pick.

By February 2011, Thabeet's second season, Memphis traded him to Houston. He was injured, ineffective and barely played. Seven games in all, before he was shipped to Portland, where he played 15 games and was allowed to slip into free agency.

Thabeet, as amiable an NBA player as you'll find, won't talk about those days. Won't discuss his status as a draft bust.

Won't even talk about a possible rebirth in OKC, where the Thunder at least acts like it enjoys having Thabeet around.

“I don't look at it like that,” Thabeet said. “It's another opportunity for me to get better and grow up as a player, also as a person.”

I wanted to chat with Thabeet about his experience in draft workouts four years ago. NBA teams' policy of bringing in potential draftees for interviews and workouts.

What's that like? What kind of things do NBA teams want to know? What do they ask prospects to do?

Turns out, Thabeet is no expert.

“I didn't get to travel a lot and do a lot of that,” Thabeet said. “I had zero experience on that.”

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by Berry Tramel
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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