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OKC Thunder: Thunder might have a diamond in the rough in Hasheem Thabeet

Spurned by other NBA teams, Thabeet has found a home — and somewhere to play — in Oklahoma City.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: June 5, 2013

When the Thunder signed Hasheem Thabeet last July, news of the deal created a chain reaction that consisted of two interrelated things.

Confusion. And comedy.

People, fans and media alike, didn't understand why Oklahoma City was taking on a player many had been written off as a bust. Their bewilderment led to the Thunder becoming the butt of jokes.

Eleven months later, the Thunder is now inching closer to getting the last laugh.

That's because Thabeet used his first season in a Thunder uniform to prove that he belongs in the NBA.

The 7-foot-3 center from Tanzania averaged 2.4 points, three rebounds and 0.9 blocked shots in 11.7 minutes. He played 66 games — including four as a fill-in starter — and that was one shy of matching his total from the previous two seasons.

More significantly than his modest statistics, Thabeet provided an impact, giving the Thunder size and depth at the center position

“I'm happy with how the year turned out,” Thabeet said.

At 26 and entering his fifth season, Thabeet might not become the defensive star he was projected by many to be when he was selected second overall in 2009. But no longer is it laughable to think the Thunder might have picked up a diamond in the rough. Thabeet has shown promise as a rebounder and shot-blocker, two of the most critical things the Thunder seeks from the center position.

Extrapolate Thabeet's production over 36 minutes, or a starter's typical playing time, and his value becomes much more apparent: 7.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, 2.8 blocked shots, 1.4 and 60.4 percent shooting.

Thunder coach Scott Brooks and GM Sam Presti, two of Thabeet's biggest supporters from the start, both understand how successful Thabeet was this season and both made sure to encourage him to build on this year.

“They said I shouldn't settle,” Thabeet said. “I've got to come back hungry for more and just keep working.”

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by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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