The Oklahoman’s staff writers discuss three topics surrounding Hasheem Thabeet.
Has Hasheem Thabeet established himself as a quality NBA player?
Darnell Mayberry, Thunder beat writer: I say yes. He’ll never live up to his selection as a No. 2 overall pick. But look past Thabeet’s draft selection and you’ll see a player who’s come into his own in OKC and figured out how to be a solid contributor. He’s not great at anything, but he can be a steady shot-blocker, rebounder and post defender. Every team needs those things.
Anthony Slater, Thunder beat writer: Ehh, depends on how you define quality. He’s been in a solid NBA rotation before, playing 12 minutes a night for the 60-win Thunder two seasons ago. But he’s never really done anything. Never averaged more than 3.1 points. Never been able to defend well without fouling. Never translated that massive size and height into an impactful force. There’s still time — he’s 27 — but there’s not a ton of evidence it’ll one day click.
Berry Tramel, Columnist: Quality NBA player? That’s a stretch. Serviceable NBA player? Sure. Thabeet showed that last season, when he was Kendrick Perkins’ backup and played solid minutes for the Thunder. But he’s fallen from second team to third team with the Thunder. He’s not a guy who deserves 15-20 minutes a game on a quality team. He can help in a pinch.
Did you see anything out of Thabeet this season that makes you think he has a future with the Thunder?
Mayberry: I did, but Thabeet faces two problems: the salary cap and the Thunder’s collection of talent. Financial constraints could keep OKC from retaining Thabeet. The emergence of Steven Adams and the promise of stashed center Tibor Pleiss also make things uncertain for Thabeet. Both of those things are strong factors that work against Thabeet remaining with the Thunder long term. And neither is an indictment on Thabeet.
Slater: No. And the most telling sign may have been when Kendrick Perkins went down for a couple months. With the perfect opportunity to give Thabeet some run, Scott Brooks barely went to the backup big man. He chose to go small, tinker with lineups, experiment with things. It was a sign that Brooks didn’t really think Thabeet could help much. And as the Thunder tries to improve its roster moving forward, there’s no reason to think that’ll change.
Tramel: Sure. He’s got a very favorable contract, plus he’s a super locker room guy, from all indications. And there are times when he’s needed. With Steven Adams and Perkins, Thabeet rarely is needed. But if one of the other is sidelined — as Perk was for a good chunk of the season — then the Thunder occasionally need Thabeet to fill in. And he’s very solid defensively. Still can alter shots, which is a very good trait.
Should the Thunder bring back Thabeet for a third season?
Mayberry: Depends. How aggressive is the Thunder going to be in its attempts to improve the roster this summer? If the Thunder decides to spend on upgrades and needs to shed Thabeet’s salary, it’s a loss OKC can live with. But if the Thunder sticks to its process and remains cost conscious, there’s no reason to let him go. My guess is he’ll be back.
Slater: Thabeet sounds like he wants to be back. But for the Thunder, he’s secondary in this offseason’s thought process. Sam Presti needs to get all his retooling done, explore every possible option and avenue, through draft, free agency and trade. Then, once that’s all done — and only if there is a roster spot available — circle back to Thabeet. Great guy to have in your locker room, one of the NBA’s best bench celebrators, but not at the expense of a needed roster spot.
Tramel: Yes. With a contract coasting just $1.25 million next season, Thabeet is very affordable. If the Thunder is going to carry three centers, why not keep Thabeet? I would be hard-pressed to find a better third-team center in the NBA. If Tibor Pleiss decided he’s ready to start his NBA clock, I guess that could complicate things, but otherwise, I vote for the retention of Thabeet.