If the Thunder takes the draft-and-stash route in next week's NBA Draft, this year's 24th overall selection likely will join another prospect on the Euro circuit whose draft rights are owned by Oklahoma City.
Tibor Pleiss is a name that's familiar to some and still perhaps foreign to most. But he's a potential key piece in the Thunder's future.
For those who aren't familiar, the Thunder acquired Pleiss, the 31st overall selection in the 2010 draft, following a series of draft-night trades. But rather than bring Pleiss over immediately, the organization allowed the 7-foot-1 German center to continue developing in his native country.
For those who already know about Pleiss, may we suggest to you to remain patient. Don't expect to see him in a Thunder uniform anytime soon. Whenever the curtain is lifted on the 2011-12 NBA season, Pleiss doesn't figure to be a part of it. It appears the big man who the Thunder thinks has big potential will stay overseas for additional seasoning.
When asked about the plan for Pleiss, Thunder general manager Sam Presti did not provide exact details of the team's intentions. But listen to the GM discuss Pleiss' future and it sounds pretty clear that neither side is ready for him to make the jump.
“Tibor, we like,” Presti said. “We're in constant communication with him and following him. He's progressing well. We cannot speed up his development. We're excited for where he is. But we've got to let him be him. We'll continue to watch him this summer.”
Pleiss, who's played professionally overseas since he was 17 and will turn just 22 on Nov. 2, still has one more year on his contract with his overseas club, Brose Baskets. That gives the Thunder one more reason to leave Pleiss in Germany.
But there are plenty of others.
The Thunder will have just three open roster spots this summer. Nazr Mohammed, Daequan Cook and Robert Vaden are all free agents. Mohammed and Cook might return.
But Pleiss simply might not be ready for the NBA. Though he's listed at 242 pounds, Pleiss is still thin and needs to bulk up. His game is still far more finesse than power. Because big men historically take longer to develop than guards, it's no telling how soon Pleiss will improve his perceived weaknesses. And Pleiss has always been viewed as a long-term investment rather than a player who could provide an immediate impact.
In 10 regular season games with Brose this season, Pleiss averaged 6.7 points and 6.3 rebounds in 19 minutes. Not bad production considering the stronger emphasis on team play internationally.
Still, there might be expectations for Pleiss to chart the same course Serge Ibaka took. Ibaka was a relative unknown when the Thunder franchise selected him 24th overall in the 2008 draft. He played the following season in Spain before joining the Thunder and developing into a shot blocking force in just two seasons.
The two aren't comparable, though.
Ibaka had so much elite athleticism that he could hold his own and have an impact even as a raw rookie. Pleiss doesn't possess those same natural gifts to cover up his weaknesses and all that he doesn't know.
“One thing we have learned over the years is that everyone's development curve is drastically different,” Presti said. “And a lot of times it has to do with opportunity; different situations.”