Hasheem Thabeet. 7’3’’, 263 lb. 2009 Big East Defensive Player of the Year, co-Big East Player of the Year and National Defensive Player of the Year. As we all know, Thabeet chose to forgo his senior year with UConn for the 2009 NBA Draft. He has since been projected to go 2nd overall to the Memphis Grizzlies. Oh, and did I mention he’s only been playing basketball for a few years and originally from Tanzania? It sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?
Well I urge you all to think again. I predict he will struggle mightily to live up to the gargantuan expectations of being the 2nd overall pick to the NBA. This is not only because I’m a UConn fan (the prospect of Thabeet returning to play along the likes of Stanley Robinson, Jerome Dyson and Kemba Walker are mouthwatering), but because I don’t think he is ready to live up to the expectations of being the second pick in the draft. Let me explain.
His only real (and most obvious) strength is his naturally-gifted height. He stands a towering 7’3’’ and his wingspan stretches an eclipsing (yea, I just used that word) 7’6.25’’. I can see why these numbers alone would make any fan, coach, and GM perform a song and dance to for his signature. He has the potential to make an immediate impact on the court. This is something that cannot be said for the majority of those who are draft-eligible. His mere presence will alter shots in that opponents will have to take low percentage, looping prayers over his outstretched gangly arms, or be ready for the ball to come back at their face, or smacked into orbit. His ability to block and to a lesser extent, alter shots (unfortunately impossible to be put into a statistic), remain his two primary strengths. It must also be said that his height gives him an advantage in the rebounding department, although his rebounding (especially on the offensive end) leaves much to be desired when his height is taken into account.
I’m not even sure where to begin. Well, let’s talk about offense as his defense capabilities are talked about enough. Simply put, his offensive game is poor. The vast majority of his points come from, offensive rebound put backs, and dunks. In fact, almost half of his FG attempts last season were dunks. Fair enough. If I was 7’3’’, I would try to dunk every single time I got the ball. But I’m not 7’3’’ (only a meager 5’11’’) and more importantly, I’m not projected to go 2nd in the NBA draft. This type of offense will not fly in the NBA. The reason he relies so heavily on dunks and put backs is because he has no other options.
He can’t shoot the ball. “That’s fine,” one might argue, “in fact teams would rather not have their bigs spend games popping up 19 footers”. No, like he can’t shoot the ball at all. However, this is the least of his worries as there are more important things for a 7’3’’ giant to do on a basketball court.
Posting up for instance? His post game is raw to say the least. He has yet to understand that men of his size are physically inept at dribbling the basketball. He also spoils many of the shot opportunities he makes by taking bad shots, or through poor form. This leads to many frustrating turnovers. Why not just keep the dribbling to a minimum, hold the ball high where most people could only reach by elevator and go up strong to the hoop?
Well, another characteristic Thabeet lacks is strength. If he is to do well in the NBA he will need to down some protein shakes and beef up this summer. Toughness is another trait Thabeet will have to learn if he is to do well in the league. As of now, he has not displayed enough toughness or strength with UConn. Too often he was the last one getting back to help on defense, something pretty important for a team who built its defensive scheme around him. However, the best example of his lack of toughness and strength comes from the UConn V. Pitt game, where puny Dejuan Blair (6’7’’) manhandled him (both literally and figuratively). Thabeet managed just 5 points, going 1-5 from the field and 4 rebounds. Blair finished the game with 22 points, 23 boards and I felt the aftershocks of when he flipped Thabeet onto his back for days in my Hartford, CT dormitory. Thabeet will only have more encounters like this in the NBA, except his opponents will be more experienced, bigger, stronger and tougher than Blair.
More importantly, I felt that this game exposed all of Thabeet’s flaws. Blair said before the game he was going to ‘go right at him’ and he did. It worked. He went right into Thabeet’s chest at every opportunity and there was nothing his 9’5’’ standing reach could do about it. UConn’s final four loss against the Spartans also showcased similar problems. Thabeet finished that game with 4 points. A Final Four game. I think that these games proved that Thabeet not only will have problems against quality opposition (which he will face every night in the NBA) but that he is not yet a true basketball player. He still has much to learn about the game. The potential is no doubt there but I say it is too early for the NBA and way too early to be going 2nd overall.
Click the link to see Blair throw Thabeet over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes.