When Memphis took Hasheem Thabeet with the 2nd overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, no one thought much of it. Not one way or the other. There were no expectations in a draft that was so thin on centers. In fact, another center wasn't taken until pick 24 (Byron Mullens, Dallas) in said draft. Sure, 2nd overall was quite a reach, but for a team that wanted a big man, Thabeet seemed to be the best pick on the board.
Fast forward to two short years later and it appears that Thabeet might be entering his last season in the NBA in 2012. But with Houston taking him on as a "project" and already having Rockets legend Carroll Dawson, who has a track record of success with big men, work with the remains of the once highly touted prospect, one has to wonder if he is indeed salvageable.
Personally, I believe so. And so does Carroll Dawson. Let's look at some of those reasons after the jump.
First off, let me say that I do not think Thabeet will ever be a "game changer." He would have already shown flashes of that by accident by now if he could be a player of that caliber. But I do believe he can become a serviceable center in this league as a 20-25 minute defensive player.
Unfortunately, I have no legitimate reason to back up this belief. Just a feeling I've got...which was obviously wrong on Jordan Hill. So don't put too much weight on my opinion.
Look, Thabeet has the tools and probably the talent. It's really just up to him. Does he want to be an NBA player or does he just want to collect his rookie contract and go to the mall? His rookie season he showed some promise on the defensive side of the ball in blocking shots. But after suffering a fractured jaw early in his freshmen campaign, he found himself lucky enough to become the highest player ever drafted to spend time in the NBA developmental league.
Since then, he has slowly declined and eventually sent to obscurity at the end of the Memphis bench. Which is easy to do when you have Marc Gasol on your team and playing the same position. But if you talk to Grizzlies fans (yes, they do exist) they will tell you that Gasol isn't the only reason Hasheem wasn't seeing the floor except in garbage time.
Thabeet's lack of motivation has been cited the most when listing his cons. Which is something Dawson talked about with him during his first workout with his newest "project."
We had a informative get together to get his goals, what he wanted to do, what he thought he could do and what his plan was. I listened a lot to him then went to work for about hour and 45 minutes. It was interesting. He is a little bit of a project. He's been in the league a couple years but hasnt played a lot. I like the answers he gave me. We'll see how goes along and how hard he works. I told him right now, he got in this league because people thought he would be a rebounder and shot blocker. I said he got to work on his D and O as well. He's all for it. He sees himself as an up and coming NBA player. He got high goals now.
A good start, I guess. Hopefully this means he has realized he has entered "bust" discussions and it motivates him to actually try. But the big thing was when Dawson was asked if he thought Thabeet was coachable and if Hakeem would possibly be working with him, too, he had plenty more to say.
Oh yeah. The thing about todays workout was that you noticed right away, where a guy thinks he's being punished for having coming out an hour and a half over everyone else, you look at things like that, when I was coaching all those years, we'd bring someone in, I knew they would be good in front of coaches because they wanted to play here, what we'd do is send them with a weight guy to weight room away from the coaches and make them and not have input of them in tough times, and how they responded to that had a lot to do because once they get away from the coaches, personality changes. They come back and the coach says he worked harder than ever. When we look at Thabeet now and end of this season, do we look for development on D or what should fans look for? Or is this process gonna take a whole offseason and summer league before it shows itself? No there will be some things. Like today we changed his free throws. Shot 50% last 2 years so...I told him if you keep shooting like today, you'll shoot about 75%. That's what hooked him in to get started. I like to know about what they think. I got a report from locker room of what he said. It was positive. He was excited. I think Gasol got most of the attention. Thats not fault on the Grizzlies so I dont mind going down there. Coach cant take hour and half for 15 guys every day.
He might. Dream likes to do that. Hes not here right now but wouldn't be surprised if he did. He is a giver. He likes to help. That's fine. Fact is, we have an owner that wants to win. He tries to touch all the bases.
So, it looks like the team is going to give him every chance to succeed, but I wouldn't count on seeing much until next season. I would love to see Dikembe spend some time with the kid, too, since we're trying to make him reach his defensive ability. But who knows if Deke is even willing to do anything like that. Just wishful thinking on my behalf.
So, more and more I think we will hear about how lip service about how he "has come a long way," but I think we should all wait to see the finished product beginning next season. Dawson is good, but he isn't a miracle worker. It was obvious that Hakeem and Sampson both had immense amounts of talent to begin with. Hasheem is still anyones guess. And with the team trying to make a playoff run down the stretch, I don't suspect we'll see the big man on the floor unless they keep crushing opponents like they did the Pacers the other night. But I think setting our hopes on him being a serviceable back up center in 2012 isn't too much of a pipe dream...depending on who is starting there.