There is one word that is used to describe Hasheem Thabeet more than any other word: bust.
It’s a fair description. Up to this point in his career, Thabeet has not lived up to the expectations that go along with being drafted second overall in the NBA Draft. Thabeet has already played on four different teams now in his fourth season in the league and is averaging 2.3 points per game in his career.
Now in Oklahoma City, things seem to be changing for Thabeet. He might actually be turning into a solid NBA player instead of someone who is the bud of a joke.
Thabeet had his first career double-double last night in the Thunder’s 45-point rout of the Charlotte Bobcats. He’s playing 12.8 minutes per game for the Thunder this season and leading the league in field goal percentage at 80 percent (minimum 20 field goal attempts).
Taking just 20 shots on the year so far is a small sample size but nonetheless Thabeet has been far better than expected in OKC. And on top of his high field goal percentage, he is also shooting 82.6 percent from the free throw line and taking almost two per game.
When Thabeet came to OKC this season, he wasn’t even expected to be playing at first. Then the Thunder traded Cole Aldrich to the Houston Rockets and the backup center position suddenly opened up for Thabeet to step in.
Thabeet has been described as a completely different person by his former teammate in Houston, Kevin Martin. Martin says that Thabeet is working much harder than he did when he was with the Rockets and it is showing on the court.
Remember, Thabeet wasn’t picked No. 2 overall in the 2009 NBA Draft for no reason. There was some serious potential that he showed in college. You can’t teach his 7-foot-3 size and he has always been more coordinated than most at the height, blocking shots with relative ease and running the floor.
The game is faster when you get to the NBA from college. It was a big learning curve for Thabeet and for someone who hadn’t even been playing basketball as long as most, it’s taken him awhile to get used to the speed of the game. Combine that with never really getting much of a chance in games in his first three seasons and it’s not surprising at all that he didn’t succeed.
The role in OKC for Thabeet is a simple one and one that is catered to what he can do. He’s not asked to do anything other than come in and play hard. He has six fouls to burn every game and the Thunder would be fine with him using them 82 times this season.
The pressure is off Thabeet. We were already to forget about him then he landed in the perfect place. We’re finally starting to see some of the talent that Thabeet promised back in college.
Thabeet is still a long way away from being a player that will make the Thunder rotation in the playoffs. Last year’s backup center Nazr Mohammed basically stopped playing at all when the playoffs came around and the rotation was shortened by head coach Scott Brooks.
There’s a good chance the same thing will happen to Thabeet but maybe not. He looks to be getting better every game and building confidence night after night. And it’s not as if the second unit for OKC is in perfect shape. It could use someone like Thabeet stepping up and becoming a force to be reckoned with.
Thabeet appears well on his way to finally becoming a good NBA player in OKC. Still a bust, but at least good.