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He's Back: Grizzlies Recall Hasheem Thabeet

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After a fruitful stint in the Developmental League, Hasheem Thabeet is going to be back with Memphis Grizzlies tonight.

Thabeet was playing with the Dakota Wizards for 6 games, and over that time the Wizards were 5-1. He averaged 13.8 points, 11.2 rebounds, and a solid 3.17 blocks per game. Those stats might not seem fantastic, but Thabeet wasn't starting initially and only averaged 31 minutes per game.

The Grizzlies homepage obviously painted his time in the D-League as picture perfect:

The 7-3, 267-pound center, who led the Wizards to a 5-1 record, scored a D-League career-high 19 points on Feb. 28 at Fort Wayne and grabbed a personal-best 18 rebounds on March 5 at Tulsa. [...]

The 23-year-old rookie is averaging 2.5 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.16 blocks (second among first-year players) in 50 games with the Grizzlies.

Obviously that's not the whole story, though. Like everything in the world, there's a more nuanced view. Get over the jump for the close coverage, mostly relying on Ridiculous Upside's excellent coverage.

My source for all these is primarily Ridiculous Upside, as I'll admit that I didn't manage to find the time to watch all of Thabeet's D-League adventures. I'm also drawing a bit on the Commercial Appeal, although it means very, very little to me in the scheme of things since Tillery whitewashes stories as bad as the Grizzlies's homepage.

Anyhow, here's what Scott Schroeder summed up nicely:

He is who we thought he was: A big, raw, potential-laden rookie with a lot of developing left to do.

Fully agreed. Hasheem Thabeet's time in the D-League did absolutely nothing to surprise me, just like Scott. We already knew all these things about Thabeet:

  • Good rebounder because of his size, bad rebounder for his size: You watched the games and saw the same exact Hasheem Thabeet you saw in the NBA. It's easy to assume that Thabeet wasn't rebounding fundamentally because he was being lazy against D-Leaguers, but that's just been his game so far. Whether he's supposed to be boxing out Dwight Howard or B.J. Mullens, Thabeet hasn't really gotten it done. He still sports a great rebound rate (he's averaging 10 rebounds per 36 minutes in the NBA), just like he did in the D-League. But it's hard to not want more, since he's got Yao Ming size with D12 hops.
  • Good shot-blocker, bad defender: Just like his rebound rate, Thabeet's got a solid block rate in the NBA (4 blocks per 36 minutes), but he's not a good defender, per se (especially since he's also averaging almost 7 fouls per 36 minutes). The same thing was highlighted in the D-League: He would show on guards too often, allowing them to either hit his man or go up just for contact [more common at the NBA level]. He's got to figure out the game much, much better before he'll be a defensive force.
  • Not good at offense, ever, at all: Thabeet didn't play that well offensively, at all. If you're 7'3" tall, you should practically automatically score 14 points in 31 minutes. That's putting in all your offensive rebounds, which should be automatic when you can dunk by raising your hands in the air. The Wizards tried to post Thabeet up occasionally in the games I saw, but his footwork is bad and he didn't get great position to begin with anyhow. He was, however, more effective then you'd be led to believe when catching alley-oops. His hands might be bad, but the kid can out-jump anyone.
  • He's pretty freaking lazy: Scott chalked up Thabeet's laziness to playing in the D-League. I'm not so sure. In my opinion Hasheem Thabeet just doesn't have that will to be excellent. Those Nike commercials that show Carmelo Anthony shooting 100 turnaround jumpers from the same spot seem cliched until you see Melo drain one in the game. I don't think Thabeet stays in the gym for 10 extra defensive rotations, and probably even less jumpers, to get much better. He just seems too down to earth. Dwight Howard is that way too, that is until he's in the game and elbowing Samuel Dalembert in the face.

Obviously it's still way too early to call Hasheem Thabeet's career quits, but these are both fundamental and enormous flaws. At this point in his career, his #2 selection notwithstanding, Thabeet should be much better at every single one of these things. He just isn't advanced enough to play in the Association right now.

But I'm not convinced he should be in the D-League. I didn't see a shred of anything new, a shred of any improvement, while Thabeet was with the Dakota Wizards. Obviously 6 games isn't indicative the the D-League experience. I don't think that experience is what he needs, though. Thabeet needs teaching, and that's hopefully what he'll get from NBA-level players and coaches.