As was expected, former No. 2 overall pick Hasheem Thabeet will sign with the Thunder once the free agent moratorium is lifted July 11.
The Thunder have long been taken with the 7-3 big man and have inked him to a two-year deal, according to Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports. The expectation is a fully guaranteed, minimum level deal (totaling about $880,000 per year).
According to league sources, Thabeet to OKC was all but assured once free agency began as the Thunder showed immediate interest in the well-traveled big man. Thabeet met with the Thunder earlier this week, checked out the practice facility and had a physical done in OKC Tuesday.
Entering his fourth season, this will be the fourth team for Thabeet.
If you’re saying to yourself, “What???” hold up. It’s a deal that makes a lot of sense for the a Thunder. A veteran minimum deal for Nazr Mohammed was going to cost around $1.5 million a season, and that’s assuming a vet minimum deal was enough. And with the Thunder ready to add Cole Aldrich to the rotation full time, bringing in Thabeet and adding him to the “program” is smart. There’s no denying there’s a least some potential in that 7-3 frame and it anyone is getting an ounce of it out, it’s the Thunder.
Plus, it’s a cost-effective move, trimming a little bit of salary, which at this point, every dollar matters. The Thunder likely will save $3-4 million in signing Thabeet over another veteran big, like Mohammed. Because Thabeet has played only three seasons, he’s virtually the cheapest third big the Thunder could’ve signed, and at 25 years old, he’s one with at least some room to grow.
In 135 career games, Thabeet has averaged 2.2 points, 2.7 rebounds and 0.9 blocked shots.
Is he a bust? So far, absolutely. He’s been mostly a joke of a player and not anything of value to an NBA roster. I’m not going to sit here and pretend he’s some ideal contributor. But he can play a little. Especially if he’s got a specific role to rebound and block shots. Per 36 minutes for his career, Thabeet averages 3.0 blocks per game. A prominent NBA assistant coach said last year that Thabeet’s issue isn’t necessarily that he’s lazy or complacent. It’s just that he doesn’t really know how to work or get better. He’s always been big, and that’s been good enough at every level… except the NBA.
Thabeet isn’t being added to play major minutes. He’s essentially moving into the Honorary Cole Aldrich Role of capping off blowouts with an obligatory dunk. But at the same time a low risk, potentially high reward talent to have on the bench.
After signing Thabeet July 11, plus draft pick Perry Jones III, the Thunder will have 14 players under contract, one short of the league allowed 15. The Thunder have also been rumored to be looking at Devin Ebanks, Daniel Orton, Derek Fisher and Roger Mason.
I’m excited about this move mostly because it means Aldrich is ready. He’s ready for big minutes. I watched him warm a lot during the playoffs and he’s been working. I really think people are going to see something they like during Summer League. He can consistently hit a skyhook — with either hand — from basically eight feet and in. He just looks a little lost on the court and doesn’t seem to have a great sense of where to be at times, but that’s often something that comes with playing. Hard to get the feel of an NBA game when you don’t play in them.
And don’t assume that because Aldrich hasn’t played the last two years that he doesn’t have anything. Where exactly was he set to get minutes on this team? The door hasn’t really been opened until now.
Again, getting pumped about this Thabeet deal isn’t wise. You probably won’t see a lot of him over these next two years unless the Thunder really do have a magical developmental program. But like I said, he’s likely to be cheaper than Mohammed, can fill the roster out, adds size and in a pinch, can rebound and defend the rim a little. He’s six fouls to use if needed or play three or four spot minutes.
This isn’t anything game-changing. But it’s wise and makes a lot of sense, which shouldn’t come as a surprise with this organization. Assuming Aldrich is ready, it’s essentially a no-risk, no-brainer move, with the potential for a little reward.