First the Perry Jones “gamble,” now Hasheem Thabeet? Source says Oklahoma City is the most likely landing spot for the 7-3 center who was taken No. 2 by Memphis in 2009 and will be playing for his fourth team (assuming he doesn’t sign with Portland, Houston or the Griz).
Thabeet is an unrestricted free agent and likely wouldn’t command much of a deal. The Thunder have always been interested in taking a flyer on Thabeet, even coming close to working a deal for him a couple years ago while he was still in Memphis. The Thunder feel strongly that put in their program, Thabeet still has the tools to develop into something worthwhile.
There’s something to be said for a 7-3 guy that was taken second overall, especially when you’re talking a minimum level kind of contract for him likely to just practice and work. And in the Thunder culture based around development and growth, maybe Thabeet could finally realize a little of that talent he has. People are the league have told me that Thabeet isn’t a knucklehead. He just hasn’t had the kind of work ethic necessary to make it in the NBA.
It’s a very low risk, high reward kind of move. Thabeet wouldn’t cost much, and with veteran Nazr Mohammed a free agent, OKC either needs to re-sign him or will be in the market for a new backup, or third string big, assuming Cole Aldrich steps into the rotation.
Consider this too: A veteran minimum salary for Nazr Mohammed would be about $1.4M and he might not even take a minimum. OKC can likely sign Thabeet for less than that. A minimum salary for Thabeet would be about $1 million a year.
Obviously with every penny spent, everyone wonders how this might impact the future of the roster, but you have to fill out a team. You have to make sure you have the right players to put on the floor. And again, the major salary concerns don’t necessarily hit until next season.
If Aldrich is truly ready to become OKC’s backup center — and I think he is — then the Thunder need a third big. It could be Mohammed, who likely would be fine remaining in OKC, but Thabeet is opportunity to take a shot at developing something for the future. Plus, probably cheaper.