Hasheem Thabeet became the highest draft pick to be demoted to the D-League yesterday when the Grizzlies shipped him to the North Dakota Wizards. Thabeet apparently lost his backup role to Hamed Haddadi, a guy from Iran whose most notable moment this season (besides getting mocked by announcers) was having problems at the Canadian border on a road trip due to international passport issues. We were bullish on Thabeet during his junior year (even after DeJuan Blair owned him), and leading up to the draft. And we don’t think this D-league demotion is a death knell.
He’s only 23, he wasn’t reared on AAU hoops from 5th grade, and the learning curve has been steep. He made massive strides at Connecticut between his sophomore and junior years. He wasn’t going to be an instant NBA factor.
The real question is why the Grizzlies drafted him in the first place. They had just traded for Marc Gasol, an NBA-ready center with good pedigree. Why draft another center? Even if they thought Gasol could play power forward, then what do you do with a power forward like Zach Randolph, who has 20-10 potential? So drafting a guard would have made more sense in the short term. Did they shy away from Tyreke Evans because of one (really) bad decision he made in high school? Did they pass on Brandon Jennings, Jonny Flynn and Steph Curry because they thought Mike Conley was the future at point guard?
Thabeet will be fine. The guess here is that two years from now he’ll be top five in the league in blocking shots, and posting 10 points and 10 rebounds a night. Think a slightly more athletic Chris Kaman. (Which we realize isn’t the highest of compliments.)