SLAMonline Mock Draft: Hasheem Thabeet, No. 2
The Commish picks a defensive big man. But is he tough enough?
With the second pick in the 2009 SLAMonline Mock Draft, the Memphis Grizzlies select…
Hasheem Thabeet. Every time I see this Ricky Rubio mix or this one or that one, I fleetingly convince myself into selecting the 18-year-old savant. He’s got more flair than Brian from Office Space. You gotta use words like “uncanny” and “special” and “brilliant” to describe some of the moves he pulls out of the crack of his narrow @$$. Rubio, like his fellow SLAM coverboy Brandon Jennings, captures the imagination—he’s arresting. Meanwhile, my current point guard, Mike Conley, doesn’t exactly have me caught up in rapture. So why then, am I passing on Rubio—who could be one of the defining players of his generation—for a dude who has been described as Dikembe Mutombo, at best, and Brad Sellers, at worst? Because, I’m all about composition, balance and identity; and Mutombo is exactly what I need.
It’s scary, though, checking my roster and seeing the name “Darko Milicic.” I’m nowhere near the GM that Joe Dumars is and it was he who tricked himself into passing on Melo, DWade and Bosh, because he thought Milicic was the type of talent his team “needed.” If Joe was duped, I can only imagine my capacity to get bamboozled. I mean, I don’t need to rehash my executive mistakes. My cohorts and the opinionators always preach drafting for talent and not team need. That means, if it’s 1997 and you already have a big man like David Robinson, you still draft Tim Duncan and make it work. But this isn’t just about filling a void. It’s not, “we need size, let’s bypass Rubio or the equally tantalizing Jennings and kop Thabeet.”
If I draft Rubio, that basically means that I’m going to either let Rudy Gay walk at the end of his contract or trade him before the end before next season’s deadline. It might even mean that I’m not sold on O.J. I say that because, Rubio-Mayo-Gay seems like too much dynamism for one perimeter. Rubio is a playmaker. Playmakers need the rock. Remember when the Lakers drafted Magic and, every time a fast break started, Magic and point guard Norm Nixon would fight over the ball? That’s what I envision with a Rubio-Mayo backcourt. Not so much on breaks (I cream my pants thinking about O.J. and Rudy on the wings getting Houdini-dishes from Rubio), but in almost every other offensive scenario. I want to make Mayo-Gay work. The best way to do that is keep Conley, let him continue developing into a solid, preferably really good, starting point guard—a newer version of the Chauncey Billups orchestrator-archetype. Someone who can create, yes, but someone that I won’t feel like I’m wasting when he gives it up to my two wings and says “go ‘head.” And then, I want to back up my Mayo-Gay foundation with a rebounding, defensive 4-5 combo.
We already have Marc Gasol (yes, I know he and Rubio come with built-in chemistry from their Spain days, which makes the Rubio pick look even better); by adding Thabeet, we’d have one of the most imposing front courts in two or three years. That gives us a young, athletic squad, with defined roles and a potentially stifling defense (all three perimeter guys can get after it). That’s a team that, in theory, wins a championship, at some point. Nobody thinks Mayo-Gay can work, but I do.
I don’t know if Thabeet will ever become Mutombo. He has that potential, though. He’s an exceptional rebounder and a “real” shot blocker. I say “real” because he rarely swats the ball out of bounds like every other doofus big man in the game. He changes a game and can end up having the broadest impact of any of the top five prospects. His suspect toughness worries me. I would love it if he were confrontational. If he were ornery, he wouldn’t have let DeJuan Blair thug his lunch money, like he did in January. I can see Kendrick Perkins and Nene turning him into a Shook One (shhh, that’s why I wanna lay about $1 million a year on Charles Oakley to come work with him). I want the young dude to work on his post moves, but, again, I’m about building a team identity through role-definition. Marc is our low post offensive threat. Thabeet needs to focus on putbacks and that’s really it…then go down on the other end and shut down about 80 square feet of the court. There’s a flimsiness about Rubio and his game, an emptiness. He reminds me of two recent players, a mix of Jason Williams and Shaun Livingston. Soooo…. Bottom line: I want a substantial squad.
I could very well regret this decision and every time I think about that $7.5 million we’re paying Darko next year—or look at those YouTube mixes—I get cold feet. But between now and late-June, I will sufficiently convince myself that this is the prescient, tactical, smart pick. Yeah, Thabeet—I’m rollin’ with the Tanzanian.
|2009 SLAMonline Mock Draft Results|
|1||L.A. Clippers||Blake Griffin|
|2||Memphis Grizzlies||Hasheem Thabeet|
Vincent Thomas is a columnist and feature writer for SLAM, a contributing commentator for ESPN and writes the weekly “From The Floor” column for NBA.com. You can email him your feedback at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @vincecathomas.