Remember draft day 2010? Most people remember it as the day we acquired Cole Aldrich. But on that day, we also paid cash to the Atlanta Hawks for the first pick in the second round. That pick was Tibor Pliess, a 7'1" 269 pound center from Germany.
As he was a late round pick, he didn't immediately come to the Thunder after the draft. Pliess chose to stay in Germany playing for Brose Baskets Bamburg. As a result, he largely fell off the radar of most Thunder fans.
But Pleiss hasn't quietly faded into the night. While playing for Bamberg, he won the German Bundesliga championship last year, and currently holds the top seed in the German Bundesliga this year. Additionally, Brose Baskets has participated in the Euroleague, Europe's highest level of basketball competition, both this year and last year.
Individually, his play has been great by Euroleague standards. This season, he's averaging 9.7 Points, 6.7 Rebounds, and 1.2 Blocks in 19.5 Minutes a game. It's around a 2 PPG improvement from two years ago. Additionally, his shooting has gotten more accurate, with him hitting 61.9% from the floor and 82.2% from the stripe this year as opposed to 56.4% and 70.8% two years ago. He's not a world beater, but he is a 7 footer with a great mid-range shot and better defense than Nenad Krstic. What's not to like?
Nothing, in the Thunder's opinion. The Thunder haven't abandoned Pleiss while he's played overseas. Rather, they've made several trips out to visit him and have kept in constant contact.
According to Sport1, Tibor Pleiss is considering the possibility of joining the Thunder this year. The article is in German, but thanks to the translation abilities of Jolly Roger, we can view this article in the grand language known as English.
Hit the jump for the translated article!
Sport1: Chris Fleming (Coach of Bamberg) says you're dreaming of the NBA. Right after the draft two years ago you said that you aren't really interested in the NBA and you don't know the names of most of the players...
Pleiß: That has changed. Of course it's not easy to follow if the games start at 4 or 5 am but the OKC Thunder and I are in close contact. They send me most of their games on DVD so that I can look at them and get a feeling for them (I guess he means the playing style). Since I'm thinking of OKC every now and then I'm very interested to see what's going on there.
Sport1: With which players do you stay in touch via mobile or social networks?
Pleiß: I don't have any contact to the players yet. Two years ago I met KD and Westbrook and had the chance to greet them at the FIBA WC but that's it for now.
Sport1: When do you decide if you're going to NBA this summer?
Pleiß: Not now, probably after this season. I'm trying to concentrate on the present: the playoffs and the championship.
Sport1: But according to rumors OKC staff members visit Bamberg quite a lot and look after you. Who else, besides GM Sam Presti, turns up at your place?
Pleiß: Scouts, physical therapists, athletic coaches. Last time five people were here and watched me. I like that they're so interested in me.
Sport1: Are they involved in your individual training?
Pleiß: They tell my coaches what they'd like to see and until now I managed to do what they want.
Sport1: Anything specific?
Pleiß: Good passes, going hard for rebounds, defense and the occasional jumper from outside the paint.
Again, the Thunder are doing an excellent job of keeping up with their prospects. With Nazr Mohammed's days numbered and the coaching staff's lack of confidence in Cole Aldrich, it's not inconceivable to see Pleiss in a Thunder uniform next season, or even seeing regular time in the floor.
Just for perspective on his perceived talent level, Pleiss was drafted one spot behind Lazar Hayward, and is the highest pick on the 2010 Draft Board to not have seen an NBA minute. Then again, Serge Ibaka was picked at the 24th spot, only 7 spots above Pleiss, so you never know.
We'll get more of an idea of Pleiss' intentions in the off-season. Unfortunately, Germany didn't qualify for the 2012 Olympics, so we won't get to see his abilities this Summer.
My thanks go out to Jolly Roger for spotting and translating this report.