The Thunder have signed Hasheem Thabeet to a two year contract, according to Yahoo! Sports. While the deal cannot be formally signed until the free agency moratorium is lifted on July 11, the fully guaranteed contract is expected to be about $880,000 in the first season.
Thabeet is a former #2 overall pick from the 2009 draft, which means that the Thunder now have two former #2 overall picks on their team at the same time. However, Thabeet's career has been the polar opposite of Kevin Durant, as Thabeet has struggled with the previous 3 teams of which he has been a part. "Draft Bust" has been an appropriate assessment. Thabeet is quickly running out of opportunities in which to build the base of a long pro career, so hopefully his stop in OKC will be one where he finally finds the correct footing.
What does it all mean for the Thunder?
Let's start with Royce Young's assessment, which I agree with because it is pretty on-point:
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.
- The writing has been on the wall for a while, but it looks like this signing ends Mohammed's time with the Thunder. It kind of makes me sad in a way because I really liked what Mohammed brought to the team for these past two seasons, but he was facing a difficult reality of being too expensive while taking up precious minutes that could go toward the learning curve of Cole Aldrich.
- The presence of Thabeet will force Aldrich to continue to work and not think that the backup center position is his by right. He will have to work hard on the defensive end in order to keep Thabeet and his own shot-blocking prowess on the bench. Competition is always a good thing.
- Thabeet's contract will help the Thunder trim their payroll, which as we know is increasingly important as they work to create cap space to sign Serge Ibaka, James Harden, and Eric Maynor.
- Check out a profile that Sports Illustrated did on Thabeet back in 2008.
- As far as Thabeet the player goes, I have generally heard and understand two things about him: 1) he has never received great 'big man coaching' during his stints, and 2) he has been more infatuated with the NBA lifestyle than the game itself. These two assessments, however true they may be, might potentially be tied together. If Thabeet has never really been put in a position to succeed, then it is quite natural to think that his focus on the game itself would become secondary to the lifestyle the league brings to young men.
- Unfortunately, OKC is not exactly a mecca for big man training, but what they do bring is a culture that is infused with the obsessive work ethic of their two leaders, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Their voluntary workouts and practices have become the stuff of legend and identity. If Thabeet cannot be inspired to take up his shield and be willing to go to war with these guys, then mentally he may be a lost cause.
- It is important to remember that Thabeet is another international player who is learning as much about life as basketball. He was born in Tanzania and only had about 3 years of playing experience before the UConn Huskies recruited him to play college ball. Knowing this, it becomes all the more advantageous for him to be with the Thunder now because OKC features two international players in the starting line-up in Thabo Sefolosha and Serge Ibaka. The former comes from Switzerland while the latter comes from the Republic of the Congo. We know that the pair have become close friends on the team, helping each other with the cultural and language differences. There is a good possibility that OKC can offer Thabeet a familial safe haven while he tries to get his life and his career on track.