Alex Abrines was selected with the 32nd overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. Three seasons later he is finally going to make his debut with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The 23-year-old Spaniard signed a three-year, $18 million deal with the Thunder this off-season. He said one of the main reasons that be choose to leave Spain for the NBA was the departure of Kevin Durant.
Durant’s production will not be matched by one person, but you must applaud the confidence Abrines has in both himself and his game. What OKC is going to need to replace most about KD’s game is his outside shooting. Last season, the Thunder as a team shot only 34.9 percent from deep. If you remove Durant’s 38.7 three-point percentage that number falls to 33.6 (and an even uglier 33.04 when Serge Ibaka, Dion Waiters and D.J. Augustin’s numbers are removed too).
The good news for OKC faithful is that Abrines is one of the best sharpshooters in all the land. While playing four seasons with FC Barcelona Lassa he shot 37.8 percent overall from deep, including an impressive 41.7 percent in 25 Euroleague games during this past year.
Through two preseason games he's shown that those numbers were not a fluke. He's shooting an outrageous 80 percent from deep and has proven that he has the onions to drain them when the Thunder needed them most.
Abrines’ performance against Real Madrid is certainly what the Thunder are hoping will be the norm for him during the 2016-17 season. The opportunity and minutes are there for the taking—Anthony Morrow can't defend, no one knows what Josh Huestis can do, and Kyle Singler had his basketball talents stolen by the Monstars—it will fall on Abrines to make the most of this chance.
In order to do so, he's going to have to smooth out some of the rough edges of his game.
While Abrines is a phenomenal shooter, there are many questions surrounding his game. The most glaring being on the other end of the court. Abrines has good size at 6’6’’ and 190 pounds, however, he has trouble on defense. Without exceptional length or speed, it is hard for Abrines to be a plus defender. Oftentimes, it is inexperience that'll make teams overseas plant prospects on the bench. In Abrines’ case it was more because there weren't many opposing wings he could guard.
The Thunder have experienced this with Morrow. Morrow is one of the five best shooters on planet Earth, yet he can not guard a single player on the court and he's usually a net negative when on the floor.
If Abrines wants to make good on the opening left by Durant he needs to improve as a defender. We've seen OKC work miracles before (see: Kanter, Enes) and if he's dedicated enough Abrines has enough to be at least a passable defender in the NBA. The Thunder have needed a ‘‘3-and D’’ wing since prime Thabo Sefolosha in 2012-13 and while Abrines will never be what Sefolosha was if he can become a ‘‘3-and-lowercase d’’ type of player than this team might've struck gold.