Oklahoma City Thunder GM Sam Presti raised eyebrows when he picked Alex Abrines in the second round of the 2013 NBA Draft. Abrines, even though regarded as one of the top international prospects at the time, was strictly a draft and stash option for a team that already boasted a roster with an NBA Finals appearance under its belt and finished the 2012/13 season with the best record in the Western Conference. Abrines was the future, and that future looked bright indeed.
Draft Express offered this video of Abrines’ skills:
The overall perception was that Abrines would stay overseas a few years, working on his game and his physique, then join the Thunder and bring that all-important third scoring option many felt was necessary to win a championship.
However, as the seasons came and went, and Abrines began putting up some fairly pedestrian numbers in Europe, many fans began to wonder if the promise of 2013 would ever don a Thunder uniform. Some even wondered if he should. Welcome to Loud City’s Marina Mangiaracina wrote this in June of 2015:
In 2013-14, the first season after he was drafted by Oklahoma City, Abrines improved. Alex managed to improve his three point success rate to 42%, while shooting over double the amount of shots. If a 12 percentage point increase in such a critical category wasn't enough, an increase of half an assist a game was also significant. However, there was little improvement in other statistical categories. Meanwhile, Barcelona had a rather successful season, capturing the Spanish ACB championship and placing third in the Euroleague.
The next season, 2014-15, saw Abrines hit a wall. Barcelona basically gave him the same amount of minutes and the same role. Abrines managed to become a bit smarter with the ball and get to the line a bit more, but those improvements were marginal at best. Furthermore, Abrines aggravated a previously injured knee. You see, on Abrines' Draft Express video, one of the listed concerns was the presence of "jumpers knee". That's a common problem, but it's certainly unsettling to see that Abrines had to miss a couple of weeks of games this season due to injuring that same knee.
Those questions changed in mid-July when the Thunder signed Abrines to a 3 year, $18 million contract. Now those questions became: how well will Abrines adjust to the pace and physicality of the NBA and more importantly, can he stay healthy?
The sample size is obviously minuscule, but in regard to Abrines’ ability to adjust to his new playing environment, it shows promise:
Though Abrines’ 32.7% average beyond the arc is not impressive, yet...his shooting mechanics are:
Making the adjustment to the pace of the NBA and becoming a steady contributor on a team that currently ranks 6th (99.6) in that stat will take time as well as courage. Fortunately, the 23 year-old Abrines has both:
Even coming off the bench for small spurts, Abrines doesn't hesitate to come into a game and immediately start firing away. He possesses great confidence in his scoring ability and will take and make plenty of jumpers with a hand in his face, showing no fear whatsoever regardless of the situation.
My personal observations have indicated that Abrines has a very high basketball IQ as well as silky-smooth shooting mechanics. He stays in motion to create easy passing lanes when he doesn’t have the ball, and fires the ball without the slightest hesitation if said motion creates an open shot opportunity. He is a very willing, if not overly athletic, defender that has already taken at least one more charge than Enes Kanter has in his entire career, and contains his emotions extremely well.
The answer to the all important question regarding Abrines’ ability to stay healthy is still a mystery, but if he proves durable, with the help of mentors such as Anthony Morrow, the 11th best 3-point shooter of all time, to help put the finishing touches on an already sweet perimeter stroke, Alex Abrines will grow into a stone-cold assassin before his NBA career is over.
Side note: WTLC's own Brandon Jefferson will fight you if you don't agree that Abrines raises the Thunder handsomeness plus/minus at least 10 points.