On Saturday, the Oklahoma City Thunder made it official and signed the 6'6", 22 year old Spanish swingman Álex Abrines. Sam Presti had the following to say about the Thunder's latest acquisition, "We are pleased to welcome Alex to the Thunder organization," said Presti. "He brings a unique blend of international experience and skill for his age. He will continue to add depth and versatility to our core of perimeter players."
Abrines was drafted 32nd overall in the 2013 NBA Draft by OKC. However, since being drafted, Abrines has become an international man of mystery for Thunder fans.
The old adage "out of sight, out of mind" held true for Abrines. He was too young to make the 2012 Spanish Olympic team that pushed Team USA to the brink in the Gold Medal game, but he has plenty international experience as well. He won MVP at the FIBA Europe U18 Championship, where he led the Spanish team to gold. He followed that up by helping Spain capture gold at the FIBA Europe U20 Championship the next year. When he was suiting up for the national team he was stationed in Spain, playing for FC Barcelona (FCB), but most OKC fans had their eyes on the Thunder's rapid rise to the top of the Western Conference opposed to Abrines' Liga ACB and Euroleague games.
Abrines was a youthful talent for FC Barcelona, but overseas that meant spot minutes for the sharpshooter. Young players often ride the pine more than shine on court in Europe--almost the exact opposite of what we see in the NBA nowadays. Yet, despite playing between 11 and 20 minutes in the past three seasons with FCB, Abrines was able to showcase his shooting stroke hitting 42, 42, and 44 percent from three.
This season, at 21 years old, Abrines' steady development helped him take home the Euroleague Rising Star award. Some previous winners include Andrea Bargnani, Rudy Fernández, Danilo Gallinari, Ricky Rubio, Nikola Mirotić, and Bogdan Bogdanović. Needless to say that award bodes well for future NBA impact.
With the Thunder now completely in the hands of Russell Westbrook, Abrines might be a good long-term fit next to the two-time All-Star Game MVP. Abrines doesn't need the ball in his hands as much as KD did. Abrines is a great spot-up shooter and moves well off the ball, something Durant didn't do much of.
The running complaint about the Westbrook/Durant era was the stagnant isolation-heavy offense the Thunder ran. There was glimpses of change in Billy Donovan's first season, but in the most critical situations--see, Game 6 & 7 of the 2016 Western Conference Finals--it was hero ball from the two Thunder superstars.
However, it is the future that is most exciting about Abrines. At just 22 years old he has five seasons of experience in what is considered the best basketball league outside of the NBA. He enters the NBA with a better understanding and feel for the league than any similar age prospect selected in this year's draft.
After signing on the dotted line, Abrines had this to say about joining OKC, "I’m excited and grateful for the opportunity to join an organization like the Oklahoma City Thunder," said Abrines. "I look forward to meeting my teammates and contributing any way that I can as a member of the team." If OKC fans want an early look at the new signing Abrines will be part of the Spanish National Team at the Rio Olympics. He will surely be a fan favorite in his 15-18 minutes per night as a rookie.
If my waxing poetic about Alejandro (Wikipedia says that's his real first name and it might be my favorite thing about Abrines aside from his shooting) isn't enough to convince you to order his number eight Thunder jersey--mine is en route as you read this--than maybe these highlights below will help seal the deal.
ALL BEHOLD ALEX THE CONQUEROR!