Thursday, May 7, 2009

NBA Draft Prospects: Hasheem Thabeet, UConn

For a complete listing of NBA Draft prospects and their player breakdown, click here.

Stats: 13.6 ppg, 10.8 rpg, 4.2 bpg, 64% FG, 62.9% FT

Listed Size: 7'3", 270 lb, 2/16/87 (22 years old)

(photo credit: SlamOnline)

About Him: Hasheem Thabeet is a defensive force. It is rare that you can find a player that can dominate and control a game without taking a shot. But that is what Thabeet can do. Forget for a second that he is 7'3" with the wingspan of a pterodactyl. Forget that he is much more athletic and agile than your typical 7 footer (can a 7 footer be typical?). The thing that makes him so good defensively is that he has incredible instincts when it comes to blocking shots - he doesn't bite on pump fakes, he's exceptional at blocking shots from the weak side out of his area, and most importantly he can stay out of foul trouble.

That's not to say he is ready to guard NBA centers just yet. He still needs to add a good 20-30 lb's to his 270 lb frame, and really needs to improve on his core strength, leg strength, and balance. But he has the size and the instincts that you can't teach, and he has already proven he has a good work ethic.

As a freshman, Thabeet's offensive repertoire was laughable. He had no back-to-the-basket game at all, he couldn't catch the ball, and he was too afraid of contact to finish with a dunk, instead missing point blank lay-ups all too frequently. While his offensive game is still greatly lacking, he has shown some serious signs of improvement. He has developed a decent touch on his free throw stroke, and by the tournament he was taking (and making) 12-15 foot jumpers. He started showing signs of understanding low post positioning offensively as well as finishing off post moves with decent-looking jump hooks.

But most importantly, he dunked as much and as hard as anyone in the college game this side of Blake Griffin and was not afraid to let someone know about it after. With Thabeet, the biggest thing is toughness - playing with a mean streak, with an attitude. When he did, he had games like the one against Providence (15 points, 11 boards, 10 blocks) or Seton Hall (25 points, 20 boards, 9 blocks). When he doesn't, he gets DeJuan Blaired.

There are two things he really needs to improve on at the next level - defending the pick and roll (which he has actually gotten fairly good at defending) and breaking his habit of putting the ball on the floor in the lane.

Comparisons: Best Case - Samuel Dalembert, Dikembe Mutumbo; Worst Case - Mamadou N'Diaye, Sagana Diop

Bottom Line: Yes, Thabeet got eaten up by Blair this year, but that performance does not really project to the pro's. Blair is a tough match-up for Thabeet (short, stocky, strong vs. long, lanky, not-so-strong), and is one that he is unlikely to see too often in the pro's. NBA teams have centers, taller guys with similar centers of gravity to Thabeet. As he keeps improving defensively against the pick and roll, Thabeet is going to be a guy that can be a difference maker defensively. The question is, will his offense (and his strength) allow him to be more than a situational role player?


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