Hasheem Thabeet was lucky to have a team like the Thunder willing to give him a second chance.
Oklahoma City gave the former No. 2 pick a two-year guaranteed contract on Independence Day worth the veterans minimum. While this is an ideal low-risk contract for the Oklahoma City Thunder, it also gives Thabeet the comfort of playing without any real pressure.
Ironically, the Thunder had actually wanted to draft Thabeet in 2009 but settled for the now much more established James Harden. Thabeet went at No. 2 overall to the Memphis Grizzlies after being named Big East Defensive Player of the Year.
Needless to say, he has been a bust. Averaging a mere 2.2 points and 2.6 rebounds per game, Thabeet just hasn't been able to get it done at the NBA level.
But things will change in Oklahoma City.
For one, it will be very difficult for the Thunder to retain their entire core nucleus of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins. At least one of those players is going to eventually be the odd man out because there isn't enough cap space to satisfy the incredible draft picks the Thunder have had over recent years.
It will likely be either Kendrick Perkins or Serge Ibaka, which makes room for Thabeet on the floor. Perkins is under contract until 2014-15 but will be due more than $9 million by the end of that contract. Ibaka is a currently a restricted free agent and has a player option for the season after next.
What do you think Thabeet's ceiling is?
And when the Thunder decide to go small and have Kevin Durant run the power forward position, Thabeet can share time with other big men at center. He is, after all, a tower in the NBA who stands 7'3" tall.
Also, Sam Presti is one of the best GMs in the league. If he sees something in the former draft bust, he is probably right. The culture in Oklahoma City created by Scott Brooks and lead-by-example star Kevin Durant is conducive to young players—after all most of the players on Oklahoma City's squad are under the age of 25. (Thabeet himself is only 25 years old.)
Perhaps the biggest reason Thabeet will thrive in Oklahoma City is because he can be the player that he was in college: a rebounding and shot-blocking presence.
The Thunder proved last year that they can take care of scoring no problem. Of course, having an offensive post player other than Durant would be ideal, but they made it all the way to the NBA Finals with Perkins and Ibaka trading minutes as the game progressed. Subtract one of those two from the equation and add Thabeet—now the Thunder are looking about as good with so much more cap space to work with.
Look out for Hasheem Thabeet to make a thunderous impact in Oklahoma City, where young players go to become stars.
He still has time to redeem himself before fans and analysts make comparisons with him to the likes of Darko Milicic and Kwame Brown.
Read more of my captivating sports writing at the increasingly popular website, Bases and Baskets.