Memphis Grizzlies' Hasheem Thabeet Should Be Happy Going to D-League

A. Enslen ButlerContributor IFebruary 26, 2010

PHOENIX - NOVEMBER 25:  Hasheem Thabeet #34 of the Memphis Grizzlies shoots a free throw shot during the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center on November 25, 2009 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Suns defeated the Grizzlies 126-111.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Seriously, Hasheem Thabeet should be smiling today.

The Memphis Grizzlies sent their 2009 second overall draft pick down to the NBA's Developmental League Thursday. The surprising move made Thabeet the highest draft pick ever relegated to the NBA's minor leagues. 

I have to be honest. I knew so little about the "D-League" that I did not know players could be sent down like in minor league baseball and hockey.

But going to the Dakota Wizards could be great news for Thabeet. In fact, I am floored he was not assigned to the D-League earlier.

In 50 games for Memphis this season, he averaged 2.5 points, 2.9 rebounds and 10.3 minutes. Despite moments of decent play, Thabeet's minutes are not going up with Memphis.

If anything, they are decreasing. With the emergence of center Marc Gasol, minutes were going to be hard to come by all season.

Uneven playing time will not help his development.

I had always thought that Thabeet needed playing time to get into the flow of the pro game. He was never going to get that this season with the Grizzlies.

He will reportedly by available to play for Dakota in a game Friday night in Erie, PA, according to the Wizards website .

The easy reaction is to label Thabeet a bust and mock the Grizzlies front office. Goodness knows, I mock the Grizzlies front office regularly.

Thabeet may prove to be a bust. But it is way too early to tell.

Everyone knew that Thabeet was a LONG way from producing for the Grizzlies. Sitting on the bench in Memphis was not going to help.

This gives the team a chance to view him in game situations without hurting the team's playoff run.

It could have been last week's game against the New Jersey Nets that was the last straw. The 7'3" Thabeet failed to contest 6'5" guard Courtney Lee and allowed him to score a layup.

In that same game, Thabeet threw an inbounds pass to Sam Young instead of point guard Mike Conley. The pass sailed over Young's head, and the Grizzlies turned the ball over.

Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins sat Thabeet, and he did not play in the game again. Hollins later said that young center Hamed Haddadi would become the backup center. 

Is it embarrassing for a lottery pick to play in the D-League? Yes.

Will he become a target for other players in the D-League? Yes.

But he needs the league to prove that he belongs in pro basketball. If he cannot make it in the D-League, he will likely rank high on any list naming the biggest busts in NBA Draft history.