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Thabeet Goes On: Recapping Hasheem Thabeet's D-League Assignment

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As expected, Hasheem Thabeet will be recalled today from his D-League assignment to re-join the Memphis Grizzlies.  During Thabeet's stint in the D-League, he averaged 13.2 points, 11.2 rebounds and 3.2 blocks in right around 32 minutes of action.

That doesn't necessarily tell the whole story, however, because as I've said all along, he won't earn more playing time (or even lose playing time) based on his D-League statistics.

According to an interview Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace did with the venerable Lou Babiarz of the Bismarck Tribune, the assignment was "very positive":

"He's been active. He's running the court well. You can feel his presence on both ends of the floor. It's been very positive," Wallace said.  "... Not that statistics are everything, but he's scoring, he's rebounding, he's blocking some shots and the team is winning games.  Right there, on surface value, it tells you that things are going well."

According to Grizzlies assistant coach Mitchell Anderson, who traveled with Thabeet during the assignment, Thabeet "handled it very well":

"... He had one bad game, but other than that he has played well. We want to see if he does the things we're talking about, like run the floor, post up, block shots, rebound."

Dakota Wizards head coach Rory White said:

"I think mentally this is good for him to be able to touch the ball, to run up and down the floor, to block the shots," White said. "I think when he goes back, he takes what he learned here over this week back there, and maybe he can get back in the rotation.

Thabeet himself didn't even mind it, saying it was "fun":

"It went pretty good," Thabeet said. "I just came out here and worked hard and tried to accomplish as much as we can. I've been getting a lot of minutes, getting to go up and down (the court) - it's been a lot of fun."

So now that everyone else has given their opinion, I may as well give you mine - after the jump!

He is who we thought he was: A big, raw, potential-laden rookie with a lot of developing left to do.

Offensively, he was actually better than I thought he would be.  Aside from the "bad game" Anderson referred to above (Thabeet shot 1-for-9 from the field), he generally wasn't abysmal on offense - Granted, my expectations weren't high.  The only "move" I really noticed was a nice little lefty hook shot that was effective in a few of the games I watched, but I guess I was okay with him just knowing his role on offense - don't try to do too much with it, but score when the easy bucket is available.  As far as his role was concerned in Dakota, it was mainly catching alley-oops and finishing when a teammate would get him the ball in transition.

Defensively is a whole other ball game.  He wasn't nearly as great as I assumed he would be on the defensive end in the D-League.  This isn't to say he's a bad defender (his 3.2 blocks per game and numerous shot alterations certainly would say the opposite), but he's much better as a help defender or in a zone defense than actually playing man-to-man defense.  Unfortunately, I don't see all many NBA teams using a zone defense for entire games, so he has a bit of catching up to do in this area.  He's also a bit too eager to block shots, meaning he'll leave his man wide open when somebody penetrates the lane which is counterproductive if the penetrator is able to make the easy pass.  He also seemed to nailed to the low post, which was exploited best by Michael Fey in Sunday's game - Fey was able to shoot essentially uncontested free-throw line jumpers with Thabeet standing under the basket.

Rebounding is the area that I'm worried about most.  Simply put, he relies too much on his size and length instead of actually boxing out or being proactive by getting up to get the rebound.  Obviously this plan wasn't terribly ineffective in the D-League as he was able to average double figures in the category, but it is a bit discouraging and honestly struck me as one of the signs that he might just be lazy. 

The only other area of his game that I didn't hit on above is his focus.  At times while he was out on the court, it seemed he was either totally disinterested or forgot he was playing basketball.  It could have just been because he was playing in the D-League, but it wasn't really an encouraging sign.  He also missed a start due to "being late" according to an interview with White, which isn't encouraging.

You're probably wondering what he did positive then, huh?

  • Finished in transition
  • Brought a defensive presence in the post to deter penetration
  • Ran the court well (when he felt like running the court)
  • Created second chance opportunities and then finished second chance opportunities
  • Rebounded in double digits without really exerting much effort

Wallace did mention in the article that Thabeet is eligible to be assigned twice more to the D-League.  While it's tough to say how much this six game assignment actually benefited Thabeet on the court, I think it was definitely a positive for him - he seems to be the type of player that is going to get better by playing basketball as opposed to sitting on the bench and practicing once or twice a week.

In the end, Thabeet put up pretty solid numbers while relying solely on his physical tools during his stay in the D-League, leaving a lot of room for improvement - which is a good thing.  If he's willing to keep putting in work and learning/developing, he'll be a very good player in a couple of years.  If he doesn't develop into a good player, I don't think it will be anybody's fault but his own.

For my thoughts on individual games, please check Hasheem ThaBlog.