As the second overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, it's safe to say that Hasheem Thabeet holds the dubious honor of being one of the biggest draft busts in recent memory. He played with four teams (the Grizzlies, Rockets, Blazers, and Thunder) in five seasons from 2009-14, averaging 2.2 points and 2.7 rebounds through 220 games.
Scouts, coaches, and other talent evaluators on the big league level often say that should a respective big man have just enough talent, they'll likely be in the NBA sooner, rather than later. At 7'3" and 260 pounds, it's safe to say that Thabeet boasts the type of size and stature that is well desired (and often difficultly obtained) by such teams desperate for capable players down in the low post or on the defensive end.
Nevertheless, Thabeet has seemingly received ample opportunity to strut his stuff. He remained in the NBA for parts of five seasons, and failed to meet expectations early on. Of course, expectations are often set by those around you. A player doesn't have much control over them. Nevertheless, Thabeet didn't really come close to meeting the mark.
Thus, he's found himself in the D-League this season by way of the Grand Rapids Drive. And while his production may not be as eye-popping as one may like for such a former NBA lottery standout, it's certainly respectable, nonetheless. As someone more comfortable with doing the dirty work down low, Thabeet is anchoring the Drive's defense. The 28 year old is averaging 5.9 rebounds and 2 blocks to go along with 6.7 points (on 58% from the field) in just over twenty minutes per contest.
Thabeet isn't being asked to do too much, but perhaps that's for the best at a time like this. With the pressure finally off of him once and for all, he's been able to find success in smaller doses. On Monday night, he broke out of his shell for a change, logging 20 points, 11 rebounds, and an all the more impressive seven blocked shots. Such an effort helped Grand Rapids gain specific ground on the division-rival Fort Wayne Mad Ants. Despite being 18-21 on the season, the Drive remain just four games behind the Sioux Falls Skyforce for the division-lead.
It's time to shake the lottery tag from Thabeet's reputation. It's a expectation he's not ever likely to meet. Still, he's showing some real positive signs in the D-League. Taking things with a grain of salt and displaying a positive attitude throughout, the former UConn standout is finding ways to impact his team's success. That's arguably even more important than individual production.
Having said that, when it comes to his own progression, perhaps Thabeet is doing enough to warrant another look come NBA Summer League. Teams need to understand what he can and will do best. Should they allow him to come off the bench and man the middle, providing relief for a team's respective starters, an NBA could find themselves benefitting from quite the efficient of services on the defensive end from Thabeet.
In the meantime, he'll have to continue proving he can do just that as the Drive eye the postseason in the coming weeks.