Life is a lot better on Draft night than in free agency for the fellows selected second each June.
You would think that getting picked just one spot from the top would yield happiness and security for lads like them and others, but it often doesn’t work out that way.
Thabeet, the No. 2 pick in 2009, will join his fourth team in four seasons when his modest two-year deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder becomes official next week. Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman has the details on the move for the reigning Western Conference champs:
The addition of Thabeet all but guarantees veteran center Nazr Mohammed will not return to the Thunder. If not, that paves the way for third-year center Cole Aldrich to step into the primary backup role behind starter Kendrick Perkins. Thabeet is expected to be the third-string center.
Adding Thabeet also helps the Thunder preserve precious salary cap space, most of which will go toward paying its young players. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook already are locked into maximum-allowable contracts. Harden, Serge Ibaka and Eric Maynor are all now eligible for extensions to their rookie deals.
What the Thunder is doing in bringing in Thabeet, 25, is taking a flyer on a one-time promising prospect without paying him much and hoping he can develop into the player he once was capable of being. If he does, the Thunder gets a steal. If not, the team will not have lost anything.
“Playing in that environment is positive,” said Thabeet’s agent, Bill Duffy. “Sam Presti has done a great job of not only building a winning organization but a culture that’s conditioned to developing and nurturing. So we think it’s a really good fit. So now the onus is on Hasheem to buy into that and to develop and to reach his potential.”
For Beasley, the Phoenix Suns will be team No. 3 after failed stops in Miami and Minnesota; the 6-foot-9 forward reportedly will sign a three-year contract worth about $18 million, after the Timberwolves declined to make an $8.1 million qualifying offer for 2012-13.
Beasley, who marvelous skills have been undercut by immaturity, got moved out of Miami in the free-agent frenzy of 2010. But he then failed to seize an opportunity with the Timberwolves, making himself expendable again. He has averaged 15.1 points on 13.4 field-goal attempts in 279 games. His rebounding, impressive in college, has been weak now that he’s playing farther from the basket and his defense and concentration lapses earn him more bench time than playing time.
Thabeet is a 7-foot-3 center drafted on potential that either still is untapped or never quite existed in a player whose drive hasn’t matched his size. He has averaged 2.2 points, 2.7 rebounds and 10.3 minutes, and costs less than the veteran Mohammed.
Thabeet-to-OKC will fulfill a hiring that many expected three years ago, when the big fellow was coming out of UConn. Many believed the Thunder would grab him at No. 3 until Memphis intervened at No. 2. The Thunder had to settle for Harden, who has merely become the NBA’s top Sixth Man. But the Thabeet angle lingered, according to Mayberry of the Oklahoman:
Opinions varied on Thabeet, but everyone, it seemed, had one. One person I work closely with who shall remain nameless even remixed The Go-Go’s 80s hit “We got the beat” by circling the office crooning “Don’t draft Thabeet, don’t draft Thabeet, don’t draft Thabeeeeet. Don’t draft Thabeet.” The guy was just a polarizing player. But he had so much size, so much potential.
The Thunder was enamored with Thabeet and, clearly, still is to this day.
Life tends to go more smoothly for No. 1 picks, and the guys whose names stay on the board much longer know they have their work cut out for them. But No. 2 has become a dicey spot both for those drafted and those drafting.
Dating back to the 2000 Draft, only two players picked second overall can be classified as complete successes:Portland’s LaMarcus Aldridge (2006) and OKC’s Kevin Durant (2007). Two are out of the league: the Grizzlies’ Stromile Swift (2000) and the Bulls’ Jay Williams (2002).
Six more have moved around, playing for an average of 3.7 teams already in a search for the right fit: Tyson Chandler (2001), Darko Milicic (2003), Emeka Okafor (2004), Marvin Williams (2005), Beasley and Thabeet. Philadelphia’s Evan Turner (2010) has heard criticism from Sixers fans and hasn’t established himself as a starter or star, and Minnesota’s Derrick Williams (2011) had a dreary debut season and seems out of favor with coach Rick Adelman and management.
So history suggests that, well, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had better be taking notes and spending this summer in gyms, big-time.