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Here’s a question: Why on Earth did the Grizzlies draft Thabeet when they had Gasol?

May 14, 2011, 4:00 PM EDT

Memphis Grizzlies v San Antionio Spurs - Game Five Getty Images

Hasheem Thabeet is probably the worst draft pick of the 2000’s. I know you’re going to want to say Kwame Brown. I get that. Bear in mind that Kwame Brown ended up an average center, ten years later. Sure, Thabeet could wind up in a similar boat, it just looks remarkably unlikely. Brown couldn’t put it together. Thabeet has nothing to put together. Also, was Michael Jordan going to take Pau Gasol? Come on. Tyson Chandler took several years to become who he is, nobody saw Tony Parker becoming Tony Parker except R.C. Buford, and Joe Johnson wasn’t a fit either. But Memphis? Memphis could have had Tyreke Evans, Stephen Curry, really any player except Thabeet.

But that’s not why the pick was so terrible. Let’s say that under the tutelage of the Houston Rockets’ fine developmental structure, Thabeet becomes a solid defensive center capable of making an impact. Let’s say he becomes the very best he can be, which is a B-level Dikembe Mutumbo (and that was his ceiling at draft). It would still be a terrible pick. And if you want the proof, just take a look at what’s gotten the Grizzlies here: Marc Gasol.

Consider this excerpt from an excellent piece from Tom Ziller of SBNation.com today:

Marc Gasol was a treasure, the most Thunder-y player on the roster, and without him, this crazy escapade doesn’t work. He’s the pre-existing make-up call for Thabeet, who was pawned off for a rental of Shane Battier, another Thunderish roleplayer.

via Memphis Grizzlies, The Anti-Thunder, Cheat Death Again – SBNation.com.

The term “pre-existing” there is crucial. It’s not like Gasol suddenly became good. Yes, he lost a significant amount of weight in 2009 which helped him make a leap. But Gasol was every bit the beast in his rookie season. The pattern was there. The potential, production the works. You could make the argument that Gasol’s been more important to the Grizzlies’ playoff run than any other player. Zach Randolph has been magnificent, the best he could be, but you could count on that. You saw that coming. Teams did not expect Gasol to hit them with tough putbacks, crisp passing, and solid mid-range shooting. (All things Thabeet cannot do, by the way.)

And if that was already not only on their roster, but starting for them, why on Earth would they have drafted Gasol? You might theorize that the Grizzlies had plans to play Thabeet and Gasol together, with the younger Gasol at power forward. But then, why would they turn around and trade for Zach Randolph? The short answer is because they’re the Grizzlies.

The point of this post is not to try and bury the Grizzlies as so many, including myself, have done for the past four years when they’re one hot shooting night away from the Western Conference Finals. The Grizzlies have actually done a pretty splendid job in roster creation ever since… the second after they drafted Thabeet. Barring the Ronnie Brewer “let’s trade a first round pick for a player in restricted free agency, then renounce his rights, literally surrendering a draft pick for absolutely nothing” play they made last summer, they’ve put together players that go together, and even managed to turn Thabeet into Shane Battier, without whom their playoff run would have been impossible.

But the point is simply to recognize that Marc Gasol is an incredible young player who they need to re-sign once the CBA is settled. More so than Rudy Gay, Mike Conley, or Zach Randolph, all of whom have received huge extensions, Gasol needs to stay in Memphis. He’s the building block they didn’t know they had. Instead of pouting or flipping out at the selection of Thabeet, he worked harder. He hedges the screen, recovers on the pick and pop, defended Tim Duncan, has a reliable hook shot, can hit the mid-range and managed to find chemistry next to Zach Randolph.

The lesson is: before you go chasing the next big thing, make sure you don’t already have it.

  1. bleedhouse - May 14, 2011 at 4:22 PM

    yeah its pretty easy to bash them now
    how would they have known??
    marc wasnt nearly as talented as he is now

    • denverhoopdreams - May 14, 2011 at 4:37 PM

      Someone doesn’t know how to read an aritcle thoroughly.

  2. purdueman - May 14, 2011 at 5:03 PM

    I’m sure that there are still a lot of Laker bandwagoners who are walking around thoroughly confused as to how Gasol can still be in the playoffs, while the rest of his Lakers teammates have already cleaned out their lockers and gone home for the summer! (ROFLMAO!!!).

    • cosanostra71 - May 15, 2011 at 6:57 PM

      durr

  3. hay1111 - May 14, 2011 at 6:06 PM

    Gasol’s made himself ALOT of future $ during these playoffs

  4. jmclarkent - May 14, 2011 at 8:02 PM

    I wonder when Thabeet would have been drafted if not for Memphis.

    • purdueman - May 15, 2011 at 1:09 AM

      jmcl… I’m sure that Thabeet still would have gone in the top 10, as it was otherwise a draft devoid of centers. Here are the top 10 picks that year:

      Round Pick Player Position Nationality Team School/club team
      1 1 Blake Griffin+ PF United States Los Angeles Clippers Oklahoma (So.)
      1 2 Hasheem Thabeet C Tanzania Memphis Grizzlies Connecticut (Jr.)
      1 3 James Harden SG United States Oklahoma City Thunder Arizona State (So.)
      1 4 Tyreke Evans SG United States Sacramento Kings Memphis (Fr.)
      1 5 Ricky Rubio PG Spain Minnesota Timberwolves (from Washington)[a] DKV Joventut (Spain) (born 1990)[19]
      1 6 Jonny Flynn PG United States Minnesota Timberwolves[b] Syracuse (So.)
      1 7 Stephen Curry PG United States Golden State Warriors Davidson (Jr.)
      1 8 Jordan Hill PF United States New York Knicks Arizona (Jr.)
      1 9 DeMar DeRozan SG United States Toronto Raptors USC (Fr.)
      1 10 Brandon Jennings PG

      • jmclarkent - May 15, 2011 at 8:51 AM

        I agree; I kind of think that Minnesota (with 2 PG’s) would have pulled the trigger.

      • cosanostra71 - May 15, 2011 at 6:59 PM

        call me crazy, but I could almost see the Thunder having bit on him… he was projected as a defensive big, which the Thunder knew was the biggest missing piece to their team… I don’t think they ultimately would have because their front office is smarter than that, but I would bet he would have gotten some serious consideration.

  5. snoopy2014 - May 15, 2011 at 12:43 AM

    NBA teams remains infatuated with the prospect of the “next great big man,” to the point where they overlook overwhelming negative evidence.

    • purdueman - May 15, 2011 at 1:06 AM

      snoop… that’s SO-OOOO true! The one thing that you can’t coach is being 7 feet tall. One needs only look to the huge (at the time), contract that stiff center John Koncak once received as “exhibit A”.

    • jstrizzle - May 15, 2011 at 2:06 AM

      Exhibit B: Sean Bradley

      • cosanostra71 - May 15, 2011 at 6:57 PM

        Bradley was halfway decent though. Nothing special on offense, but he could crash the boards and play some solid enough defense.

  6. thetooloftools - May 15, 2011 at 2:25 AM

    I’m LeBron James.
    I didn’t say anything stupid today but I’m posting to keep my name out there.

  7. cosanostra71 - May 15, 2011 at 7:00 PM

    Thabeet is one of my biggest whiffs on projecting him at the NBA level. I liked him a lot in college and saw him (as the article says) as a B-level Dikembe Mutombo type player. Guess that’s why they don’t pay me to scout players!

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