Its been an up and down season for UConn sophomore Hasheem Thabeet
so far, with plenty of highs and lows individually, mixed in with a good amount of success his team has enjoyed lately.
Thabeet has noticeably improved on the offensive end, pushing his points per-40 minute pace adjusted averages from a dismal 9.8 to 14.2 currently. That still puts him just 77th amongst the 84 NCAA players ranked on our 2008 or 2009 mock drafts, but its a clear improvement over last year, when he was second to last. Hes also shooting the ball at a better clip from the field, 63% compared to 55% last year. Unfortunately, Thabeets rebounding, assists, and blocked-shots have all decreased per-40 minutes when taking his extra playing time into account so far, although he is turning the ball over less and committing fewer fouls. Very notable has been the significant improvement hes shown from the free throw line, from 51 to 70.5%. The points hes no longer leaving at the charity stripe in fact account for nearly half of his added scoring output this year.
Regardless of his statistical output, any intrigue around Thabeet as an NBA draft prospect starts and ends for the most part with his physical tools, which are nothing short of amazing considering how rare of a class hes in. Standing 7-3, with a phenomenal frame that should be able to carry significantly more weight, a terrific wingspan, huge hands, and excellent mobility relative to his size, Thabeet looks the part of future defensive stopper and then some on first glance. He gets up and down the floor awkwardly (almost with a strange limp), but clearly has solid mobility (especially getting out in transition), and is especially impressive getting off his feet to finish plays or challenge shots in the lane.
Offensively, Thabeet is for the most part limited to within five feet of the basket. He can really overpower smaller opponents by establishing deep position in the paint and using his size and length to make his presence felt from close range, sometimes with a ferocious dunk. His hands look better than they were last year, but hell still fumble the occasional pass or just have balls deflect right off his palm after not being able to react in time. Hes getting out and running with his guards fairly impressive on fast-breaks on occasion, and has been on the receiving end of a couple of highlight reel caliber alleyoop plays.
Once taken out of his comfort zone offensively, (meaning catching and finishing for the most part), Thabeets inexperience as a basketball player really comes out. His footwork is poor, and hes fairly slow and mechanical trying to create any type of offense for himself if he needs to make a real move. He also lacks a left hand or any type of counter moves, often just throwing the ball up on the rim with poor touch, hoping it drops. He clearly lacks core strength and especially balance here, falling over on the floor quite easily and looking somewhat fragile in general if forced to react to something unexpected out on the court. Hes also an extremely poor passer, currently tied for having the second worst assist rate in the country
amongst all players in our database, and also ranking near the bottom in assist to turnover ratio. Considering the lack of polish he shows on the offensive end, its not a stretch to say that hes probably never going to be much of an option here in the NBA.
Defensively, though, Thabeets potential as a game-changer inside the paint is hard to ignore. He has excellent timing for blocked shots, and has started get better at keeping the ball in-bounds after a block. His mere presence in the paint is a huge deterrence for opposing teams at this level, as hes not only 7-3, but also exceptionally long, and capable of getting off his feet. He makes a big impact in the paint as far as team defense goes, ranking 7th in the country in blocks per-40 minutes pace adjusted.
As a man to man defender, Thabeet leaves something to be desired still. Skilled back to the basket centers (a rare commodity in the NCAA) have proven to be very effective against him, as he gets pushed around and posted up quite easily, not looking to fight back that much, standing too upright, giving up excessive space, and not moving his feet very well to stay with them. He does a very poor job in particular of stepping out onto the perimeter to hedge a screen or defend a big man who is capable of facing the basket, showing poor awareness in space and looking fairly lost in the process. Nowhere was that more evident than in the Georgetown game a few weeks ago, where Thabeet lost his man Roy Hibbert
completely and thus gave him a great deal of time to set his feet and knock down the game winning 3-pointer from behind the arc. Big matchups in general have been a problem for Thabeet over the last two years, as every time he faces a team with anything even resembling an NBA caliber big man, he struggles badly.
Rebounding-wise, youd probably expect Thabeet to make more of an impact than he currently does considering his awesome physical tools. He in fact ranks just 47th
of the 56 NCAA centers that are in our database in this category per 40 minutes pace adjusted, despite standing 7-3. His poor hands are most evident in this part of his game, as are his lack of fundamentals--boxing out his man lackadaisically, and going after rebounds with just one hand. Hell often take himself out of position for rebounds by chasing blocked shots excessively, which further hurts him in this category.
Another problem here is that Thabeet doesnt seem to be the most active player in the world, rarely going out of his area for rebounds, and not really showing the type of fire and passion you see out of players who just want the ball more than their opponents. At times you get the feeling that Thabeet is not going 100%, as hell look sleepy, distant, and not involved in whats going on on the floor. There have been question marks raised constantly regarding his motor, work ethic and love for the game, which is a huge concern considering how far off he is at the moment from reaching his full potential, and how much individual work hell have to put in to get there.
With that said, Thabeet seems to be making some clear strides as a player this year, and obviously has a lot more room to grow. Hell be tempted to enter the draft this year already and possibly
cash in on being selected somewhere in the first round, but would clearly benefit long-term from being patient and spending another year in college under Coach Calhoun, who has a sparkling reputation for developing NBA big men.