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Eric Freeman

Grizzlies owner thinks Hasheem Thabeet could haunt them

Eric Freeman
Ball Don't Lie

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In one of Thursday's 3,782 trades, the Memphis Grizzlies dealt former second-overall pick Hasheem Thabeet(notes) (plus DeMarre Carroll(notes) and a lottery-protected pick) to the Houston Rockets for cybernetic genius Shane Battier(notes) and guard Ish Smith. It was in many ways an admission of defeat for the Grizzlies with regards to Thabeet, a player who was selected in the 2009 draft with the expectation that he would be a part of the franchise for years. Things didn't work out, though, and the team deserves credit for turning him into an established player (and soon-to-be free agent) who can help them try for a playoff spot while Rudy Gay(notes) sits on the sideline due to injury.

Then again, maybe the Grizzlies aren't quite ready to admit they made a mistake in drafting Thabeet. Because owner Michael Heisley thinks that this trade could come back to haunt them. From Chris Tomasson at FanHouse:

"I don't know whether it's a mistake (having drafted Thabeet),'' Heisley said. "I look at (giving up Thabeet) with great concern. ... I think Houston needs a good center and I think that Thabeet could come back to haunt us. ... Absolutely, it's hard for us (to trade Thabeet). It's extremely hard. ... If he develops, he's going to be a big factor in this league and we might be eating our words.''

Thabeet is a young, raw player, but Heisley's comments here are probably too kind. In a little less than two seasons, he hasn't even shown enough flashes to suggest he's close to turning a corner and becoming a valuable contributor. Size is always at a premium in the NBA, but tall guys still need to prove something to become valuable. Right now, Thabeet might be best used as a guy with six fouls to use on a superior post scorer. Even if he becomes a solid player, it's unlikely he'll ever be more than a solid interior defender.

That's a harsh assessment, one that Heisley rightfully didn't use with the media. But it's important to remember that in being kind to Thabeet, Heisley is also cutting general manager Chris Wallace a fair amount of slack, too. The Grizzlies could have taken Stephen Curry(notes), Tyreke Evans(notes), and several other effective guards in place of Thabeet. In saying that Thabeet could develop into a really good center, Heisley is also telling Wallace that the promise they saw two years ago wasn't a mirage.

I seriously doubt that Thabeet will actually make the Grizzlies rue the day they traded him, but there's a certain amount of sense in acting this way in the wake of the deal. By all accounts, Thabeet is well-liked, and Heisley doesn't want to hang his GM out to dry. He's not being entirely truthful, but he's acting like a nice guy. Sometimes, that's better than honesty.

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