The Memphis Grizzlies may be in their finest hour of franchise history right now. They now have a 3-1 series lead against the 1st seed San Antonio Spurs and can become only the fourth eight seed in NBA history to win a playoff series.
Memphis ended the 2010-2011 regular season with a 46-36 record. They reached that mark despite not having their best player, Rudy Gay, since February, and the inconsistent play of O.J. Mayo.
Lionel Hollins may not be on the radar for NBA Coach of the Year, but his coaching job may be the most impressive this season.
Grizzlies fans and the greater Memphis area are ecstatic over the success this team in a way they never have. The Grizzlies made the NBA playoffs from 2004-2006, but were swept in the first round in all three of those years.
Despite all the progress the Grizzlies have made over the last five years, this team could be even better right now had they not chossen Hasheem Thabeet with the second overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft.
Thabeet was selected over the likes of James Harden, Tyreke Evans, Ricky Rubio, Jonny Flynn, Stephen Curry, Brandon Jennings and dozens of other players who have already outperformed the former Uconn center.
Less than two years later, Hasheem Thabeet was traded to the Houston Rockets for Shane Battier. Coincidentally, the Grizzlies missed the NBA Playoffs the next four years after trading Battier to Houston for Rudy Gay during the 2006 NBA Draft. Thabeet has quickly become one of the biggest NBA draft busts in recent memory.
Hasheem Thabeet is currently playing for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers of the NBA D-League.
Although its easier to analyze anything in retrospect, Thabeet was never a player that was going to live up to the expectation of being a 2nd overall pick, or for that matter of even becoming the next Mark Eaton.
Despite being a phenomenal bust, drafting Thabeet did make sense at the time. The Grizzlies needed a center to help balance out their young team. Thabeet was the best prospect in a draft class that lacked big men, unless you consider Jordan Hill and Tyler Hansbrough as players with star potential in the NBA.
Blake Griffin went number one to the Los Angeles Clippers and their was no way they were ever going to pass on him. The only way Griffin would have come to Memphis was if the Grizzlies won the NBA Draft lottery.
The Grizzlies already had Marc Gasol and Rudy Gay in their frontcourt, in addition to their young backcourt of Mike Conley and O.J. Mayo.
Also, Zach Randolph was still not on the roster. He was acquired from the Los Angeles Clippers, several weeks after the 2009 NBA Draft for Quentin Richardson.
The 2009 NBA Draft was full of great point guards. Ten would be selected in the first round At the time, Mike Conley had just finished his second season. He wasn't one of the better point guards in the NBA at the time, but it seemed too early to bring in another point guard with such a high draft pick.
O.J. Mayo was coming off an impressive rookie season and it didn't make sense to draft a guy like James Harden or Tyreke Evans, especially with Rudy Gay at small forward.
Still, what if the Grizzlies decided to take the best player on the board, rather than drafting for need? Most likely, Tyreke Evans would have remained in Western Tennessee after he left college, rather than playing for the Sacramento Kings right now (or rather the soon to be Anaheim Royals).
Mayo, Conley, and Evans could have formed one the deepest back courts in the NBA. Not to mention the possible small ball lineups that trio could have formed with Rudy Gay and Marc Gasol or Zach Randolph (assuming he is still acquired). Evans is a versatile player who would have easily fit in with this team.
Throw Sam Young, Darrel Arthur, and a potential 2010 NBA Draft lottery pick (probably wouldn't have been Xavier Henry this time around) in to the mix, and the Grizzlies are quite the intriguing up and comer in this scenario. Maybe not a potential rival for the Oklahoma City Thunder, but certainly not a sleeper team by any means.
Maybe James Harden or Stephen Curry come along instead. Neither is as versatile as Tyreke Evans, but either one would still have been more productive than Hasheem Thabeet. At this point, Ricky Rubio would have been a better draft choice, whether or not he ever left Spain.
Even if a different player was chosen in place of Thabeet, it still wouldn't have guaranteed the re-signing of Rudy Gay and/or Zach Randolph.
Maybe Gay would have signed elsewhere last summer if he felt the team had too much of a logjam at the shooting guard/small forward spots. Or its possible, Michael Heisley and Chris Wallace would not have wanted to give him such a large contract with so many great young players on the team.
Whether or not the Memphis Grizzlies would be better off today had they not drafted Hasheem Thabeet, its still better than the days of Vancouver, British Columbia and Bryant Reeves.
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