Over/Under: Hasheem Thabeet 10 PPG

I can’t take credit for this idea, as it originally was a question on Pardon the Interruption. However I’d like to add a twist on it. The original question was whether Thabeet would average 10 points per game over his career. Instead my question is “Will Thabeet have an average of 10 ppg over his first three seasons?” In other words if his career ended after 3 seasons, would his career scoring average be over or under 10 points per game?

To compare with other defensive minded centers, Dikembe Mutombo managed to average 10+ ppg in each of his first 11 seasons. And Muresan just beat the mark at 10.5 ppg. On the other hand, Theo Ratliff wouldn’t reach that number until his 4th season. This was partly due to his low minute count, since he only managed 21.6 minutes per game in his first three years. Meanwhile Tyson Chandler has only reached 10+ ppg once in his career. And Greg Oden has barely played his first two years.

Really this is a question with two components. The first is that Thabeet gets enough minutes per game to reach the mark. Considering that he’s likely to be a top 3 pick, being able to get the playing time shouldn’t be an issue. The second is whether or not Thabeet’s offense will be good enough at the NBA level. To answer yes, you have to believe in both.

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Mike Kurylo

Mike Kurylo is the founder and editor of KnickerBlogger.net. His book on the 2012 Knicks, "We’ll Always Have Linsanity," is on sale now. Follow him on twitter (@KnickerBlogger).

25 thoughts to “Over/Under: Hasheem Thabeet 10 PPG”

  1. I don’t see it happening. The best euphemism offensively would be raw. Of course if I could remember what Dikembe looked like in college it might help. All I see is Dalembert which isn’t bad but not top three pick of the draft material.

  2. I’ll take the over, mostly to express that I’m high on Thabeet. It’ll obviously depend on who drafts him, though. Fast-paced motion offense with good passers and he could get his 10 ppg on 5 dunks per game. No real scoring options and maybe he gets 10 ppg by default. Slow-it-down, iso offense with established scorer(s) and he might not get 10 ppg even if he’s averaging 40 mpg.

    Thabeet is not as good as Dike offensively and probably not defensively, but a lot of people seem to forget that Dikembe was only the 4th pick in the ’91 draft (behind LJ, Kenny Anderson, and Billy Owens), his freshman year at G-Town he averaged 11 mpg and 4 ppg: he was no slam dunk HoFer coming into the league in many minds. Even if he’s a more consistent Tyson Chandler, I have no problem taking Thabeet high in the draft. I would contend that scorers are easier to come by than defensive anchors.

  3. I chose the over as well. His offense isn’t great, but I think he’ll get enough minutes to get it done. With his size he shouldn’t be plagued with foul trouble, and with the lack of quality centers…

  4. At first glance, I thought: “under – no-brainer.” But the more I thought about it, the more I am inclined to agree with KB. Of course it depends on where he ends up, but he’s going to get a lot of minutes and a lot of garbage baskets off the o-glass. And there’s no denying he can up and down the court. I ended up going with over.

  5. I’m going to say that he goes just barely *under* — between 8.5 and 9.5 ppg. (I’m assuming top 5 pick, playing at least 20 mpg, and no significant injuries.) I don’t think Thabeet has the hands or the balance to score consistently, especially early in his career, but he’ll almost certainly be a reasonably efficient low usage scorer. I think a TS% in the 50s sounds about right.

    Here’s why I’m high on Thabeet. He’s athletic, a fact that many people seem to ignore. He’s certainly not Shaq. He’s not even Bynum in terms of agility, but he is comparable to Bynum in plain run-jump athleticism. Thabeet will be able to get a handful of easy baskets every night just running the floor — sparing the offense from having to run plays for him and bogging down the offense. The other big feather in Thabeet’s cap for my money is that he projects to have a long career. Size ages well, and he’s athletic with good feet. His zenith may not be high, but he should stay in his prime for a while.

  6. Mike, I was poking around on Basketball Reference, and I don’t really see much evidence that size matters as far as PF/36 goes. Ben Wallace, at 2.3/36, holds a much lower rate than much larger centers like Yao (3.6), Muresan (5.1), and Bradley (3.1). Kevin Garnett has a surprisingly low career PF/36 at 2.5.

    Also, Chuck Nevitt, at 7’5″, averaged 9.2/36 over the course of his career.

    I’d have to guess that early on, Thabeet will run into foul trouble from being unaccustomed to the NBA’s slashers and a tendency to try to earn the big money he’ll be making. From the statistics, it seems that the older a player gets, the fewer fouls he commits.

  7. I’ll take the under.

    Ben Wallace NEVER averaged 10 points a game, and only had two years topping 7 points a game.

    Tyson Chandler only cracked 10 ppg once (2007-2008).

    Theo Ratliff managed four seasons averaging 11 or 12 ppg, but it took playing between 32 and 36 mpg.

    That’s two guys who at one point were consensus very good to excellent players, and another who’s among the career leaders in shots blocked and started on an NBA Finals team. Meanwhile, Thabeet’s offense relative to his defense is, IMO, far worse even than these guys. To reach that hallowed 10 ppg he’s going to have to pick up a lot of moves, or be an all-time great on defense.

    When you justify your draft pick by saying he’ll eventually learn how to play, you have problems…

    Seriously, Thabeet might be a good defender in time but off the bat he’s only okay there. He’s raw as sushi. His balance is awful – spends half the game on his behind. And his ability to run the court, while pretty good for 7’3, is nothing special compared to other NBA centers. That said, he’s improved a lot each year and even though he’s 22 maybe he can keep it up.

    Owen’s over/under line of 10 rpg is more interesting… but on that I take the under, too.

  8. over on points, under on rebounds. Thabeet is going to go to a bad team and should average 10-12 just based on dunks and such..with his minutes it will be hard for him to avg less than 8 points at bare minimum rookie year I’d guess. 10 boards per game is a much much much much much more exclusive group however and Thabeet, at least at this point is not that good of a rebounder. I really can’t see him getting there.

    Perhaps the real question is, how many blocks per game will he average, as that is his calling card. I guess we’ll set it at 2 bpg?

  9. Caleb,

    I respect your opinion on Thabeet, but I have to point out some flaws in those examples.

    Wallace: He had four seasons over 7 ppg, with one at 9.5 and another 9.7. A fifth season was at 6.9.
    Wallace is the ultimate example of low usage, low efficiency. His career TS% is .473. The seasons where he averaged 9.5 and 9.7 ppg his TS%s were .441 and .459, respectively. With a TS% of .550 each of those years, he would have averaged 13.1 and 11.7.

    It’s hard to imagine Thabeet being as historically awful a scorer as Wallace. Wallace is half a foot shorter than Thabeet, so it’s harder to hit him with a lob in traffic (Orlando usually had 3 guys on the court who are taller than him). Wallace was also a .391 FT shooter and .523 FG shooter in college, compared to Thabeet at .625 FT and .611 FG. In TS% terms Wallace was at .507 in college, compared to Thabeet at .638. All this with Thabeet playing in what has been called the toughest conference ever and leading his team to the Final Four, and Wallace playing at Virginia Union.
    I just don’t see much comparison.

    Ratliff: While Ratliff came into the league on 46 and 54 win Detroit playoff teams, Thabeet is likely to step onto a 20 odd win team.
    Ratliff’s college numbers (at Wyoming) are closer to Thabeet’s than Wallace, but still not there: .608 FT, .547 FG, and .579 TS. Ratliff went on to a career .548 TS% in the NBA.


    So Thabeet clearly falls well short of Dike as a college scorer, but I’d say he’s a step or two above Ratliff and clearly several steps above Wallace.
    Threw Dalembert in there because you also hear those comparisons. In fairness, Dalembert was 20 coming into the league. He averaged 8 ppg his second season (third year) in the league and has a career .558 TS%.

    I don’t think anyone is saying “he’ll eventually learn how to play” with Thabeet anymore than your average center prospect these days. Which is why I put Oden’s freshman numbers at Ohio State up there. Maybe a little unfair to compare a freshman season to a 3 year college career, but Oden was already hailed as the best C prospect since Shaq at an age where Thabeet had never picked up a basketball. As a 2nd year rookie Oden put in 8.9 ppg on a .599 TS% splitting time with Przybilla.

    I just spent an hour and a half doing that, so I’m not going to do the same with rebounds or blocks… Thabeet took a huge step forward as a rebounder this season, though, so we’ll see if it sticks.

  10. Impressive stuff had I had that info I might have been inclined to say yes.

  11. Ted makes a good counterargument, as good as could be made…

    but I still bet “under.”

    The big reason – all the players Ted (and I) use as a basis of comparison are top-notch centers in some regard — good to great defenders, and mostly excellent rebounders. They all did SOMETHING to keep themselves on the court for 30-35 minutes, regardless of their offense. I’m not convinced Thabeet will ever be that valuable. His rebounding did come a loooong way, but even now it’s mediocre for a lottery big-man prospect.

    Part of it is subjective. IMO Thabeet’s tools are not great. Mediocre hands. No sense of balance. Zero handle. Greg Oden looks like Kobe Bryant, next to him.

    Another thing: Ben Wallace had an extremely low usage rate and was a terrible free throw shooter, but he also grabbed as many offensive boards for putbacks as anyone. It still only got him 7 to 9 points a game. A guess that Thabeet will get 4 or 5 easy buckets just by hanging around, is not a good guess.

    Obviously, playing time is a huge variable, but I’m not convinced that Thabeet will get more than 25 mpg no matter where he goes.

    Pace is another variable. Everything else being equal, the difference between Golden State and Detroit is the difference between 8.9 points a game and 10.1. Oklahoma City or Sacramento would boost Thabeet about half a point, compared to Memphis. Considering he’d have to share time with Gasol, I think I can collect my winnings in three weeks if the Grizzlies take Thabeet. The others might leave me holding my breath.

  12. Off topic, but our old friend the Italian Stalion has managed to piss off everyone on Berri’s blog now too. Check the Lakers post if you want a laugh.

  13. Off topic, but our old friend the Italian Stallion has managed to piss off everyone on Berri’s blog now too. Check the Lakers post if you want a laugh.

  14. look its pretty clear what we have to do here. buy out and trade curry and jefferies. try to trade robinson and someone else for another draft pick this year. then we have curry and hopefully another pick plus gallinari and wilson chandler. i think we should resign david lee to around 8 million per. that leaves us with just enough to sign 2 17.5 max free agent contracts. so heres the big idea. lebron obviously is coming to new york. i mean who goes out and wears a new york yankee hat in an interview a day after being ousted from the playoffs? ill tell you who, someone whose sending a signal that I AM OUTTA HERE. he loves stephen curry. so then we have lebron, gallinari, lee, chandler, hopefully another draft pick, and curry. obviously thats not enough to win the championship. so what do we do? we bring in the 2nd coming of scottie pippen….DWAYNE WADE BABY.

    pippen has better 3 pt shooting numbers and rebounding than d wade. his assists per game are comparable. if you give wade a supporting figure whose BETTER than him his ppg would be precisely the same as pippens. you need 2 good teammates to win the nba thats for certain. no individual can win. dwayne wade is not durable. he cant put up those numbers for every game of his career. he will get hurt more often later in his career hes abowling ball. he knows he wants greatness and lebron is his boy. tthe knicks will team lebron and dwade with stephen curry and david lee. gallinari will develop. they will be UNSTOPPABLE. talk about imagination how many chances do you get in a lifetime where 4 top 10 players are free agents the same year. LETS GO KNICKS

  15. I don’t think that Thabeet’s going to get 4 or 5 putbacks a game. But if he converts 1 or 2 putbacks, 1 or 2 lobs, 1 or 2 open looks where a driver draws the defense and dishes to him, 1 or 2 pick-and-rolls, and draws 1 or 2 shooting fouls… you get close to 10 ppg without taking a jumper. And his jumper was developing this season.

    System and personnel, along with minutes and pace, will be important. Put him in Tyson Chandler’s shoes with Paul making plays for him, West drawing out one interior defender, and a bunch of 3-point shooters (Peja, Butler, Posey) who can help spread the floor and I think he gets 10 ppg despite New Orlean’s slow pace. He might struggle in an offense that lacks movement, where he’s got to go one-on-one. A guard who likes to play a two-man game with Thabeet and looks for him underneath would be huge for his scoring volume.

    Between shot blocking, efficient low-volume scoring, and rebounding I think Thabeet will stay on the court. If not off the bat, then certainly if he continues to work hard to improve. Thabeet was on track to shatter the NCAA record for career blocked shots if he returned for a healthy senior year (118 shy, and never put up less than that in his 3 seasons). He’s got great lateral quickness as well. Might struggle with strength, fouls, and learning the game early, but I think he’s got what it takes to earn minutes on a 20 win team right away and eventually develop into an All-Defense type.

    Here are blocks/rebound numbers

    Final NCAA Season


    On balance, I see the makings of an elite shot blocker and solid rebounder. In college Thabeet was a significantly better rebounder than Ratliff, who went on to become a below average rebounding big in the NBA. He was on par with Dalembert in college, and moved up toward the Wallace/Mutombo range as a junior. I don’t see him falling short of the 15 reb-rate range which is sort of a cut-off for a solid rebounder, and he has the potential to get into that 18-20 reb-range of elite rebounders.

  16. Thanks for doing all that work!

    Thabeet’s rebound # stacks up a little better than I thought. If it’s real, and he becomes an 18-20% rebound rate guy, that would obviously change the picture. Interesting that Wallace and Mutombo were both true late bloomers – maybe given Thabeet’s relatively short time playing basketball, he’ll be another. He’s older than almost all his draft rivals, but the inexperience may balance the “upside”

    And he does look like a terrific shot-blocker. Not sure I’m on-board with “great” lateral movement or any other defensive ability, but when you block shots that well it’s valuable, no matter what.

    A couple of red flags, for me… if you look at his numbers against Big East and good NCAA tourney competition, vs. against bad teams of little guys, there’s a pretty big split. 17.4 rebounds and 5.4 blocks per 40, vs. 12.4 and 5.0. Not much dropoff in blocks, but suggests he may be padding rebound #s against short, unathletic types he won’t see at the next level. Of course, I don’t know how that dropoff compares to the usual… easy to look at some other players.

    The other thing – he only had 17 assists all season, and 41 in his 3-year career — with 68 turnovers this year and 175 for the career. Against NBA players, he’ll be stripped every time he touches the ball, unless it’s a wide-open dunk.

    UConn mostly avoided giving him the ball, for this reason. The idea of him playing much in a pick n roll or pick n pop scheme, seems like a long-range plan at best.

    He’s an unusual, interesting prospect… interesting to see where he lands.

  17. So what is the value of a block? Does each block save whatever the PPS average is around the league? Or more due to a higher FG% around the paint (where I’d presume most blocks are made)? Or is it indicative of a “defensive presence” all-around? How do we quantify the value of a block?

  18. I dont believe the Thabeet hype. I think he could slip just like Brook Lopez but hes not the one I would take if hes still there at 8. Unless Donnie makes a deal for another first rounds im still taking Curry at 8 but im starting to warm up to the skills of Jonny Flynn. Ive been watching some of his video and this kid is fearless. He plays with such heart and confidence i think NY would love him.

  19. Caleb,

    Would be very interested to see how his splits vs. good and bad comp compare to others. I think he could get eaten up by the DeJuan Blair, Millsap, Maxiell, Anthony Mason types with strength and a low center of gravity, at least until he works on his strength and balance.

    The passing and TOs are definitely a concern. I did see a youtube clip where he makes a couple of good entry passes to Adrien or someone, so maybe he can improve. I think passing is a pretty difficult part of the game. Big men who go on to become very good passers usually start out average or below. Thabeet has a long way to go just to get to average, but I think he might have the work ethic. And that’s what it’s going to take, someone like Eddy Curry who doesn’t work hard never picks it up.
    Bad hands don’t seem like the easiest thing to improve. He does have to hold the ball high and avoid dribbling. Otherwise, I think a bad team lives with the turnovers and hopes he improves.

    I don’t think he’s a slam dunk prospect by any means, and wouldn’t advocate him as anything but a low-volume scorer. Of course, it’s going to come down to his work ethic and desire more than minutes, system, pace, teammates, or anything else. He’s a really rare commodity–athletic 7-2 player with feel for blocking shots, decent college stats, and demonstrated improvement from season to season. With the upside he has, you really have to think about rolling the dice. Unless you’re taking someone you’re 100% sold on, like Blake Griffin.
    If nothing else, I think his college numbers show that he can play in the NBA. How well has yet to be seen, but I don’t think he’s comparable to the raw Euro bigs (Darko, Skita,…) or to athletic college bigs who can’t (or don’t want to) play.

  20. The Honorable Cock Jowles,

    Interesting question… Great point on the higher % shots getting blocked more.
    As far as “defensive presence” all-around: A great shot blocker also causes a lot of redirected shots and might even discourage players from even driving into the lane. Although, the first can’t be quantified from the box score and the second can’t easily be quantified period (could look at teams % of inside vs. outside shots and how that ratio changes based on opponents shot blocking).
    On the other hand, blocked shots can fall right into the hands of the blockee for an open look. They can sail out of bounds. They can end up in teammate of the blockee’s hands. They don’t necessarily end a possession.


    If the hype is that he’s the next Dike, then I agree it’s a huge stretch. If it’s that he’s a very intriguing prospect and has a good chance at being a good interior defender and low-volume, high-efficiency scorer (sort of a Tyson Chandler, hopefully with some more consistency) then I’m buying.

    I seriously doubt Thabeet falls like Lopez, but we’ll see.

    Marc Berman has reported that Thabeet is the only player Donnie Walsh would be willing to give up a “decent” asset to trade up for.


  21. With respect to passing, at this point in his development he is very comparable to Dikembe, who was such a bad passer that the Nets simply gave up on him. They could not run their offense through him.

    That said, the games and clips I’ve seen of Thabeet show steady improvement in all afacets of his game. Assist/turnover is a little misleading here because he was never really required to pass in the UConn offense.

    One of the points Calhoun made about Thabeet is that he is so green he doesn’t have bad habits to erase- instead you simply teach him to do things the right way and he goes forward and executes the plan to the best of his current ability. Because he came to the game so late I have a hard time fixing on a clear ceiling, but I think he will be a productive low double double guy, barring injury.

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