Over the past couple of months Rockets fans have been given a little insight as to what new coach Kevin McHale plans on doing with our lovable group of role players. McHale’s philosophy:
Look, we have to protect the paint. Some things don’t change and protecting the paint is one of those things that can’t change. On the offensive end, you have to be able to get the ball in the paint and collapse the defense. Why you’re trying to do it on offense is the same reason you’re trying to stop it on defense. When the ball gets in the paint, it changes everything.
We have a couple of guys who can mind the paint temporarily but nobody has the potential to do so as well as Hasheem Thabeet.
This isn’t a “play Thabeet” post. We all know that he has a lot of issues and isn’t ready to contribute. Memphis tried very hard to work their precious #2 draft pick into the rotation but eventually they shipped him off with another pick for an expiring Battier. That says a multitude of things right there. They gave him a decent shot (more of shot than Adelman would dare bother with) and he failed.
I think Kevin McHale will spend the next three years teaching Thabeet (and guys like Jordan Hill/Patrick Patterson) how to be effective on both ends and I think he will do it well. There’s a lot of discussion about how Houston needs to sign or trade for a center but center’s are a rare commodity. Aside from Dwight Howard and to a lesser extent Marc Gasol, no center in the league is really a year round, both sides of the floor threat. Upper echelon centers like Bogut, Bynum, Chandler, Kaman, Nene and the like have injury problems. Younger guys with potential like Roy Hibbert, Noah, McGee, DeMarcus Cousins, DeAndre Jordan, and Brook Lopez are either inconsistent or just don’t have it all together yet. Brook Lopez, for example, has a great offensive game but he can’t play defense and he can’t rebound.
The remaining centers are either power forwards playing out of position or older, but serviceable guys who we might be able to plug in for a season of mediocrity like Samuel Dalembert. The point is we could probably easily obtain a legit 7 footer whose around 30 and will suite our needs, maybe even block some shots, but is he really going to be that much more useful than Chuck Hayes? If Kevin McHale lives up to his mantra, Hasheem Thabeet will not only see some burn but his development will be a focus. Thabeet was hailed since about a year before the draft as the quintessential ‘project player’.
It befuddles me why Rockets fans and NBA fans alike are so ready to write him off as a bust so quickly. Right now, he’s a foul machine who occasionally blocks shots and rebounds at a mediocre rate but if he can find a way to stay on the floor and learn some team defense all of a sudden Daryl Morey looks like a genius. We don’t need Thabeet to score and we don’t really need him to rebound. We’d like him to eventually do both of those things better but that’s not where the need is. By the end of next season I’m going to predict fans might have a change of heart about Thabeet, but that’s only if McHale lives up to his word and Hasheem decides to put some effort in.