Before we get to the player, you have to first know the story behind the draft pick that landed the player. Following the aftermath of the James Harden trade in 2012, the Oklahoma City Thunder accumulated an abundance of draft picks from the Houston Rockets. One of those picks was a 2013 2nd rounder from the Charlotte Bobcats (now Hornets). Now, 2nd rounders are usually nothing to make a big deal about. But this 2nd round pick had previously had some history with the Thunder. Oklahoma City had previously acquired this pick in an offseason transaction involving Byron Mullens in 2011. But the NBA awarded that pick to the Boston Celtics as compensation for receiving an injured player under false pretenses after it was discovered that the Thunder may have had previous knowledge of Jeff Green’s heart condition prior to trading him to Boston.
Then, early in the 2012 offseason, Houston traded Courtney Lee to Boston for several other players and that 2013 2nd rounder from Charlotte. And then the Harden trade happened and the Thunder finally reacquired what they had been seeking all along. It took quite a bit of work, but what is commonly known as the Harden trade, is actually the “sticking it to the NBA and reacquiring the 2013 2nd round pick from Charlotte that they thought they took from us” trade.
That pick eventually became Spanish guard Alex Abrines, who was chosen with the 32nd pick in the 2013 NBA draft. When he was initially chosen, it was a given that he would stay in Europe for a couple seasons to get more seasoning. But as the seasons followed, many thought Abrines would go the way of 2010 2nd rounder Tibor Pleiß, who was also initially drafted as a Euro-stash with the intent that he would come over after a couple seasons. The running joke with Pleiß during every offseason was whether this would be the season he would finally come over. Eventually, after 5 years, Pleiß did come over….as a member of the Utah Jazz, shortly after his rights were traded there for Enes Kanter.
After three seasons in Spain, it was almost as if history was repeating itself with Abrines. In previous interviews with the Spanish media, Abrines spoke glowingly about wanting a career like that of Juan Carlso Navarro, whose one season in the NBA was sandwiched in between 14 Euroleague seasons, all with Barcelona. It almost seemed like getting Abrines to come over would be a far reach.
But then Kevin Durant left and that opened the cupboard up for the Thunder. With a little extra money available, the Thunder used that and possibility of real playing time to lure Abrines across the Atlantic Ocean. He signed a 3 year/$18 million contract and will be one of three rookies in camp this year.
(Liga ACB) 25 GP, 19.2 mins, 9.3 pts, 2.2 rebs, 0.8 asts, 0.6 stls, 46.9% FG, 41.7% 3pt FG, 83.3% FT
There will be a learning curve for Abrines. He’s extremely thin by NBA standards and will have to get used to the speed of the game. But he was one of the best young players in EuroLeague last season, good enough to earn the 2016 EuroLeague Rising Star Award voted on by the coaches of the league. He has an NBA skill that the Thunder will eventually call upon at some point in the season. The best-case scenario for the Thunder is for Abrines to get reps early in the season, maybe with the Blue, and then increase his playing time with the Thunder as the season progresses, especially if someone like Anthony Morrow is traded by the trade deadline in February.
With Abrines’ history of knee problems, the worst-case scenario for the Thunder would be if Abrines got seriously hurt at any point during his rookie season. At media day, he stated that he was held out of an Olympic game as a precaution to being hit in the knee. But he’s only 23 years old. If he’s already having precautions taken on him, I’d worry a little if I were the Thunder. If he gets hurt, then that is time off the floor that he could use for development.
Also, if Abrines fails to adapt to the NBA game, that could also be a hindrance to Abrines’ development. The speed of the NBA game is completely different than the overseas game as the NBA is more iso-centric and pick and roll heavy. If Abrines can’t adapt defensively, he may turninto a more expensive version of Morrow.
Percentage that he’ll get traded this season: 10% – The Thunder just got themselves a young shooter with potential on a cap friendly deal. They aren’t giving him up unless a Godfather deal comes around.
Abrines Season Preview
I was completely surprised when I saw how skinny Abrines was during media day. I mean, he is teenager vs. man skinny. While other frail-bodied players have succeeded in the league, it did take them time to get used to the strength of the game. One of my best comps for Abrines is Rip Hamilton, and it took him a couple seasons and a facial injury to become the player we remember him as.
As a shooter, I see Abrines contributing a little after the All-Star break. But as a complete player, I see that happening next season after he’s had a year in the league. I do see a couple trips to the Cox Convention Center in his future, but I think those trips will be beneficial for his development.