By the time the NBA Draft had concluded late Thursday evening, after the paper work was submitted and the league approved all acquisitions, the Thunder came away with three second-round draft picks: Germany’s Tibor Pleiss, Tulsa 66ers forward Latavious Williams and Florida State’s Ryan Reid.
Here’s the nuts-and-bolts on each of them, as well as what Executive Vice President/General Manager Sam Presti and Director of College/International Player Personnel Rob Hennigan had to say.TIBOR PLEISS Position: Center Height/Weight: 7-1, 242 lbs. Birth date: Nov. 2, 1989 (Bergisch Gladbach, Germany) Team: Brose Baskets Bamberg Many draft experts considered Pleiss to be the mystery man of this year’s draft class. What we know about Pleiss, who goes by the nickname “Octopus” in his native country, is that he’s a 20-year-old who helped his Brose Baskets Bamberg team to the German League championship just a week ago. Pleiss averaged 8.0 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.3 blocked shots in 45 games in the German Bundesliga and 8.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 0.9 blocks in 14 Eurocup games.
Pleiss is expected to train and play with the German national team this summer in preparation for the World Championships in Turkey and Presti added that Pleiss will play in the Euro League next season as the Thunder continues to evaluate him.
So with Pleiss staying overseas for the next season, the Thunder is taking the same approach with him as it did with Serge Ibaka, who just finished a promising rookie season after spending an extra season in Spain.
With Pleiss, Hennigan said that it wasn’t just his size that the Thunder found attractive.
“It was more the substance,” Hennigan said. “We saw a guy who could move really well. We saw a guy who had dexterity. We saw a guy who really seemed to enjoy playing. I know that sounds simple but it’s hard to find nowadays players who really love to play, especially players Tibor’s size.”
Pleiss is mobile for his size and can knock down a midrange jump shot, a skill for a big man that’s in high demand in Europe. Hennigan said that despite the fact that he’s not physically strong as he will be someday, Pleiss is still a sound rebounder, can protect the rim and challenge shots with his length.
“He has some real savvy defensively and I think once his body catches up to his instincts and his savvy, I think that’s when you’re really going to see him take off.”LATAVIOUS WILLIAMS Position: Forward Height/Weight: 6-8, 195 lbs. Birth date: March 29, 1989 (Starkville, MS) Team: Tulsa 66ers Not even a year ago, Williams became the first player drafted from high school to the NBA D-League and after a draft night trade with the Miami Heat the explosive forward will continue to play for the same professional franchise that originally took him.
Presti said that Williams will most likely return to the 66ers this fall after a season in which he averaged 7.7 points, 7.7 rebounds, 20.5 minutes and 52.8% shooting from the field.
“Again, I think especially the situation we have having the 66ers, it’s been an accelerator for our program,” Presti said. “Nate Tibbetts, Brandon Barnett, Dale Osbourne, they do an excellent job in Tulsa and really were a huge part of the development of Latavious this year. So we’re excited to welcome him back to the organization and we feel like he’s someone who has a great upside.”
A highly touted prospect for the 2008 class, Williams made headlines when he decided to back out of his commitment to the University of Memphis to jump start his professional career. After looking into options overseas, Williams decided the best route to take was through the NBA D-League. Williams made history by becoming the first player to go directly from high school to the D-League when the 66ers drafted him with the 16th overall pick of last year’s draft, which also allowed the Thunder to track his progress throughout the season.
Williams arrived to the 66ers training camp as a raw prospect who wasn’t asked to do much at the high school level other than utilize his athletic abilities. Throughout the season, 66ers head coach Nate Tibbetts said the Mississippi native matured and developed both on and off the court. By season’s end, Williams was the 66ers’ energy guy off the bench. And on Thursday, the Thunder saw enough potential in Williams to get him back on a draft day
Williams was the 66ers’ energy guy off the bench during their run to the D-League Finals, and head coach Nate Tibbetts said the Mississippi native showed maturity and development both on and off the court in his first professional season. The Thunder saw enough of Williams to acquire him in a draft day trade.RYAN REID Position: Forward Height/Weight: 6-8, 232 lbs. Birth date: Oct. 30, 1986 (Lauderdale Lakes, FL) College: Florida State Ryan Reid was a player that few draft experts pegged to hear his name called on Thursday. The Thunder saw something it liked in Reid enough to swap second round picks for him with the Indiana Pacers.
The Thunder sent Magnum Rolle (51st overall) to Indiana in exchange for Reid (57th overall) and cash considerations toward the end of the night. What the Thunder got in Reid was a player known to do all the little things during his four years at Florida State, a player who was widely regarded as the Seminoles most consistent player this past season. One media report called him one of the most driven players in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
“This is a guy who brings a physicality and toughness to the defensive end of the floor,” Presti said.
Reid was one of three players in Florida State history to appear in the postseason in all four years. He averaged 6.8 points and 4.0 rebounds as a senior.
For a further look at Williams, Pleiss and Reid, and what made them appealing to the Thunder, come back to thunder.nba.com next week.
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