The Thunder have signed Alex Abrines, the 32nd pick in the 2013 draft, to a reported three-year, $18 million contract.
The 22 year-old had been playing in Spain for FC Barcelona Lassa for the last three years. Abrines had not been expected to come over this season, but it seems likely that the loss of Kevin Durant spurred the move, ostensibly for salary cap and playing time reasons. His buyout from Barcelona is reported to be $2.2 million. The Thunder agreed to pay $650,000 of it, but Abrines must pay the rest.
Abrines included, the Thunder now have 11 players 24 and younger under contract: Steven Adams, Enes Kanter, Victor Oladipo, Cameron Payne, Andre Roberson, Domantas Sabonis, Mitch McGary, Josh Huestis, Dakari Johnson, and Semaj Christon alongside Abrines form a very solid core moving forward.
Abrines has improved markedly since the Thunder drafted him three years ago, and Sam Presti has been reported to be quite happy with Abrines’s development. Last season, Abrines won the Euroleague’s Rising Star award (best player 22 and under), which has been held by the likes of successful NBA players like Ricky Rubio, Danilo Gallinari, and Nikola Mirotić.
The Thunder will mainly rely on the young Spaniard to spot-up on the three-point line and knock down open shots, which was their biggest weakness before KD packed his bags. Last season with Barcelona, Abrines shot 45% from beyond the arc. Although they already have a knock-down shooter on the roster in Anthony Morrow, he was unable to stay on the floor under Billy Donovan because of his utter lack of defensive stopping power, especially in the playoffs. Check out his Euroleague highlights below:
There are questions about his slight frame. Standing at 6’6”, Abrines only weighs 190. His natural position is forward, but there is little chance he will be able to stay in front of bigger and more athletic swingmen.With yesterday’s news that the Thunder rescinded Dion Waiters’s qualifying offer, it seems pretty certain that Abrines will be either the second or third shooting guard in the rotation.
Every year, it seems as if one, two, or even three of the relatively unknown Euro prospects seem to come out of nowhere to light up the league. Kristaps Porzingis of the Knicks, Nikola Jokic of the Nuggets, and Evan Fournier of the Magic came on in a big way in 2015-2016, challenging the xenophobic trope that Europeans are ‘soft.’ With Durant’s departure, Abrines may surprise some people, but his body will definitely need a year or two to be considered NBA-ready. However, The Euroleague is a professional environment, arguably more competitive than even NCAA basketball. His skillset should allow him to get on the court early and often, provided he can prove to play passable defense.
Thunder fans will have a chance to see their new player playing for Spain in the Rio olympics in August.