Addressing Khyri Thomas’ Fit with the Detroit Pistons

The Pistons drafted Khyri Thomas with the 38th pick in the NBA Draft last night, but his fit with the team is uncertain. Image: Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The Detroit Pistons went into the NBA Draft last night with the 42nd pick. They did not own their own first round pick, the 12th pick, as it was sent to the Los Angeles Clippers in the trade that sent Blake Griffin to Detroit.

The Pistons still were able to draft two players. Detroit made a deal with the Philadelphia 76ers to acquire the 38th pick in the draft. With that pick, Detroit selected Khyri Thomas from Creighton. In the trade, the Pistons sent the 76ers to future second-round draft picks. The details of what years the picks are from are undisclosed as of now.

Detroit drafted shooting guard Bruce Brown from Miami with their own second-round pick in the draft, at 42.

The move to acquire Thomas displays that Detroit is serious about competing right now. Ed Stefanski sacrificed two future assets to add another player to the roster, and when you trade for a pick, its because you believe that player can help your team right now. But Thomas joins a hashed out point guard depth chart in Detroit. Reggie Jackson is running the show, and Ish Smith has been a good backup point guard in his tenure with Detroit. The Pistons also signed Dwight Buycks to a big league contract in the middle of last season, and he was adequate when given minutes throughout the year. Thomas may be able to jump Buycks on the depth chart, but it’s unlikely he comes close to jumping ahead of Smith, who has started 67 games with the Pistons over the last two seasons due to Jackson’s injury complications.

The prospect of him receiving minutes at shooting guard seems just as low. Detroit will either start Luke Kennard or Reggie Bullock at shooting guard next season, depending on if Stanley Johnson will start at small forward. The best case scenario for Thomas would be that Detroit starts Kennard at shooting guard and Bullock at small forward, which would consequently make Johnson the backup three. That would leave Thomas the chance to win the backup shooting guard role, but he’d have to beat out Langston Galloway, who the Pistons are paying $7 million to annually over the next two years, and his draftee counterpart, Bruce Brown. Thomas is a bit undersized for a two, but some lack faith in his ability to facilitate an offense, which may keep him from seeing point guard minutes.

Yet Stefanski was willing to trade away to future picks to add Thomas to the roster. Many analysts around the league were shocked that Thomas fell all the way to the 38th pick in the draft, as some had Thomas pegged as a first-round talent. Free agency begins on July 1st, and Detroit’s roster is incomplete. They still need to add another small forward and center to the roster, and Anthony Tolliver is an unrestricted free agent that Detroit should re-sign. But the Pistons will need to find some money to make those roster adjustments possible.

One way to do so would be in the trade market.

The Pistons have a $7 million trade exception that they can use to add a piece to the roster, and they also have multiple contracts they should look to clear. That first contract is Jon Leuer, who is owed $10.5 million annually over the next two years. While moving Leuer would not clear the way for Thomas to receive minutes in his rookie season, clearing Galloway’s overpriced contract or moving on from the final year of Ish Smith’s $6 million deal could help.

Thomas played three seasons at Creighton, where he showcased a wide array of skills. In his final year as a Bluejay, Thomas averaged 15.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 2.8 assists in 31.7 minutes per game. He’s was an efficient shooter, shooting 53.8 percent from the field, 41.1 percent from the 3-point line, and 78.8 percent from the free throw line. He posted a super effective 65 percent true shooting percentage. Thomas can score in a variety of ways, as shown in his Synergy chart.

But Thomas’ greatest capabilities come on the defensive end. He’s a hound on the ball, with a knack for getting his hands on the ball. He was 3rd in the Big East last season, averaging 1.7 steals per game. The 6’3″ guard was a two-time Defensive Player of the Year in the Big East, a testament to the challenge he brings to his opponents on that end. He can immediately have an impact on the defensive side of the ball in his rookie season.

The Pistons should be excited about the potential that Thomas brings to the team. He really is a talented prospect that has first-round talent. Prior to his rookie season, it’d be best for him to continue to develop his facilitating abilities, as positional versatility will only improve his ability to make a difference in year one. As Summer League approaches in the coming weeks, eyes will be on Thomas and Bruce Brown the newest young pieces of the Pistons’ franchise.

Featured Image: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

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