The Detroit Pistons and Dwane Casey allocated a heavy dose of minutes to rookie wing Bruce Brown throughout the 2018-2019 season for his defensive-orientated style of play. Viewers were able to see what Brown could do, but the same cannot be said for fellow rookie Khyri Thomas, who played a total of a meager 195 minutes this year. Former Piston Henry Ellenson played more minutes with the New York Knicks than Thomas did with Detroit. Those minutes were dispersed throughout 26 games, for an average of 7.5 minutes per game. While the minutes were few and far between for the 6’3” guard from Creighton, he made the most of his time on the court and left an impression that has some wondering just how much potential Thomas has.
The sample sizes for Thomas make it hard to decipher much from his rookie season. He had just five games this season in which he attempted five or more shots. He scored five or more points just five times. But again, there were flashes. Against the Milwaukee Bucks in January, Thomas played 20 minutes and scored 13 points while knocking down both of his 3-point attempts.
On the season, Thomas’ numbers don’t do him justice. His shooting percentages are low and his averages are frugal. When he wasn’t viewing from Detroit’s bench, he spent some time in the NBA G League with the Grand Rapids Drive. He appeared in 10 contests in Grand Rapids and played extremely well. He averaged 20 points on 50 percent shooting from the field and 43.8 percent from beyond the arc. In addition, he chipped in three rebounds, 1.9 assists, and 1.7 steals in 32.3 minutes per game. He was a plus-3.7 in those 10 games.
In the video above, you can see how Thomas likes to score the ball. In nearly every clip outside of transition plays, Thomas came flying off of screens from distance and in the mid-range to score the ball. He was used as an off-ball scorer in the G League and saw great success at a high volume in that role. His scoring arsenal almost reminds you of former Piston, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who generated a great deal of his offense coming off of screens and shooting or creating while using minimal dribbling. Thomas can handle the ball a bit better, as he was in a role that saw him initiate the offense at Creighton quite a bit, but he did not do that too much.
Ironically enough, he appeared in three of Detroit’s four playoff games this season against the Bucks. In Game 1, Thomas again sparked interest by scoring nine points on 4-6 shooting in just nine minutes.
The video in the above tweet is perhaps the best play from Thomas’ season. He comes off a screen to get the ball, then uses a pair of screens from Zaza Pachulia to start his drive to the basket. Once he gets downhill, he uses a hesitation dribble to draw Ersan Ilyasova up and into the air. Then he creeps to the basket and scores. A professional play by a rookie with very little experience and no playoff experience.
Thomas is spending the offseason working with trainer Joey Burton. Burton is the same trainer who works with Piston forward, Glenn Robinson III. Expect him to work on point guard skills such as ball-handling and scoring at the rim, key facets of the game for most players in the league today, but especially for a point guard, a position that the Pistons want him to develop at.
With Wayne Ellington becoming a free agent, the chance that Detroit trades Langston Galloway, and his own development, there is a chance that Thomas takes on a bigger role next season. Casey likes what he can do and Thomas’ workhorse mentality will certainly help him improve his game to the point where he can find minutes in a jumbled area of Detroit’s depth chart.
At just 23 years old, there is much to still be seen with Khyri Thomas, but his rookie season certainly showed that something was there with him, and it is on the Pistons to find out exactly what that is.
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