POP 2019-2020 Season Preview: Khyri Thomas Still on the Outside Looking In

Image: David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

In a wing rotation that will feature Luke Kennard, Bruce Brown, Joe Johnson and more, it’s tough to see a distinct role for Khyri Thomas as a member of the Detroit Pistons this season. With increased depth across the team this season, Thomas may be entrenched in a roster battle for the 15th and final spot on the roster. That harsh reality is unfortunate because Thomas has shown some of that promise that led to the Pistons trading for him on draft night last summer.

The former second-round pick out of Creighton didn’t receive any major minutes last season with the Pistons. Rather, Thomas spent much of the season on the back end of the bench in Detroit, appearing in 26 games at the professional level and an additional 10 with the Pistons G-League affiliate, the Grand Rapids Drive.

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In his limited time with the Drive, Thomas displayed many of the traits that had people labeling him a “steal” from the 2018 NBA Draft. In his 10 games of action, Thomas averaged 20.3 points per game, while shooting 50% from the floor and 43.8% from behind the long line. He also flashed the defensive tools that many raved about coming out of college, averaging 1.7 steals per game.

In his first season of NBA action, Thomas showed his willingness to shoot from outside and attack the basket with mixed results.

On the other hand, Thomas only averaged 7.5 minutes per game in his time with the Pistons last season. His best game came on New Year’s Day in a 121-98 blowout loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. In that game, Thomas received 20 minutes of playing time and backed it up with 13 points, going 2-2 from behind the arc. He also displayed the ability to attack and draw fouls going 5-7 from the free-throw line.

The style at which Thomas plays the game is a perfect fit for coach Dwane Casey’s system. Although he stands only 6’3″, Thomas has a 6’10” wingspan that aids in his exceptional perimeter defending. The former Bluejay is an athletic specimen and it shows on the court. Thomas is quick on his feet, strong, and agile. He’s also shown a smooth shot from deep, which has led to many people putting him in the 3-and-D category of players.

With his strong Summer League showing leading up to this season, it’s clear Thomas has worked on his craft and is hungry to make an impact at the professional level. Alongside Bruce Brown and Svi Mykhailiuk, Thomas helped lead the Pistons Summer League squad deep into the tournament before eventually falling to the Brooklyn Nets. While on the squad, Thomas showed playmaking chops, impressive defense, and a consistent three-point shot. His 26 point explosion against the Croatian national team put Pistons fans on notice and he continued his strong play throughout the summer.

Despite the flashes and the strong summer, Thomas has a difficult path ahead to consistent minutes. The wing position is deep in the Motor City and while Thomas is a reason for that solid depth, it will be tough for him to climb up the ranks.

Thomas has shown that he has the tools to make an impact on the Detroit Pistons. His 3-and-D acumen makes him a perfect candidate for Dwane Casey’s style of play, but it remains to be seen if his role will grow from last season. Thomas could even be a surprise cut candidate if Christian Wood and Joe Johnson play themselves into the final roster. With that being said, a strong training camp may be all Thomas needs to solidify his place in Detroit.

When asked about Thomas, Ed Stefanski had this to say “We love Khyri; he hasn’t had an opportunity to play.” The front office seems to be fans of the Thomas, but only time will tell whether Thomas gets the chance he’s working for.

Featured Image: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images North America

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