I am stupid.
Often so. I tend to say and write dumb things on occasion, as people who broadcast their thoughts are wont to do, and more often than not, I will admit them readily.
One of the dumber things I have ever put into e-ink was a desire for the Bobcats to trade for Tyrus Thomas back in 2009. It almost feels like I should apologize, like some comments I posted here in turn influenced the organization to pull the trigger on the deal that sent a first round pick, Flip Murray and Acie Law to Chicago for Thomas. I thought he'd be a great fit to put the Bobcats in place to be a stronger contender, complementing Larry Brown's style and adding rebounding and a crazy athletic defensive skillset that would terrorize opponents with Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson.
Alas, hindsight is a cruel mistress.
Things went fine for a while. Minutes usually capped around 30 minutes for Thomas. His play was consistently aggressive, though his scoring was not. Thomas tends to fall in love with his jump shot and his dribbling. The result were a relatively low shooting percentages and high turnover rates for a power forward. He capped his season with a great -- yet ultimately meaningless -- performance, scoring 21 points on 12 shots and grabbing 9 rebounds in Game 4 against Orlando.
His promise seemed to be high, and the Bobcats rewarded him in turn with a 5-year $40 million contract. Thomas's athletic gifts were among the best for big men and coupled with his shotblocking instincts, it was not too much of a stretch of the imagination to see him change the floor of a game from a defensive perspective.
And despite recording strong games in the first few months of the following season, he couldn't break into the starting lineup past Larry Brown favorite Boris Diaw. Thomas' scoring and his efficiency at putting the ball in the hoop raised considerably [09-10 (with CHA): 17.1 PER, 49.9 TS%; 10-11: 18.2 PER, 53.6 TS%]. Then he tore his meniscus in his right knee, missed a couple months recovering, tried to come back, and finally had to sit the final month of that season.
Debate rose among Bobcats fans as to whether Thomas was injury-prone and whether he would play an important positive role in the Bobcats' future.
Post-lockout, Tyrus Thomas emerged. He returned underweight for his position, leading to tweener conflicts. He was no longer strong enough to defend the stronger power forwards yet not quick enough or with the basketball IQ to guard small forwards. The experiment to play Thomas at small forward was a failure and injuries this time to his left ankle kept him sidelined for weeks at the beginning of the year. And then he and Paul Silas had a physical confrontation after Thomas' antics wore thin on the old school former veteran NBA big man.
Tyrus Thomas had successfully fallen to the dregs of the roster, a dead weight on the court and in the accounting books symbolizing all that went wrong with the Charlotte Bobcats in recent years: trying to enter 'win now' mode with an aging core that often struggled to score, mortgaging the future in a shortsighted play for the present.As the final hours of the deadline for teams to use their amnesty provision as provided by last year's CBA ticked by, it seemed the Bobcats would once again forego using the tool that would cut loose one player from cap consideration.
Thomas had been a top consideration for fans and NBA talking heads were the Bobcats to use their amnesty, along with DeSagana Diop. But Thomas was not released, possibly indicating that the Bobcats are not sold that he has nothing left to give the team just yet.
How likely is such a thought? Well, it's not easy to go down from where Thomas was last season. A power forward who played nearly 19 minutes a night, shot a miserable 36.7 FG percentage, grabbed 11.3 percent of all rebounds available when he was on the court and turned the ball over an estimated 12.7 percent of the time? In fact, per basketball-reference, only 9 other players in basketball history since 1946 have accomplished such a feat as a forward or forward/center (or possibly fewer, but I couldn't seem to fit in the final factor of TOV% for consideration into the matrix).
So yes, there is hope for him to improve, if only because getting worse is next to impossible (gulp -- knock on wood).
Though reports are Thomas has gotten into better shape already and added bulk, that's hardly the most of my concerns. Injury status is a worry as well, but just looking at the on-court play, there's a ton for him to improve upon, not that you need my saying it to realize that. Looking through some stats and videos from MySynergySports.com, you can see his struggles before you. About one-third of all his plays on offense were spot-up shots. He made 31.3 percent of those shots, placing himself at 306th in the league at scoring on spot-up plays. For a forward that was once acceptable at shooting midrange jumpers, this is a warning sign. Meanwhile on post-ups, he fared slightly better, shooting 35 percent but Thomas only took 6.5 percent of his shots there. Even there, he faced up a lot and ended up taking inefficient wild shots more often than I think anyone besides his defenders would like. His most efficient offense came off of cuts, which comprised about 10 percent of his plays. He made 57.1 percent of those shot attempts. Combine it all and MySynergySports ranks his offensive efficiency at No. 411 in the NBA.
Defensively, it's not as bad, but it's still bad. Thomas got pushed around like a rag doll on the block on entrance passes, leading to being out of position, fouling or busted coverage and easy scoring. He had trouble defending wings as well, especially through screens and double screens, too often trying to fight through tight spaces a forward his size simply cannot do. And yet, he still has athleticism left and shotblocking instincts there. However, without the physical ability to play a position that fit him, it didn't matter much last season when players like Taj Gibson could easily beat Thomas on an entry pass and get a layup or draw a shooting foul.
The Bobcats have decided to continue to hold hope that Thomas has more to give and it's very possible he does. New head coach Mike Dunlap seems to be able to get a lot out of his players and with his defensive strategic tendencies, Thomas can have a valuable role in giving his ability to cover a lot of ground and obstruct passing lanes. But there's more to contributing in Dunlap's defense than that and other things mentioned above would have to change.
Rome wasn't built in a day. A burned-down Rome wasn't rebuilt in a day either. At the most, all I'm hoping for is baby steps in the right direction to at least the level at which Tyrus Thomas once contributed. His plate is full with things to improve and maybe they're not feasible, but that's all I can hope for.