It is probably safe to assume that Sam Thompson wasn't on many team's draft radars, seeing as he was not selected in the 2015 NBA Draft. Despite not going drafted, Thompson caught the eye of one front office, receiving a training camp invite from the Charlotte Hornets.
The Hornets have 14 guaranteed contracts on their books for next season, meaning that there is one open roster spot for Thompson or anyone else to make the roster. What does Sam Thompson bring to the table that makes him deserving of that last open spot?
Thompson's three seasons at Ohio State could unfortunately be described as underwhelming, maybe even disappointing. During his first two seasons, Thompson showed a ton of promise as a two way wing with crazy athletic ability and maybe the possibility of developing into a three point shooter. Thompson averaged 7.8 points and 3.5 rebounds per game while shooting 49.8% from the field and 40.4% from three his freshman season. With those types of numbers coming as freshman, it seemed like the sky was the limit for the Chicago native.
While his per game numbers stayed about the same his sophomore season, Thompson's shooting percentages dropped a tad to 45.0% from the field and 35.5% from three. Even though they decreased, it wasn't that drastic of a difference to cause any concern going into his junior year. With an increased role in year three, Thompson's per game numbers rose to 10.2 points and 3.9 rebounds per game, but his three point shooting percentage fell off a cliff to 26.6%.
Several things come to mind based on his shooting regressions from deep each year. Most of the time, when a player's shooting numbers decrease that much, it is due to an increased amount of attempts. This isn't the case with Thompson, whose attempts hovered around two each year from deep.
With how imperative it is in the league to have floor spacing on the wing, Thompson's lack of a three point stroke will give him an even bigger disadvantage to the other guys he is competing against. The Hornets were one of the worst outside shooting teams in the league last season, which will make it harder for a guy like Thompson to make the squad.
A lot of this has been negative thus far because of the shooting and inconsistent production. That doesn't mean there isn't anything he does well. For starters, Thompson is one of the most athletically gifted players I've ever seen. I legitimately believe he can eat the rim if he wanted to.
You can teach players how to develop skills and how to read the floor, but you can't teach that type of freak athleticism.
One of the little underrated things that wings can succeed at is offensive rebounding. Since most coaches and teams teach their perimeter players to get back to stop transition, you don't see many wings go hard after the offensive boards. It is extremely hard, however, for defenders to box out wing players that crash the offensive glass because they are coming in with a head start and presumably at full speed. With Thompson's elite athleticism, that little bit of a head start is all he needs to make the magic happen.
With those types of tools, Thompson could be groomed into a solid defensive player as well. The Hornets only have one freak athlete on the roster in Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and if he suffers another injury this season, Charlotte doesn't have much in the way of replacing his talents. Thompson isn't anywhere close nor will he ever be the player that MKG is, but with him, you are hoping that he can be somewhat of a poor man's MKG. If he makes the roster, it will be because they need his athleticism and he has shown that he will be able to shoot like he did his freshman and sophomore seasons.