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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Scouting Report: Adonis Thomas

Height: 6'6''
Weight: 240lbs
Wingspan: 7'0''
Bday: 3/25/1993

Team: Memphis
Class of 2015

Adonis Thomas came to Memphis as a top 10 recruit in the nation even though he was seen as a guy stuck between the 3 and the 4. He chose to stay local and was willing to accept whatever role Memphis threw him into. The role for his freshman season was power forward. Thomas was able to put on over 20 pounds prior to the season to prepare for the season, going from a respectable 207 pounds to a beastly 230 pounds in order to handle battling inside with taller foes. Injuries took away the majority of his in conference season, but he is back for his sophomore year to prove he can produce for an entire season. He never did get a chance last year to perform consistently so this is a big year for him. With Shaq Goodwin coming in and Witherspoon and Will Barton off to pursue pro careers, Thomas should become more of a perimeter player this season.

Thomas is the kind of player that is able to play many different roles and positions for a ball club. You can say that about a handful of players, but it is rare to see a player that is able AND willing. Even more rare when you are looking at a McDonald's All-American player. The intangibles for Thomas, who is also a great student, defines Thomas as a player. He is a great character guy, works hard, and is willing to do all the little things to help his team win.

His freshman year was a testament to everything high school scouts raved about. Thomas battled consistently inside at power forward. He relished the role and played as much like a true power forward as he could. He battled in the post, set screens for the guards, and was always sure to box his man out. He used his strength and outstanding base on defense to handle other big men in the post.

On offense, Thomas stays in his lane. He lets the game come to him, but when he gets the ball in the mid-range area, he looks to attack. The mid-range game is his bread and butter right now. He has improved his mid-range jumper to a point where it is a weapon. His shot can be a little flat at times, but it looks for the most part. His jumper is able to open up room for the drive, although with his great first step, it was rare that forwards could stay in front of him anyway.

When driving, Thomas stayed under control and was able to shift his body just enough to avoid picking up charges. He showed advanced footwork - showing off a good feel for the Euro-step - and ability to maneuver in traffic. His great first step and subsequent dribbles combined with his frame and steady handles makes him a force attacking from mid-range - and Thomas knows this. He loves the face-up drive from 15 feet in. The question that has to be asked is how Thomas can adapt doing similar moves from the perimeter, where his shiftiness will need to go from good enough to above average.

Around the rim, Thomas's explosiveness and strength aid him yet again. But he doesn't strictly rely on that. He can hook the ball over his outside shoulder and also does a great job of using the rim to protect the ball. Just as with his dribble, Thomas isn't super fancy, but he has just enough creativeness to get the job done effectively.

Overall, his mid-range game is where he is most comfortable at right now and he has no problem staying within 15 feet while the guards dance around the perimeter. He constantly works to get post position and sneak into passing lanes to receive the ball. He works so hard no matter what - a lot of times Thomas didn't get a lot of touches but there was never a drop off in his play or any discontent expressed with his body language. While Thomas is an aggressive attacker in mid-range, he is a very unselfish player in the sense that he will always do whatever his team needs him to do. There is no "I" in Thomas's play.

His post game also has potential and he is received valuable experience last year as one of Memphis' "go-to post threats". I use that term very loosely as Memphis runs more like an AAU team, but Thomas still got a chance to focus on his back to the basket game. When facing away from the hoop, Thomas uses his frame to carve out room inside and presents a good target to throw to. His long arms are able to retrieve any pass within his range. You can tell Thomas enjoyed posting up in high school because he already has some decent post moves for a future NBA small forward. This part of his game should develop to a point where it is worth mentioning even as a perimeter player. Thomas will be one of the dying bread of NBA perimeter players who can work out of the post. While his post game isn't deadly, the fact that he has one is a plus.

Offensively, Thomas plays more like a power forward than small forward. At least, last year he did. He doesn't create much offense for him or other teammates. He can move the ball, but his negative A/TO reflects the way he played. Thomas stays in his zone and will take his shot if he is within his comfort zone (mid-range), but on the perimeter he rarely looks to make a play. He has shown continued improvement in his 3-pt shooting and it looks like that can actually turn into a strength down the road.

The fact that Thomas has a tweener offensive game isn't really worrisome. On offense, players can be interchangeable and versatility should be viewed as a good thing. Tweeners are only a problem when they are in between positions on defense. And that is not the case with Thomas.

With his 7-ft wingspan, excellent motor, strength, good awareness, and solid lateral quickness Thomas has everything it takes to defend small forwards at a plus level and perhaps even at an All-Defensive level. He is a pest on the ball and does a great job staying low. He has no problem fighting through screens but his versatility allows him to switch on screens if needed. He can legitimately guard three positions on the court. He also isn't much of a risk taker. Thomas stays in his own lane and focuses on stopping his man. That is not to say he lacks awareness - he has a good feel on the defensive end and provides help defense - it just means he doesn't gamble. That can partially explain his low steal and block numbers. The zone that Memphis employed also had a good deal to do with it. Regardless, Thomas doesn't appear to be a big threat blocking shots and it would be nice to see his steal/block numbers reflect his athleticism a bit more next season.

The same thing can be true for his rebounding. Thomas pulled down only 5.2 rebounds per 40 minutes, while his ultra skinny teammate, Will Barton, had 8.8 per game credited to his name. This can draw questions about his hands (he has strong hands but are they soft?), but I think part of it can be attributed to his unselfishness. Thomas often would tip rebounds to his teammates. Still, the numbers he put up are a little surprising for the kind of player he is. A super athletic player who played inside, had great strength, boxed out on each shot, and never took a play off couldnt put up good rebounding numbers?I would have expected him to over 10 rebounds per 40 minutes at the power forward position. In the end though, I doubt poor rebounding is going to be a weakness used against him come draft time. His job in the NBA will be to keep his opposing player from hitting the offensive glass and with his determination to box out, he will have no problem getting that done.

When projecting Thomas to the future, there is reason to believe he has a very high ceiling. To me though, he is actually one of the safest picks in the lottery while not possessing NBA First Team potential. I just don't ever see him being a prolific scorer from a skill standpoint or from an attitude standpoint. Think Marvin Williams. They are different players, but both are very unselfish, great character guys, who played a smaller role in college but their tools project them to be stars in the NBA. In reality, they played smaller roles because that is their style and neither of them were much of shot creators. Thomas is comfortable playing a role. Shot creating can be improved, but rarely do players make drastic improvements after they are drafted.

Still with what Thomas gives you, you are looking at a good to a great starter who can be somewhat of a super role player. He does all the little things and has no problem doing them. He has great character and great work ethic. He is good in transition. He is versatile. He can space the floor. He is a very smart player and a potential stopper on defense. He is a winner and his game translates well to games played in May and June. He is a guy you draft, plus him in at the wing, and don't ever worry about him again. While he doesn't make his teammates better with his creating ability, he makes the TEAM better with everything else he can do. I see Thomas as a mid to late lottery pick this year.

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