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Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Case For Adonis Thomas

One of the quickest risers in this draft has been Glen Rice Jr. He's a guy who didn't put up very good numbers in college, took a unique route to the D-League, and saw his stock take off in the process. He was a talented player at Georgia Tech, but he just didn't stand out as much as a guy with his talents should. He wasn't always aggressive and his unselfishness was mistaken for passiveness. If he had entered the draft after he was suspended last season, Glen Rice Jr wouldn't have even gotten drafted.

That changed in the D-League where the game is much closer to the NBA. College basketball and the NBA are two completely different games, while the D-League can almost work as a way to bridge the gap between them. With a 24 second shot clock, less offensive sets, quicker pace, and a more open court things are certainly different from college. Players aren't restricted by their teams offensive sets and they are put in a position where they have to be more aggressive. Players can rely more on their physical gifts and instincts. Their versatility is also able to show more.

I already profiled Glen Rice Jr (read here), but Adonis Thomas has similar qualities that could help him be a better fit in the NBA than he was in college. Unlike Rice Jr, Thomas isn't going directly to the D-League however, and is instead choosing to jump right into the draft. And while his stock is down, a GM would be mistaken to sleep on Thomas the same way they slept on Rice Jr because of their situation in college.

The beauty of scouting is to be able to see players in different systems and project their skills to a higher level. Nobody can debate that Thomas or Rice Jr underachieved in college and I'm not trying to do that. I know all the question marks about Adonis Thomas. And a lot of them are the same questions that were brought up about Glen Rice Jr last year.

Like Glen Rice Jr, Adonis Thomas is a very good athlete who often times blended in too much in college. Everyone yearned for him to be more aggressive. When he was, you saw his ability to get all the way to the rim and finish. His ability to get to the rim is even better than Glen Rice Jr's.

Also like Glen Rice Jr, Adonis Thomas has a high basketball IQ and a good feel for the game. He moved well off the ball, made the right passes, and played within his teams offense.

Adonis Thomas is also very versatile and can score in the post, mid-range, and also step out and hit jumpers. You don't see a lot of small forwards doing that in college, but you see plenty more of it in the NBA. The NBA is all about mismatches and Thomas can take advantage of them. Same thing goes for Glen Rice Jr, who was able to show a post game once he got to the D-League.

If Adonis Thomas took the same route as Glen Rice Jr, I don't think there is any question he'd be in the discussion for a first round pick. Some may question his decision to leave Memphis with his stock at an all time low, but it was obvious that the situation at Memphis wasn't a good fit for him. Thomas stuck it out for two years, was professional and a team player throughout, and did what the team wanted him to do.

He played power forward a lot even though he will be a perimeter player at the next level. That has hurt his stock, but it should act as a testament for his willingness to do anything to help his team. Not many former top recruits would willingly play out of position. Thomas even added weight to bang down low, which in turn limited his athleticism. Since the season, he's already started to work on shedding that weight and getting back to the point where he was an elite athlete. He no longer has to focus on playing inside, although the skills he learned playing in the post will be valuable to him.

Thomas also wasn't able to focus on his perimeter shooting in college and thats something I expect him to be able to improve fairly easily with repetition. You've probably been reading this thinking that the biggest difference between Glen Rice Jr and Adonis Thomas is their shooting ability - and you'd be right.

But Thomas did shoot well in a limited number of attempts his freshman season and has always hit the mid-range jump shot well. His his stroke is consistent and his mechanics are consistent (albeit a little slow). Some of the biggest surprises in the draft the past couple of years are guys who were said to be poor shooters - such as Kawhi Leonard and Chandler Parsons - but like Thomas, both of them were asked to do a lot more things around the rim at college. Now that Thomas is able to focus on slimming down and working on his perimeter shooting, he will start to look even more like a prototypical wing prospect.

One thing that Thomas was able to hang his hat on was his defense and that should get even better as he continues to complete his transition to a full time perimeter player. He competes, has a 7 foot wingspan, good strength, a solid motor, and the versatility to be an impact player on that end of the court. He didn't always make as big as an impact as he could have for Memphis, but he will at least be a very solid defender with the potential to be great. Sticking with the comparisons to Glen Rice Jr, Thomas has the better size and frame along with the athleticism.

Adonis Thomas and Glen Rice Jr certainly aren't the same player nor do they possesses the same skill set. But they do both have similar playing styles and a feel for the game that often gets overlooked when evaluating college prospects. Smart team play turns into criticisms about their passiveness. In college, they are looked at to be stars of their teams. Neither did that. But in the NBA, they will be looked at to be another piece of the puzzle that helps you win games. Nobody will be complaining about their passiveness in the NBA nor will they be as passive. Both have great instincts and athleticism and will be able to utilize those abilities much more freely.

Adonis Thomas is currently projected by some analysts not to get drafted which is a complete oversight and overreaction to someone they once considered a lottery pick. While his lack of production warrants concern and a drop in his stock, there is still plenty of reason to believe he can be a successful NBA player. Unlike a lot of big time athletes who leave early without much production, Thomas isn't a guy with an unrealistic view of himself nor does he have any character concerns. He's actually a pretty cerebral player. And while I am not vouching that he should be a lottery pick as he was once projected, he deserves late first round consider and should definitely be off the board at the top of the second round where contracts aren't guaranteed.

For more on Adonis Thomas, check out my scouting report on him following his freshman season


  1. boy is this guy frustrating. i remember watching his DrafteXpress interview and practice highlights when he was still in high school and thinking he was going to be sort of what Kidd-Gilchrist ended up being. i was very impressed.

    at the very least i thought he would kill it on the boards since he had a really strong reputation as a rebounder in high school: how did that completely disappear?

    1. Thats certainly a legitimate question to ask and a concern of mine as well. It looked like this season he was so determined to prove himself as a wing that he simply refused to enter the paint. He got away from doing the things that should be a strength in his game.

      Thomas still presents a lot of concerns, but there was a reason he was a lottery talent. Seeing some site drop him completely out of the draft is baffling. I understand not taking him in the first round, but he's an idea gamble in the early second round to me. Its not like he is a bad kid. He can succeed under the right coaching staff.