Each week, Tyler Lashbrook will let loose on whatever Orlando Magic subjects capture his interest. Welcome to part one of a special, two-part Ty Tuesday. - ED
Strengths: size, athleticism, defensive upside, improving jumper, mid-range game
Blessed with a long, chiseled frame, Thomas has the prototypical size and length for an NBA wing. He has wide shoulders and a 40.5-inch vertical leap. In short, he has the ideal physical tools to defend at the NBA level. The problem, at least at Memphis, is that he's never really put it all together on the defensive end. When engaged, he's a plus on that side of the ball, but he isn't always engaged, especially when he isn't directly involved on the strong side. But he still has a tremendous amount of potential on defense, because he's a very good north-and-south athlete.
His improving jump shot is a huge plus. He displayed a nice mid-range game in college, showing flashes of a number of different moves out from the elbow, but he never really was a knock down shooter from three-point range. His freshman season was encouraging (40.3 percent), but that number dipped 11 percent in his sophomore season. In 16 D-League games, he's netting 47 percent on more than three three-point attempts per game. I don't think we can expect him to maintain that high a clip, but if he's consistently shooting 40 percent from deep, then he's got a chance to stick in the league.
Weaknesses: creating shots, consistency, lateral quickness, low free-throw rate
There's a reason Thomas went undrafted in a weak 2013 Draft class: the consistency is a concern on both ends of the floor. We touched on the inconsistent defense earlier, but there are offensive issues too. He basically bottomed out from his freshman to sophomore season at Memphis. His field goal percentage dropped from 49 percent to 41 and his three-point shot dipped to 29 percent: he basically became a negative on the offensive end.
Is his early success in the D-League sustainable or is he just on a hot streak that will eventually cool? Along with that idea, Thomas has never really displayed the ability to create off the dribble. He has only a basic set of ballhandling skills and he turns the ball over slightly more than he registers assists. That isn't as big of a deal if he's playing strictly at small forward, but Orlando's offense calls for the two-guard to run offensive sets almost half the time.
The Magic are a little thin on the wing. With Davis' buyout, Tobias Harris will play most of his minutes at the power forward spot, leaving Maurice Harkless to man the three. Arron Afflalo can slide there once he returns from a sprained right ankle.
That roster construction has forced coach Jacque Vaughn to roll with multiple three-guard sets and those sets haven't yielded the best results. Thomas will be better suited at small forward and, if he can earn playing time, should help eliminate the need for those three-guard, small, and defensively challenged lineups. Can he stick with Orlando? Time will tell, but for now he fills a position of need and should get some playing time in the short term.