Overview: Thomas arrived on campus at Memphis last year with a great amount of hype; ESPN ranked him as the 9th best recruit in the country. His freshman season was a bit of a disappointment as injuries and inconsistent play limited his effectiveness. Thomas, by all accounts, is a hard-working, high intangible student-athlete with tremendous athleticism. His big problem both at the NCAA level and moving forward to the NBA is that he is a classic tweener foward. While he's limited by his size, his game more closely resembles that of a power forward than that of a small forward.
On offensive, Thomas' main asset is his athleticism. If he catches the ball around the three point arc, he has great athleticism and a very quick first step that often allows him to blow by his defender and get into the lane on offense. He will want to work on his left handed attack dribble moves. He can get into the lane easily with his right hand but can struggle if his opponent forces him to the left. When he's in the lane, he can be truly special; he has outstanding explosiveness and can finish above the rim very quickly. He can be a matchup nightmare on offense. If his opponents throw a small forward defender at him, he can often overpower the small forward. Likewise, he is often too quick for opposing power forwards to cover, especially away from the hoop. Thomas also likes to throw his body around and be a physical player in the paint, which combined with his quickness and his touch around the hoop makes him a unique offensive player to guard. That said, because his size will dictate that he'll be a swingman in the NBA, his skillset needs to be guarded as if he would be a small forward in the NBA. Thomas is not a great shooter by any stretch of the imagination. His midrange jumper is beginning to improve and he's proven that if his feet are set, he can hit midrange shots. That said, he needs to improve his shooting range; as a small forward in the NBA, defenders will limit his ability to drive to the hoop by sagging off him until he can prove that he can hit longer range jump shots. While he has some offensive skills, he needs to become more assertive on the offensive end. During college games, his effectiveness and consistency are completely reduced if he's asked to create his own offense rather than have his teammates help set him up.
Defensively, Thomas has the tools to succeed. He is extremely athletic and has a seven foot wingspan which will help him against some of the bigger small forwards in the NBA. He does lack ideal discipline on the defensive end though. He has a tendency to lose his man when he's defending off the ball and can get beaten by backdoor cuts as he can tend to over commit. He also needs to work on improving his ability to close out on a shooter without fouling the shooter; too often he'll run out carelessly at a jump shooter and run into him, sending the shooter to the line. Thomas also has issues when he defends bigger players when he plays the power forward spot. While he's a strong player, true power forwards don't have much difficulty battling him in the post and often get ideal post-up position on Thomas. Additionally, true power forwards have no real trouble shooting the ball right over the top of Thomas. Despite his wingspan, he can't consistently alter bigger players' shots.
Thomas is one of the most unique players in the draft. His game suggests that he could be a very effective power forward, but his size does not allow him to do so. If he were 3 or 4 inches taller, he could be a late-lottery talent as a very athletic power forward. With his frame and current skillset, he has a lot of work to do to become more appealing to NBA teams. Thomas greatly needs to improve his jumpshot because he will be playing small forward in the pro ranks. While he has great slashing ability and unparalleled athleticism, he will have trouble getting to the rim if NBA defenders can consistently sag off him, taking away his dribbling lanes while not honoring his jumper. The same holds true for the defensive end of the floor. If Thomas can develop a more traditional small forward game, with his athleticism and his current power-oriented skillset, he could become a very tough wingman to guard. However, until then, he is a great talent without a position. He would be best served to return to Memphis for at least another season to round out his talents.
· Thomas is an athletic, physical forward. Thomas likes contact and does a very good job of finishing while getting hit. His explosiveness allows him to still finish strong even with contact. This is a huge asset if he becomes an NBA athlete.
· Thomas is tough to defend at the college level. His blend of quickness and strength makes him a matchup nightmare.
· He has nice touch around the hoop and can finish from a variety of locations.
· In the open court, Thomas cannot be stopped at the college level.
· Thomas, by all accounts, is an extremely hard worker. Even though it has a long way to go, his jump shot has gradually gotten better as he's progressed.
· His wingspan can make him an extremely good on ball defender.
Areas to Improve
· Unfortunately, Thomas is a tweener forward. His game is more suited to be a power forward with his limited range and physicality, but his body limits him at the next level to be a small forward. He needs to develop more swingman skills.
· Thomas' jumper needs work. He is not a consistent shooting threat and therefore opponents can cut off his attempts to drive to the hoop by playing off him.
· Thomas isn't the most assertive player at Memphis. His unselfishness is commendable but in sequences where Memphis needs buckets, he should be commanding the ball.
· He needs to work on his defensive focus; he makes too many little errors like losing his man off the ball or fouling a jump shooter.