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Pistons Tune-Up: We know what Khyri Thomas is - and what he isn’t

The second-year guard has the skills to break out of the rotation shuffle

Orlando Magic v Detroit Pistons Photo by Brian Sevald/NBAE via Getty Images

Khyri Thomas was drafted 38th overall in the 2018 draft, the first of the Pistons two picks on the night, with the other being Bruce Brown Jr. After the draft, he was seen as the more pro-ready prospect - the one that was more likely to contribute right away. After some early season injuries and Bruce Brown Jr. earning Dwane Casey’s trust on defense, that flipped: Brown won a starting job and Khyri never cracked 20 minutes in any of the 26 games that he appeared in.

There is essentially nothing that can be effectively taken from the minutes Thomas spent on an NBA court last season, given the tiny sample size and the fact that even those small minutes are tainted by largely being in garbage time. So, much of what we expect for this season comes from his time in the G-League, and still looking back to his college days.

Khyri Thomas is not a point guard

Lets start here because so many people seem to continue to insist that they think he is somewhere in line to maybe get some minutes at point, this is objectively false (Editor’s Note: Damn, Joe, I apologized already). Thomas wasn’t a point guard in college, he wasn’t a point guard in Summer League, he wasn’t a point guard in the G-League. He has never been a point guard, and he has never played in a manner even remotely resembling a point-guard.

His size (6’3, 210 pounds) is closer to a typical point guard in the modern NBA, so in the pre-draft process some idiots classified him as a combo guard. Those idiots were wrong. He is an undersized shooting guard, not a combo guard.

In college, Thomas averaged 2.5 assists per game for his career, and with Grand Rapids last season he averaged 1.8 assists per game. As someone who watched just about every minute that Thomas played in the G-League last season, I can’t think of a single time they had him play point guard.

Khyri Thomas should be 3-and-D role player

One of the main issues for Khyri Thomas trying to break into the rotation last season was that the role he’s good at was fairly well filled. In college and in the G-League, Thomas largely thrived off of sprinting around the court through successive well-placed screens and finding holes in the defense to receive a pass or take a quick hand-off before jetting out a quick three-pointer, or occasionally getting defenders with a cut to the hoop.

However, Langston Galloway and Reggie Bullock early in the season, and then Wayne Ellington later on, had the “movement shooter” role locked down, so there was less opportunity for Khyri to break into the rotation. With the Bullock/Ellington role now in the hands of the accurate (but gun-shy) Tony Snell, there is space for another 3-and-D gunner sprinting around the floor.

Another problem for Thomas is that needing set plays for a look to be created for him is tough in a Dwane Casey offense. Casey’s hands-off style can lend itself to getting the most of out stars at times, but without the consistent structure to help role players find looks, it can leave them in the cold. So unless Thomas can find good chemistry in a two-man game with Blake Griffin (like Bullock and Ellington did), he will likely not be operating at his full potential.

And it’ll be hard to find good chemistry with Blake Griffin if they’re never on the floor together in preseason.

Defensively, Thomas does project as a plus. He’s a excellent communicator (or at least he was in Grand Rapids), is strong, and even if he’s a little undersized, he has a great wingspan and good instincts. He’s taller, longer, and stronger than Langston Galloway, so he has the tools to be better on that end than Langston, as well.

But there’s a lot of guys with good tools to defend who never end up actually being good defenders. So Thomas being at least a decent defender should be a safe bet, but anything beyond that is something that will only be learned by him proving it on an NBA court.

This season will be a big one for Thomas. Basically, if Thomas shows up to training camp and preseason hitting his shots and looking comfortable, he could be in for a big bump in playing time this season. His style of player is something the roster could really use. The Pistons wing rotation is wide open beyond Snell and Kennard, and Snell is mostly locked in due to his size and (hopefully) could be supplanted by another player stepping up.

There is a real chance for Thomas to make a big impact. Talk out of training camp already seems to be leaning towards Luke Kennard coming off the bench as a sixth man, which leaves a (nominal) starting spot wide open. If the Pistons are smart, they will take a long look at Thomas for the spot.