Height – 6’3.75″
Weight – 198.8 lbs
Wingspan – 6’10.5″
Age – 22
School – Creighton
DraftExpress Rank – 23
Stats – 31.7 minutes, 15.1 points, 4.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.7 steals, 53.8 FG%, 41.1 3PT%, 78.8 FT%
Admittedly, Khyri Thomas has become one of my favorite prospects as I’ve begun seriously watching tape on him.
While he’s undersized at under 6’4″, his motor and ridiculous wingspan makes up for that and then some. The reigning two-time Big East Defensive Player of the Year has made a name for himself defensively but has an intriguing offense game centered around his three-point shooting that makes him the perfect archetype for a 3-and-D wing in the modern NBA.
Three-point shooting – On the surface, it looks like Thomas is a solid shooter. He is a career 40.6 percent three-point shooter and hit 41.1 from range as a junior. There are some minor concerns about his shot, though, which has a low starting point. However, it is compact and quick and is an easily repeatable motion. If he brings his starting point up into his shooting pocket instead of dipping at the start of the shot, it will do wonders or him against NBA length.
Thomas isn’t just a spot-up shooter, though. He showed various flashes of hitting jumpers off the dribble, which is again a testament to his compact release, something he’s clearly spent time on.
Pick-and-roll – While Thomas likely projects to be a two-guard in the league, he spent plenty of time as the point guard or initiator at Creighton. The Bluejays run an uptempo offense with tons of spacing and stretch big men – another reason he should have fewer problems adjusting to the NBA – which led to lots of pick-and-roll actions.
Thomas showed he could score in multiple ways out of the pick-and-roll. In this clip, Thomas uses a screen, notices a late switch and attacks the lane.
While Thomas has shown his athleticism and uses his wingspan at times, he often plays under the rim, highlighted in this play. Still, in 107 shots at the rim this season, Thomas shot 79.4 percent. He’s a crafty finisher that can use his wingspan to finish around and over taller defenders. It’ll be something he’ll need to continue to work on but the base is there.
Thomas isn’t just a straight line-driver in the pick-and-roll, though. He’s experienced enough in it that he can exploit a weakness, use his quickness and fly into the lane. It’s these types of plays that give me optimism about him as a secondary creator at the next level.
Again, though, he’s not limited to just scoring. Last season, Thomas had a career-high usage percentage of 21 percent but had an assist percentage of 15 percent. He has underrated court vision, another reason I think he’ll see success as a secondary creator in the league and possibly even the primary creator at times.
IQ – We’ve talked, and seen, clips of the good of Thomas driving to the basket. There is some bad at times. While his super high motor is a benefit in many ways, at times it leads to him driving into the lane with multiple players around him, putting him in poor situations. He’s a straight-line driver and can attack poor closeouts, but doesn’t have enough agility to avoid helping defenders.
That being said, though, Thomas has a great IQ that leads to his aforementioned court vision. He also is good at relocating off the ball into open spaces either as a cutter or as a three-point shooter.
On-ball – As stated at the beginning, Thomas is going to make his money on the defensive end. On-ball, Thomas is capable of locking opponents down. His steal numbers were mediocre, but that’s not always an indicator of good defense. He’s smart, knows how to avoid fouling and is great at using his length.
Off-ball – Thomas’ success as a defender isn’t limited to simply on-ball defense. He can read the offense and is great at jumping passing lanes or intercepting passes.
In the clip, Thomas starts on the ball, reads the back screen, jumps over it and uses his enormous wingspan to intercept the pass, leading to a runout.
His wingspan also allows him to tag rollers and still closeout to his perimeter assignment. In the following clip, Thomas is in the center of the frame defending his man in the far corner.
Thomas tags the roll man and still has enough time to react, closeout and get a hand in the face of the shooter. The closeout is a little sloppy as he gets too close and the shooter probably should have driven baseline past him even if the shot goes in.
But considering Thomas is standing in the center of the lane when the pass is thrown, the fact he covers too much ground shows you just how quickly he can close out.
Switching – Don’t let Thomas’ height deter you. He’s a capable defender in switches, something the Lakers do often. He’s bulky, athletic, smart, has a nearly seven-foot wingspan and uses it all to make himself a great defender.
In the following clip, Thomas starts as the on-ball defender on the far wing.
Thomas switches on the screen onto 6’9″ Paul Reed, closes out under control, contains the drive, forces him into a bad shot and is able to contest it all without fouling.
His motor also helps make up for his lack of height. He’s a willing battler in the paint on post-ups and, again, can use his length to challenge most shots at the rim. With an 8’5″ standing reach and a 35″ vertical, he’s going to be able to contest most shots.
Rebounding – An underrated part of Thomas’ game that would make him a fit with the Lakers is his rebounding ability. He grabbed 4.4 rebounds as a junior, but more than that, his ability to grab a rebound, turn and race up the court is exactly what the Lakers want in a guard.
Fit With Lakers
For multiple reasons, Thomas is one of the players I think best fits with the Lakers in their range.
Offensively, he’s a floor spacer and shot-creator, something the Lakers did not have much of last season. He can alleviate the creating burden that often fell on Lonzo Ball or Brandon Ingram last season and he can knock down threes, providing more spacing that the team desperately needed.
Defensively, he fits right into the identity the Lakers are creating. He’s a tenacious player with a non-stop motor who can switch and will battle bigger players. Adding him to would provide the Lakers with perimeter defense that was also sorely needed in the backcourt.
In a league where there’s no such thing as too many 3-and-D players, Thomas would provide the Lakers with both and could be an instant contributor on both ends of the court.
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