H: 6' 8"|
W: 217 lbs
(29 Years Old)
|RSCI: 133||Agent: Brian Elfus ||
High School: McKinley
Hometown: Baton Rouge, LA
Drafted: Pick 4 in 2006 by Trailblazers
Best Case: Stromile Swift W/Ben Wallace's Attitude
Worst Case: 6-9 Tyson Chandler
|Year||Source||Height w/o Shoes||Height w/shoes||Weight||Wingspan||Standing Reach||Body Fat||No Step Vert||Max Vert|
|2006||NBA Pre-Draft Camp||6' 7.25"||6' 8.25"||217||7' 3"||9' 0"||5.6||34.0||39.5|
|Year||Source||Height w/o Shoes||Height w/shoes||Weight||Wingspan||Standing Reach||Body Fat||No Step Vert||Max Vert|
|2006||NBA Pre-Draft Camp||6' 7.25"||6' 8.25"||217||7' 3"||9' 0"||5.6||34.0||39.5|
Overview: Breathtaking athletic specimen who is still trying to come into his own as a player. A bit undersized for a power forward, but makes up for that with a 7-3 wingspan and some of the quickest and most explosive leaping ability in the NBA. Not carrying around a lot of weight, which limits him in some regards. Doesn’t show an outstanding feel for the game, but looks a bit better than he did early in his career. Burst onto the scene as a second-year freshman at LSU. Used his athleticism, defensive, and emotional play to propel LSU to an SEC Championship and win the SEC Newcomer of the year award. Has gotten better in each of his seasons in the NBA, but hasn’t reached his ceiling as quickly as the Bulls may have hoped, although his defense and energy level is surely a huge plus. Still improving his efficiency and decision-making. Intense court-demeanor is representative of his personality. Still maturing off the court. The next two seasons, coupled with the end of his rookie deal, will play a big role in whether he is considered a legitimate option for Chicago or merely a highly gifted role-player.
Offense: Isn’t afforded the opportunity to play to his offensive strengths, nor does he possess the ideal offensive tools to be a highly productive offensive player at this point. Still averages in double figures despite systematic issues. Gets almost one-third of his offensive opportunities in spot up situations with hustle plays, pick and rolls, and isolations comprising most of the rest of his touches. Splits his overall field goal attempts pretty evenly between jump shots and finishing opportunities at the rim. Doesn’t do too much in the post. Displays an inconsistent jumper that looks good for stretches and highly questionable in others. Lacks consistency with his mechanics at times, elevating so well that he often changes his form from one shot to the next. Nonetheless, has improved that part of his game since entering the League, which has manifested itself in his markedly improved free throw shooting. Used to be considerably less confident from the perimeter. Still a ways away in terms of being a consistent threat to score from the midrange, especially in any efficient way. Very raw from the perimeter in general. Can create separation with his athleticism and get to the rim, preferring to drive with his left hand, but lacks consistent form on his pull up jumpers and struggles to finish with his left hand at times, presenting an obvious problem. Lacks advanced ball-handling ability, but is so quick that he can create an angle easily when his defender is caught off guard. Will usually be given a considerable amount of space, giving his defender a big enough cushion to take away from his quickness advantage. Still able to score despite those deficiencies due to his outstanding physical tools and aggressive mentality at the rim. Moves with purpose off the ball, gets up the floor as fast as any player at his position in the NBA, and tries to dunk anything and everything around the rim, making him an effective finisher and earning him a good amount of trips to the line. Solid offensive rebounder who doesn’t offer much as a playmaker. Offers so much physically, and will show flashes of outstanding promise, but doesn’t have a natural feel for how he wants to score. [/b]
Defense: Gifted defensive player who is one of the top shot blockers his height in the NBA. Ridiculous wingspan, quick leaping ability, and intensity make him quite a shot blocker, especially coming over from the weakside. Will block an occasional jumper, but has some issues defending the block against stronger players, as his lack of physical strength can get exposed. Still does a nice job getting a hand up, but can be taken out of the play by a bulky power forward with a good drop step. Takes some risks rotating over from the weakside, but displays very good quickness and a nose for the ball when coming over to help. Length makes him a factor in the passing lanes, and his lateral quickness makes him more than capable of denying penetration against matchups at both forward positions and most players he switches onto when hedging the pick and roll. Will play himself out of position at times by being too keen on defending the rim or being too aggressive with his rotations. Isn’t a great rebounder for his level of athleticism. Still a very high quality defender due to his ability to stay in front of his man, contest jumpers, and help clean up the mistakes of the players around him.
Tyrus Thomas hasn’t had a spectacular summer league campaign so far, but he has surely dropped enough glimpses of potential to stay excited about his future development. He may be the most athletic forward to be found on any roster here, and he takes advantage of that on a regular basis to play excellent defense and really make his presence felt on the glass. He is slowly, but surely expanding his game every time we watch him, particularly in terms of his ability to knock down mid-range jumpers and put the ball on the floor. Most encouraging was just how active he was out on the floor, getting his hands on plenty of loose balls, setting screens, playing a role in the half-court, trying to direct his teammates, and generally just taking advantage of his terrific physical tools to make his presence felt. He still has a considerable amount of work to do on his skill-set and decision making ability, but its definitely too early to close the book on his future despite his lack of productivity in his first two seasons.[Read Full Article]
It is almost impossible not to like the things that Thomas brings to the table as a player: intensity, passion, and unbelievable athleticism. Even in the Summer League, Thomas took no prisoners on the floor, and tried to get his hands on absolutely everything around the rim. With Joakim Noah now in toe, Chicago may have the most active frontcourt of any team in the NBA.
Thomas is still only scratching the surface of his potential, but he’s made some strides since last season. The form on his midrange jump shot looks more refined, which will be a key to his long-term success. Though he doesn’t knock it down as consistently as he would like to, it is becoming an effective weapon for him. His ability to get to the rim from the high-post will make it an especially nice tool. Thomas dunks everything around the rim, and threw down of highlight reel caliber jams in Orlando. His post game isn’t very developed yet, but his touch is improving on the whole, which is a nice sign.
On the defensive end, Thomas has already developed into one of the NBA’s best weakside shot blockers. His mixture of length, quickness, and timing keeps offensive players honest when they take the ball to the rim. He’s also showed the propensity to strip players when they expose the ball in traffic, a talent that he shares with fellow Bull Ben Wallace. It is clear that Thomas has become more comfortable with the NBA game, and it really shows on the defensive end.
Thomas is something of a conundrum, in that he’s already a solid contributor though he hasn’t even begun to show what he can do on this level. Thomas may never develop all of his tools, but there is no doubt that this is still just a preview of what he can be in the future. His demeanor and work ethic on the floor is a testament to just how good he can be. He is an angry guy and this comes off when he's off the court too, but the Bulls won't argue with the way it translates into a frenetic activity level for them.
[Read Full Article]
Joseph Treutlein How have you been preparing for the draft so far?
Tyrus Thomas Just working out, improving my skills; shooting, dribbling, fundamentals.
Joseph Treutlein You mentioned a lot of skills, is there anything in particular you're working on?
Tyrus Thomas I'm working on everything I'm saying. My weakness is not being perfect.
Joseph Treutlein Is there anything to your game you can offer that we haven't seen at LSU?
Tyrus Thomas I have a lot to offer. You know, you guys like to say that I can't dribble and I can't shoot. That all I can do is dunk and block shots, but that's what was required of me for the team to win, and that's what I did. I could've easily played outside of the system, shot the ball and put the ball on the floor, but we were winning with what we were doing so that's what you stick to.
Joseph Treutlein We understand that, because a lot of times you don't get to fully feature what you can do in college, because of your role, you didn't get to show off some of that ball-handling and shooting.
Tyrus Thomas I let you guys tell it, especially DraftExpress, that I can't do it.
Joseph Treutlein Have you worked out for any teams so far?
Tyrus Thomas I worked out for Portland and Toronto.
Joseph Treutlein How do you think those went?
Tyrus Thomas I think they went well, you know.
Joseph Treutlein Did you work out competitively against anyone there?
Tyrus Thomas No, by myself.
Joseph Treutlein Are you planning to workout competitively against anyone?
Tyrus Thomas No.
Joseph Treutlein Why is that?
Tyrus Thomas I don't feel it's necessary. You know, the teams know what they're going to do. I feel like teams kind of know what they're going to do once the balls come out anyway, you know. So, it's kind of unnecessary for me.
Joseph Treutlein Where do you think you'll be drafted?
Tyrus Thomas I'm not sure, I can't answer that. Where do you think I'll be drafted?
Joseph Treutlein I'm not sure either, you'd have to ask the teams.
Tyrus Thomas I mean, you guys write it, you guys say where we fit best, so you tell me.
Joseph Treutlein I'm not sure, it's hard to say, you'd have to be inside the team's perspective to know that for sure.
Tyrus Thomas Then why do you guys write stuff like that?
Joseph Treutlein I personally didn't write anything in particular.
Tyrus Thomas I'm just saying, you... don't regard this.
Joseph Treutlein If I'm a GM, why should I pick Tyrus Thomas? Sell me on you.
Tyrus Thomas You're not a GM, I don't have to sell myself to you. I mean, I don't know, just watch. GM's watch the game, so there's not much a player has to tell a GM. Because GM's have experience watching what a player is capable of doing and what he's not capable of doing, so I don't have to verbally sell myself to a GM.
Joseph Treutlein Is there anything that you think separates you from a player like LaMarcus Aldridge?
Tyrus Thomas He's a good player, he's talented, he has a drive to win, you know, it's nothing but good players in this draft. You have to have that will. I don't know, I can't really say what separates us.
Joseph Treutlein Do you think you're better suited to play small forward or power forward in the NBA?
Tyrus Thomas Small forward.
Joseph Treutlein What do you think you need to work on to play small forward at the NBA level?
Tyrus Thomas Like I said, you have to keep working on every part of your game. A lot of people don't know, I never played in the post until I got to LSU. It's like riding a bicycle, once you learn, you can't really forget how. I think I'd be better on the perimeter, but if I had to play the post, that's what I'd do.
Far less damaging considering the minutes he played, the number of shots he attempted and his status as more of an upside type player anyway, Thomas regardless did not help himself even one bit with the way he played in the Final Four.
He actually started off the game extremely well, showing amazing quickness capturing the baseline and converting off the glass, and then working with his back to the basket and scoring impressively plus the foul. He also rebounded the ball and blocked shots the way he always does, but one offensive foul early on and then another picking up his 2nd right underneath the basket after an offensive rebound by Mbah a Moute sent him to the bench for the rest of the 1st half. UCLA’s lead swelled to 15 by the end of the 1st, and there was nothing Thomas could do about it while sitting on the bench.
Thomas did not play very well in the 2nd half, picking up two more cheap ones in the first 8 minutes of the 2nd half, sending him again to the bench, this time for the rest of the game. Thomas showed the ability in the past to play through foul trouble (for example against Duke where he played with 4 fouls for the last 8 minutes and still sparked his team to victory), but for some odd reason Coach John Brady decided he doesn’t need his best defender and rebounder on the floor anymore. Brady was later quoted saying that Thomas wasn’t as mentally sharp as they needed him to be in this game. Thomas did not sound like he was very happy about the decision after the game, saying: “he (Brady) didn't want to put me back in when I had four fouls earlier, and we weren't really chipping away at their lead like he thought we would." Some will wonder whether Brady was trying to send a message to Thomas and the NBA scouts in attendance, possibly trying to convince him to stay at LSU for another year. Brady has been more vocal than any other coach in the NCAA this year about his disdain for NBA scouts (“they think because a big guy can run and dunk he is ready for the NBA. What a shame.”), and has said on numerous occasions that Thomas should definitely stay another year, despite being projected as a top 5 draft pick. If this was just another way to hammer that point across, it appears highly unlikely that he will succeed.
In terms of physical attributes, there are few players in the NBA right now who can match Thomas’ combination of length and athletic ability. His leaping ability is something that has to be seen in person to truly comprehend. Beyond the fact that he has a 40+ inch vertical leap, runs the floor like a guard and explodes off the ground like he has a trampoline at all times at his personal disposal, he uses that athleticism to the fullest extent, which separates him even further from the Stromile Swifts and Tyson Chandlers of the world.
The majority of Thomas’ strengths right now revolve around his defense and rebounding skills, along with the occasional havoc he can create on the offensive end.
Thomas can truly change a game with his shot-blocking ability, using not only his outstanding physical attributes, but also his mind and instincts to get the job done. Thomas possesses excellent timing on his vertical leap along with a great feel for anticipating; getting better and better all the time in terms of not biting on pump-fakes and doing exactly what he needs to keep possessions alive by tapping the ball gently or sending it off the glass rather than swatting it to the 2nd row. Throughout the year he has shown to be equally adept at blocking shots both coming from the weak-side as well as straight up on the man he’s guarding. Even when he gets caught biting on a pump-fake, he is quick enough to recover in the blink of an eye and get the block on the 2nd attempt when his man thinks he clearly has him beat. It’s the same way in transition as if he’s anywhere within a 10 foot radius of the ball with a running start, no basket is safe in the hoop until is actually goes down because of the sheer speed in which he covers ground and pounces off the floor.
For every shot he blocks he alters countless others with the intimidation factor he establishes early on; forcing players to travel, throw shots high off the glass and always sneak a peek from the corner of their eye to see whether Thomas is lurking somewhere in the background. Unlike most freakish athletes, he has an innate understanding of how to utilize his tools as well as an outstanding motor and activity level, making him absolutely relentless going after anyone that dares enter the paint. For a player his age he is surprisingly good at staying out of foul trouble for someone as raw as you’d think he’d be. He only fouled out of 1 game all season long and reached 4 fouls on only 5 out of 30 games despite the drive he plays with.
Thomas doesn’t come from the Theo Ratliff or Samuel Dalembert school of shot-blocking, meaning he doesn’t risk his position to pad his stats and will rarely be called for goaltending. He is capable of playing outstanding man to man and team defense all over the floor when he’s not intimidating around the hoop, showing a lot of pride in this part of his game. He’s quick and effective stepping out to hedge the pick and roll and recovers beautifully getting right back into the post. If his man is trying to post him up on the block calling for the post-entry pass, Thomas will sometimes just outsmart and outquick him by going around him and coming up with the steal when the ensuing pass comes. Lazy passes are the kind of things he feasts on as he has the instincts and explosiveness to get right into the passing lanes with his wingspan and take the ball the length of the floor for the slam.
Thomas is also a terrific rebounder despite his lack of bulk, coming up with 8 rebounds or much more in every game this year in which he played over 25 minutes except one (in which he had 7). He’s extremely active on the glass and once again uses his combination of outstanding length, instincts, leaping ability, tenacity, hands and timing to simply outquick and outjump almost anyone he’s going up against. He regularly goes out of his area to come up with an important rebound for his team and will get his hands on a couple of balls every game that most would not in order to keep possessions alive for his team. His excellent hands help him out greatly in this area, as you’ll rarely see him bobble anything or lose control of a ball if strength is not a factor.
Offensively, Thomas is absolutely dynamite in the open floor and shows some small important sparks that lead you to believe he has more in him than he’s currently showing. On the fast break or even in half-court sets his teammates have learned that if they are in trouble they can just throw the ball to the general area at the top of the square on the glass and Thomas will go get it and usually throw it down emphatically too. Most of his points come off lobs of these sort as well as tip-ins on offensive rebounds, but against weaker opponents he’s shown some signs of raw footwork in the post, a mid-range jump-shot and a little jump-hook shot he can go to. It’s fair to call him raw offensively, but he’s also a little more difficult to gauge since he is usually his team’s 4th or 5th option on the floor and has probably had a handful of plays called for him all season long.
He’s an unselfish player and is not as much of a liability as you would think handling the ball on the perimeter and making post entry passes. He shows a good feel for the game here too, as well as reasonable ball-handling skills in the open floor on a number of occasions.
Thomas’ frame isn’t huge, but it looks good enough to make us think that he won’t have any problems putting on the 15-20 pounds of bulk he will need in the NBA.
Thomas is generally an extremely aggressive player, noticeably being more concerned with helping his team get wins rather than get on a highlight reel. He is a humble and very intelligent player both on and off the court, and is said to be an excellent student in the classroom and a highly coachable player in LSU’s practices. On the court he is surprisingly poised and focused for a player with such little basketball experience, not making many mistakes and generally showing an outstanding court demeanor amongst his teammates. His relentless attitude is an attribute that is both rare in a player of his mold and impossible to teach. Being a 6-6, 190 pound player in high school made him have to work much harder than anyone else to succeed in the post and this attitude has translated over at his current height of 6-9 and 215 pounds. From interviews with him you can tell that he has a chip on his shoulder, and you can only hope that he keeps it once he makes the NBA. Right now he goes after everything that is even remotely in his area and never gives up on any play. Despite his lack of bulk he uses the strength he has very cleverly, challenging players who are bigger and stronger than him with no fear and no regard for his own personal safety.
It would not be a stretch to say that he has a higher ceiling that any other player in this draft class considering his physical attributes and how long he’s been playing basketball, but his intangibles lead you to believe that he also has what it takes to actually realize that potential as well.
Thomas is a late-bloomer in every sense of the word, only having started to play organized basketball in his junior year of high school. Like many players who have late growth spurts (he was still growing as of last summer), he has yet to fully grow into his frame and is probably lacking the strength to play a huge role in the NBA until he can add some weight. He struggled with conditioning problems earlier on in the year, but as the season progressed he’s shown no problem playing 30 or more minutes a game.
Offensively, Thomas is fairly limited and gets most of his points right now through offensive rebounds and in transition. He doesn’t really have any type of back to the basket game to speak of, and probably lacks the strength to score this way even if he did as he has trouble at times holding his spot on the block. He’ll have to add some go-to moves to become a consistent scorer in the NBA, as well as better footwork in the post. Almost his entire offensive game at the moment revolves around dunks, although as mentioned already, he did not get much of a chance to show otherwise.
Thomas has shown sparks of being able to hit the mid-range jump-shot at times, but it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that he could still improve his touch from the perimeter, as well as from the free throw line where he shoots 66%. His mechanics look a bit awkward here and he would be well served to better utilize his leaping ability to get better lift on his shot. In half-court sets Thomas’ ball-handling looks like it could use some serious refinement.
Beyond his bulk, his size also isn’t 100% ideal for an NBA power forward, although his terrific length and athleticism helps him out greatly in this area.
Defensively he has a tendency at times to rely a little too much on his athleticism, and might be developing bad habits we often see big men form in their time in the NCAA. It’s not rare to see him give up deep position in the paint to the man he’s guarding, often due to his lack of strength, thinking that he’ll be able to just spring up off the ground to block his shot once it goes up. This works for him against NCAA big men, but NBA power forwards will have a field day on him if he lets them get within a few feet of the hoop. Pump-fakes were a problem for Thomas early on, but as the season progressed and he’s learned his opponents’ tendencies better through scouting reports and just by trial and error, he’s improved here as well.
In high school, Thomas was only 5-11 as a freshman. He only played organized basketball in his junior and senior years and never really built up enough recruiting hype to be considered a top 100 prospect. As a junior he was a mere 6-6 and 190 pounds, and when he officially committed to LSU they did not initially even have a scholarship for him. One later opened up when a JUCO recruit was kicked off his team and his scholarship offer was rescinded. Thomas grew to 6-7 ½, 200 pounds as a high school senior, and averaged 16 points, 12 rebounds and six blocks per game, good enough only for the all-second team in Louisiana. He was forced to redshirt his freshman year at LSU after injuring his neck, and grew to 6-9, 215 pounds over that year.
Thomas now plays in the most athletic conference in America, the SEC. His team won their conference fairly easily with a 14-2 record, and then lost to Florida in the semifinals of the SEC tournament with Thomas out resting his ankle for the NCAA tournament. LSU also played an extremely difficult out of conference schedule, going on the road to play against teams like West Virginia, Cincinnati, Ohio State and UConn. The UConn game (see links: freshman forwards fantastic…) was Thomas’ coming out party at the national level, scoring 15 points with 13 rebounds and 7 blocks against the best front-court in the nation on their home floor on national television.
On the year, Thomas averaged 12.3 points, 9.2 rebounds and 3.1 blocks in 26 minutes per game on over 60% shooting from the field.
In the NCAA tournament (see various links: NCAA tournament) Thomas was fantastic in the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight against some of the best frontcourt players in America, coming up with 9 points (3/5 FG), 13 rebounds and 5 blocks against Duke, and then 21 points, 10 rebounds and 3 blocks against Texas. At the time of this report, LSU is headed to their first Final Four in 20 years.
Thomas is expected to enter the NBA draft this summer and has probably done enough in the NCAA tournament to guarantee himself a spot in the high-lottery.
If the Sweet 16 matchup with Duke on Thursday was Tyrus Thomas’ introduction to the national media and casual fans who are just now starting to pay attention to college basketball, his performance in the Elite Eight could be remembered as the one that permanently elevated him into the top 5 of the 2006 draft as well as firmly into the discussion for being the overall #1 pick.
Thomas did what we’ve come to expect from him in terms of defense and rebounding with 13 rebounds and 3 emphatic blocked shots, but it was what he showed on the offensive end of the ball this time, scoring 21 points, that really makes you wonder just how high his ceiling as a basketball player might be.
His presence was announced immediately to Texas’ outstanding frontcourt--considered one of the best in the NCAA—with an incredible tip-dunk he had jumping flatfooted directly underneath the rim to corral an offensive rebound with one hand from well above the cylinder and flush it down in one fluid motion. Texas had serious problems keeping a body on the slithery Thomas all game long as he was constantly in motion, losing his man on three different occasions for an effortless alleyoop within halfcourt sets. Till this point these were all things we’d seen many times out of Thomas, combined with the typical fantastic effort he put in defensively and on the glass that made this an extremely impressive first half performance with 8 points and 6 rebounds.
What we saw in the 2nd half was anything but expected, though. On two different occasions Thomas moved off the ball nicely and received it near the baseline from about 17 feet out. In both instances, Thomas put the ball on the floor and spotted up for a smooth looking mid-range jumper, which he swished impressively for a guy who has always been considered to be as raw as they come on the offensive end. He continued to show his perimeter skills by getting in the passing lanes on the other end and taking the ball the length of the floor to finish softly off the glass using his outstanding body control. On another occasion he again took the ball from the perimeter and attacked the hoop, spotting up this time for a face-up jumper inside the paint. This is the kind of offensive package no one would blink at if they saw from a small forward, but considering that Thomas is clearly just starting to figure out the type of player he is and will become after not having played any organized basketball until his junior year of high school, you have to wonder just how much untapped potential this late-blooming athletic freak has in him.
Thomas again showed his heartbeat, motor and passion after cramping up badly with 7 minutes and 30 seconds left in the game, leaving the floor in obvious pain but coming back into the game just a few minutes later before again coming to his knees in overtime after an emphatic rebound.
With LSU locking up a trip to the Final Four, there is just no telling how high his stock could rise now, as he’s shown to be as worthy a candidate as any player of being the #1 overall pick, especially with the inconsistency fellow candidates LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Gay have shown in the tournament so far. Any talk of staying another year has obviously become a moot point as there is simply no way to convince him that his stock will be any higher next year and he’s proven that he can hang with any player in the country regardless of his high school recruiting hype.
If there was anyone left in the country that still hadn’t seen the way freshman Tyrus Thomas can change the game with his incredible length and athleticism, they picked the right game to tune in.
Thomas was a dominant force defensively and on the glass, making every single one of Duke’s players question themselves when they entered the paint and coming up huge for his team offensively down the stretch despite playing much of the way with 4 fouls.
Every single one of his 5 blocks were absolutely spectacular, made possible not just with his outrageous leaping ability but also by his fantastic shot-blocking instincts, timing and outstanding motor. When he wasn’t coming up with a block he was instead altering anything within a 12 foot radius of the hoop, as he covers an amazing amount of ground incredibly quick. Thomas was studying and learning Shelden Williams’ tendencies and shot-fakes on the fly to get the better of the All-American on a number of occasions, sparking his team to an improbable victory with sheer heart, determination, and once again if it wasn’t clear, an uncanny amount of athletic ability. His defense extended beyond his shot-blocking ability, though, stepping out on screens to help his teammates out (especially on J.J. Redick) and coming up with a number of huge rebounds that gave his team a massive shot in the arm.
He did all this battling foul trouble for much of the contest, picking up his 2nd foul with 8 minutes to go in the first half which sat him until the start of the second, his third foul with 18 minutes to go and his fourth with over 12 minutes left in the game. That didn’t stop him from making two incredible plays in the last minute that essentially won the game for his team, though, first handling the ball in the open floor for a massive dunk in transition and then closing out on Greg Paulus on Duke’s next possession down the floor for his fifth and possibly most spectacular block to seal the deal for LSU. The passion he showed after that told us all we need to know about his heart and what it meant for him to help his team out this way.
It wasn’t a flawless game for Thomas, though. His first field goal came with 7 minutes left in the contest, and his offense looked about as raw as can be outside of the alleyoops and putbacks on offensive rebounds that he converted. He’s probably still a good 15-20 pounds away from making an impact in the NBA, but with the upside he showed it seems like it’s going to be awfully hard for him to slip out of the lottery this year if he indeed decides to declare. And every win makes that all the more likely as the country gets more familiar with his name and the price of his shoe deal rises exponentially.
While the SEC Freshman of the Year is still coming off of a severe ankle injury, he has dramatically changed each of LSU’s two tournament games on the defensive end. Thomas’ incredible leaping ability combined with his good timing make any opposing player coming into the lane think twice about shooting the ball. Helpside defense aside, the redshirt freshman did a great job of playing man to man defense in the post, staying out of foul trouble, and contesting every single shot that his man put up.
Offensively, Tyrus showed off some excellent ball handling skills, breaking down his defender time after time from the perimeter and making his way inside the paint. Playing outside of the paint is nothing new to Thomas, as he was a guard until his junior year of high school before he shot up from 5’11 to 6’8. The Louisiana native showed great passing ability from the high post as well, getting the ball to Glen Davis with no problems whatsoever. Not to be forgotten of course, Tyrus topped the night off with one of his signature emphatic slam dunks that got the crowd off their feet.
NBA scouts realize that Tyrus Thomas is a very rare player athletically, and is just beginning to tap into the immense amount of potential that he has. At 6’9 and 215 lbs., he has a frame suitable of adding another 20 lbs, and still might not be done growing. Despite the talk of definitely staying another year, we wouldn’t be surprised at all to see this athletic freak throw his name in the draft this year and wind up shaking the commissioner’s hand during the top half of the lottery. The serious injury that had him on crutches just a few weeks ago has apparently made him think twice about the virtues of passing up being a surefire lottery pick.
Coming off a high ankle sprain that had him on crutches and out of the lineup towards the end of the season, LSU will need their fantastic freshman forward at full strength to continue to capitalize on the momentum that helped them win the SEC regular season championship outright, especially against a pesky Iona team that will not go down without a fight.
Thomas is hands down the most athletic big man in this tournament, and his presence inside the paint defensively and on the glass is enough to completely swing the game in his team's favor as many LSU rivals have learned this season. For the Tigers to have any chance of living up to their high seeding and advance to the Sweet 16 and possibly beyond, they will need Thomas healthy, out of foul trouble, assertive on both ends of the floor and not intimidated by the fact that he's a freshman trying to lead a historically underachieving team to a place they haven't been in a long time.
Emphatically insisting that he will be back for at least another season, an excellent run in the tournament behind solid play by Thomas could make him think twice about that decision, especially after seeing what a tough injury feels like mentally and physically with his own eyes. Being bounced early could confirm that notion in his mind. Regardless of what happens, a horde of NBA scouts will be watching his every move.
Coming out of high school as a borderline top 100 prospect, and being recruited by the likes of Tulane, North Texas, and Western Kentucky, it was a no-brainer for the Baton Rouge native to stay at home and play for the Tigers. At only 6’7 and 175 lbs, Tyrus was too small to play power forward and not skilled enough to play small forward. Fast forward one year and you have a player who has grown two inches and gained 40 lbs. (currently 6’9 and 215 lbs.) and you have the Tyrus Thomas that I saw in person Saturday at Ohio State.
The Tyrus Thomas I saw was a jaw dropping athletic specimen who completely changed the game in Columbus, Ohio. He blocked at least 7 or 8 shots (but was only credited with 5 for some reason) and was an absolute force on the boards. He showed amazing quickness and great elevation on his jumpshot. Thomas is arguably the top athlete in college basketball with a great body and arms that seemingly never end, not the undersized power forward that he was regarded as in high school.
To make a long story short, Thomas has catapulted himself from a player who was red shirted last year to a legitimate NBA lottery prospect in one year. His athleticism is virtually unparalleled on the collegiate level, reminiscent of Stromile Swift and he is just beginning to scratch the surface of how good he can become. While Tyrus has the size, face-up game and athleticism to play power forward, he has the quickness to play small forward if he chooses to. He is clearly more comfortable facing the basket, as he played point guard all the way up until his junior year of high school supposedly. It will be interesting to see what route he chooses to take over the next few months and next season, but draft fans definitely need to remember the name of Tyrus Thomas.