In his first four stops in the NBA over the course of three seasons, former Duke star Lance Thomas had taken two three pointers.
This season with the Knicks, Thomas has taken 77 (two a game) and hit 41 percent of them. Thomas is playing well for the Knicks off the bench, the team has been 3.2 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the court compared to sitting (most of that bump is on the defensive end). He’s been the Knicks’ fans secret off the bench.
Except a lot of team executives around the league are taking notice, which means it may be difficult for the Knicks to keep the free agent this summer. Marc Berman explains at the New York Post.
Boston coach Brad Stevens, Detroit’s Stan Van Gundy and Chicago’s Fred Hoiberg also recently gave Thomas his kudos, each calling him one of the league’s “most improved players.’’ Knicks coach Derek Fisher fell in love with Thomas since Day 1, but is almost never asked about his play…
For now, NBA coaches are talking up Thomas more than the media and fans. Thomas signed this offseason for a little more than the minimum — a one-year, $1.5 million deal. But come July 1, when Thomas becomes a free agent again, the fans may become disappointed when Knicks president Phil Jackson is unable to re-sign him because of his growing price tag.
The Brooklyn-born Duke product is shooting an excellent 47.7 percent — 41.6 from 3-point range — and averaging 8.7 points per game. Until this season, Thomas never had a 3-point shot, attempting 22 in his first four seasons. He’s already taken 77 this season and it’s mid-January. It would seem that vague Most Improved Player Award is meant for the kind of season Thomas is weaving.
PBT’s own Dan Feldman brought up Thomas as a potential Most Improved Player candidate in the latest PBT Podcast (although Portland’s C.J. McCollum is the clear frontrunner for the award). You can be sure teams are taking note.
In a summer when every team will be awash with money to chase free agents, Thomas is the kind of guy who is going to get paid. Not max money, not in the first tier of free agents to sign, but he likely makes more next season than he has made in his career up to this point (more like three or four times the $2.3 million he’s made so far).
He’s one of a handful of guys who have earned a healthy pay bump next season and have done it at just the right time.