I was generally confused when Barcelona signed Deshaun Thomas as Kostas Papanikolaou’s replacement. Thomas played as a stretch four in France and Barça already had a full depth of options for the wing with Juan Carlos Navarro, Alex Abrines, Brad Oleson, Mario Hezonja and Tomas Satoransky in place at the time of Thomas’ signing. That turned out to be a good decision, though. Navarro, Abrines and Oleson have struggled with injuries in December and Thomas has been a more productive player than Papanikolaou was last season.
Thomas’ role in this team is mostly as a spot-up shooter, though his three-point rate (30.6%) isn’t as high as you would expect from someone in that role. He gets good elevation off the ground and has a sound release off the catch but is more reliable as an open shot shooter from the left corner than as shooter with gravitational pull. Thomas has converted his 42 three-point attempts at a 40% clip. Attacking closeouts, he has proven a willing passer on the move but is not a consistent shot creator for others out of dribble penetration, assisting on just 6.7% of Barcelona’s scores when he’s been on the floor.
Thomas has logged the majority of his minutes with Marcelinho Huertas and Juan Carlos Navarro (or Mario Hezonja, over the last month), so he’s had no ball-handling responsibilities from the perimeter and mostly gets to create his shots posting up smaller players. Barça often gets him deep position by having him as one of their players in the high post on horns alignment, then dive to the strong-side low post as Huertas and Tomic run a high pick-and-roll.
Thomas has a big frame for a wing at the European level but will more often use skill rather than force to get his shot off. He can get a bit clumsy with his dribbling but has shown good touch finishing through left-handed jumphooks and turnaround, fadeaway jump-shots. Between those looks off post-ups and one-dribble pull-ups when the opponent runs him off the three-point line, Thomas has converted on 50% of his 28 mid-range jump-shots in 205 Euroleague minutes this season, after converting on 47.6% of his 21 such attempts in 93 Euroleague minutes with Nanterre last one.
He has a good handle but doesn’t attack the rim with much speed on straight line drives, needing to rely on fast-breaks and weak-side cuts to get his interior scoring. Thomas is a good runner in transition, though not impressively explosive in the open court. He does not finish with power in traffic and has not shown able to finish through contact but has good hands to catch the ball on the move and touch to finish around length at rim level. Thomas has converted 15 of his 20 attempts at the rim in the Euroleague and 62% of his 47 two-point attempts in the Spanish league, with only five of his 137 total shots in both leagues blocked.
Thomas defends with effort, getting on his stance and moving his feet well enough so he’s able to contain dribble penetration through contact in isolation. But he struggles badly navigating through screens due to his frame. He is just not built to go over the pick, consistently crashing into the opposing big man. Thomas also doesn’t leverage his athleticism as an asset in rim protection or rebounding much – blocking just three shots in 22 appearances and collecting just 8% of opponents’ misses when he’s been on the floor. His on/off splits are mixed, with Barcelona preventing scoring better with him in the Euroleague but without him in the Spanish league.
Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here and at BballBreakdown or at Upside & Motor, a couple of websites where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara.