In preparation for a potential bench role in the playoffs, should the Toronto Raptors give Matt Thomas more minutes in the final stages of the regular season?
Make no mistake that if the Toronto Raptors are to repeat as champs, it’s going to be because of their defence. That said, the team, specifically the lesser-known players, will need to make shots throughout the process.
*Enter Matt Thomas*
Frankly, there isn’t a better shotmaker on the Toronto Raptors than Thomas, though, he plays so sparingly that it’s easy to forget about him when discussing such matters – the fact remains, the first-year Raptor is a helluva shooter.
Facing the Indiana Pacers on Sunday, Thomas scored a career-high 17 points in Toronto’s thrashing of Nate McMillan‘s squad. The Raptors defeated Indiana by a score of127-81 – Toronto’s 46-point margin of victory was the biggest in franchise history – just another record for the organization’s 2019-20 band of merry men and women.
In the case of Matt Thomas, his performance against the Pacers included five made threes (on seven attempts) – the rarely-deployed sharpshooter scored more points (17) than minutes played (15).
Following Friday’s victory, Thomas’ three-point percentage on the year resides at 50.8. He’s operating at video-game levels of good right now:
Per 100 possessions, Matt Thomas leads Toronto with 5.5 made threes, also attempting the most threes per 100 possessions (10.9). On corner attempts, he is converting 64.7 percent of the time, best on the Raptors. So, let me ask…with Thomas residing atop the team’s leaderboard in several key shooting metrics, shouldn’t he be getting more minutes? Might Thomas’ role change once the postseason begins and the importance of consistent shooting is heightened?
More than a one-trick pony
Despite what casual ball fans will tell you, Matt Thomas is more than a one-trick pony. His shot may be his bread and butter, but the feisty guard can also run an offence, facilitate for teammates and play effective defence. Thomas still doesn’t see a ton of respect from officials and is often called for ticky-tac fouls that more well-established players get away with. Chalk it up to NBA growing pains.
The fact of the matter is as much as some (including myself) appreciate the under-the-radar contributions of a player like Patrick McCaw, it’s unlikely that McCaw’s shot will hold up against the ruthless defensive schemes teams are forced to contend with in the playoffs. McCaw’s shot, while respectable for stretches this season, remains far from a coach’s dream. The opposite is true when it comes to Thomas’ stroke. I get the fuzzies every time the ball rolls off his fingertips.
Another area that Thomas excels in is ball security – currently, his turnover percentage (9.9) is the lowest among Toronto guards. His minutes are drastically lower than those of his teammates, but the numbers still tell a very clear story, that being that Matt Thomas is more than capable of serving as the team’s primary ball-handler. That said, he’s best used as an off-ball player who can come off screens to catch and shoot.
Fans of the Raptors need to remember that the first-year player offers far more than just a pinpoint stroke from distance.
Thomas likely to see an expanded role in the postseason
If the Toronto Raptors wind up winning another title, best believe that Matt Thomas will have played a key role at some point along the way.
Why do I say that? Because shooting is so damn important in the postseason and Thomas, quite possibly, is the best shooter on the Drakes (I sound like a broken record! Nick Nurse, are you listening?)
Thomas has shown that he can light it up, with minimal preparation time, but if the Raptors plan to unleash Thomas’ shot in the playoffs, it would serve the champs well to involve him more down the stretch of the regular season, especially while Norman Powell is out of the lineup. Meanwhile, Patrick McCaw is ill but should be back soon. Even when he returns, Thomas deserves a decent amount of run with Toronto’s second unit. His shot is too deadly to be left at the end of the bench.
It may only be for a game, or perhaps a series, but there’s more to come from Matt Thomas in 2020. All he needs are more opportunities. If he continues shooting the way he has been, it will be impossible for Nick Nurse to ignore him once the real fun of the postseason begins.
And look – Buddy Hield may have been crowned as the winner of the NBA’s three-point competition, but Raptor fans know who the real three-point king is.
…and pretty soon, the rest of the league will come to know about Matt Thomas, too.