Toronto Raptors: How Matt Thomas can be the next J.J Redick

JJ Redick, New Olreans (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
JJ Redick, New Olreans (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /
Toronto Raptors
Toronto Raptors – Matt Thomas (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images) /

Shooters shoot, and that is what Matt Thomas has been doing for the Toronto Raptors just like another particular player in the league.

When watching the Toronto Raptors play this year, there is always a player who leaves us with a blank look asking ourselves: “Who is that guy?” Well this year, that particular player is Matt Thomas, a player who found success in Europe and was then signed by the Toronto Raptors last summer.

It’s obvious after watching just a few games of Matt Thomas play, is that he is deadly from three-point range. But Matt Thomas is much more than just a threat from beyond the arc, he is very much like JJ Redick. In the sense that he can shoot it from pretty much anywhere.

Same player, different body

If you just look at their location of shot frequency alone, it feels as if they are the same player.

  • Matt Thomas shot frequency from each location this season :
    • Rim: 9%
    • Short Mid (floater area): 9 %
    • Long Mid: 18%
    • Three: 65%
  • J.J Redick shot frequency from each location this season :
    • Rim: 9%
    • Short Mid (floater area): 6 %
    • Long Mid: 25%
    • Three: 61%

*stats per Cleaning The Glass

It is rare these players ever go to the rim. Thomas has literally only had 6 shots under the rim and has made half of them. So it is not really fair to discuss his skill there with such a small sample size. Nonetheless, he must still improve under the rim.

Of course, they make their living behind the three-point line, where Thomas shoots it for 47%, and Redick shoots it for 46% (Yes, I know sample size is an issue). They do it in the same way also, setting themselves in the corner and running around a screen to get an open shot.

Most of Thomas’s and Redick’s points come from setting himself up in the corner and running around a screen to get an open shot above the break, or hitting open corner shots when their defender goes to help in the paint.

They also run laps around the perimeter waiting for a screen to set in so they can get an open shot. Something Thomas has done, but can do much more of, especially considering Redick has made a living doing this and it can give issues to defenders for the other team.

The next step for Thomas

We know Matt Thomas shoots the ball at an elite level, but he hasn’t gotten much playing time. His defense is obviously not the best, but the Toronto Raptors defense is good enough that when Thomas is playing, their defense doesn’t suffer. So I still believe that Thomas should get more than just nine minutes per game, which is what he was averaging before the season was halted.

I understand Nurse wants everyone on the court to be a good defender, but Thomas provides so much efficiency and space in the halfcourt that it would be worth it to have him on. If used more, he’d attract more attention around the perimeter and that can leave more space for Siakam to operate in the paint.

So yes the next step is not entirely on him, he needs more playing time. He CAN improve as a defender but he’ll still be at below-average defender, maybe average at best (he isn’t undersized at 6 feet 5). So this will really depend on how Nick Nurse uses him and feels if his shooting is worth having.

If Nurse does want to maximize Thomas’ ability on offense, then they should consider using him in dribble-hand off situations. This is something we saw a lot of with Embiid and Redick in his time with the Philadelphia 76ers. This would be another easy scoring tool that the Raptors can unleash him on.

Running a dribble-hand off with a player like Gasol or Ibaka would open up the paint and lead to an open shot for Thomas. This isn’t a play I’ve seen Nurse use yet, but he does have the tools to do so.

I’m not saying that Matt Thomas is JJ Redick 2.0. JJ Redick took a lot of time to get to where he is as a top shooter in the league. It’s not easy to do, and although Thomas is a fantastic shooter and plays a similar style. He still has a lot of catching up to do if he ever wants to be viewed like J.J Redick is in the league. And no I’m not talking about the tattoos.

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Let’s see what Nurse and the Toronto Raptors do in the eight regular seasons, it’ll be interesting to see if Thomas will be used more knowing his efficiency and what he can do on offense.