Toronto Raptors: The case for giving Matt Thomas playoff minutes

Toronto Raptors - Matt Thomas (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Matt Thomas (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /

As the Toronto Raptors wrap up regular season play,  Matt Thomas is continuing to prove that he’s deserving of a role in the postseason.

With a few games left on the Toronto Raptors seeding schedule, the defending champions had already clinched second place in the conference, leaving them with next to nothing to prove in their last few outings.

That lack of intensity was proven to be beneficial though, as Nick Nurse rested his starters, and allowed for his bench to play significant minutes before things ramp up for the playoffs.

Of course, once the postseason hits, rotations are shortened, and most of the players who’ve been getting extended minutes over the past few games are unlikely to touch the court at all.

One of the players who does deserve to see some minutes continue into the playoffs though is first-year sharpshooter Matt Thomas.

Throughout the course of the year, even before the pause in the NBA season, Thomas’ minutes had been sparse, often only appearing due to injuries or when the game is already out of reach. When the Raptors are fully healthy and are playing against top-level opponents, chances are Thomas won’t be finding the floor unless it’s garbage time.

This lack of minutes isn’t so much due to Thomas himself though. The Toronto Raptors have assembled a roster with incredible depth, and this has led to great pieces such as Thomas and several others not getting as big of a chance as they would had they been elsewhere in the NBA.

The reasoning behind Thomas’ lack of play-time cannot be due to him. This is because almost every time he steps on the floor he leaves you wanting more.

Thomas brings efficiency to the table for Toronto Raptors

A stat that has become famous in Raptor circles is that Matt Thomas shot 82% eFG from the floor in catch and shoot situations last year while shooting an insane 99% from open shots. These numbers are unheard of, and although they were never likely to continue in the NBA, the one thing that has continued is his ability to shoot the basketball.

Thomas can hoist up a shot from almost anywhere, and when it comes to shooting from behind the arc, he can be just as effective while moving as he is when spotting up. The former Iowa State man has the potential to be one of the best specialists in the NBA, and that alone should be enough to force Nick Nurse’s hand into giving him a few playoff looks.

Since the Raptors have returned in the bubble, Thomas has continued to shine whenever given a chance. His first real look at starter minutes was against Milwaukee on August 10th, where he was able to put up 22 points on 9/17 shooting, including a 4/8 line from the 3.

Obviously Thomas is unlikely to ever see these minutes again this year, but given his ability to get hot quickly, it makes complete sense for him to be given short runs during the playoffs, especially if the Raptors are in a bit of an offensive lull and are searching for a bucket.

One of the major counterpoints to the 6’4 shooting guard seeing playoff action is his ability on defense, but as basketball has returned in the bubble, Thomas has been serviceable on the defensive end. Forcing Thomas to play extended minutes defensively could be an issue, but bringing him in for shorter amounts wouldn’t be much of a problem as the Raptors defensive system is good enough to cover for his weaknesses.

Lastly, most of the hype behind Thomas’ game has to do with his shooting, but don’t let that take away from the fact that he has improved immensely as a ball handler. Earlier in the year, Thomas was a bit more timid, typically just operating in a catch and shoot manner, but as the season has returned, his confidence has grown, and Matt will often now be more involved in the offense, spreading the ball and proving that he is a capable passer as well.

The Raptors’ options

When it comes to the Toronto Raptors playoff bench, there looks to be a tier system. Serge Ibaka, Norman Powell, and Terence Davis will likely be the first 3 off of the bench, but after that, it gets a bit murky. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson may get a few minutes here and there, and Chris Boucher could get the odd chance, but for the most part, they won’t be a part of what’s surely a tight Nick Nurse rotation.

Matt Thomas finds himself in the same tier as Rondae and Boucher but can offer an offensive burst the other two can’t, which should put him in a favorable position when it comes to leading that second tier in opportunities.

All in all, let’s be realistic. Matt Thomas does not yet have the complete game needed in order to get a serious run in the postseason, but his shooting alone should be enough to get him a nod. The Raptors are going to compete against elite defensive teams, and when there’s a lull in scoring, Mr. 99% would be a great guy to bring off of the bench.

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The rest of the league may not know Matt Thomas yet, but as long as the Raptors can give him a chance, they soon will.