Matt Thomas was signed in 2019 by the Toronto Raptors to a three-year deal. Now in his sophomore season, the Raptors shooting guard is making it difficult to keep him out of the lineup.
Saturday night’s preseason game was an affirmation of why the Toronto Raptors signed Matt Thomas to a three-year contract. He is currently in the second year of that deal, and he is making it difficult for head coach Nick Nurse to ignore his value.
Saturday night vs. the Charlotte Hornets, Matt Thomas was the offensive hero for the Toronto Raptors. He was extremely efficient with 4/7 three-point shooting and 5/9 overall for 16 points to lead the team.
It was a great start to this season for the shooting guard who only saw action in 41 games last season. There were 11 times his status was listed as did not dress, 11 times he was a did not play, and nine times he was listed as inactive.
After efforts like Saturday night in Charlotte, it’s not likely Matt Thomas will be left out of the lineup very often anymore.
Toronto Raptors’ depth at shooting guard hinders minutes for Thomas.
The Toronto Raptors have a lot of depth at the shooting guard position, making it difficult to find Matt Thomas minutes. With Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet, two point-guards starting and one of them assuming the starting shooting guard role, Thomas finds himself fourth on the depth chart at the shooting guard position.
In an unfortunate way, he may move up the depth chart because of a domestic violence charge pending against teammate Terence Davis. Davis was a key member of head coach Nick Nurse’s regular-season rotation last season as he was one of eight players involved in the Raptors’ season-opening overtime game win in 2019/20 against New Orleans.
As Matt Thomas is also considered the weakest defending guard on the team, it is tough for Nick Nurse to find him minutes. The Raptors’ style of play values defensive effort more than they do the three-point shooting. Thomas will have to play hard at both ends of the floor to break into the rotation if Terence Davis overcomes his legal issues.
More than a three-point shooter
At one point last season, the Toronto Raptors put together a 15 game win streak, and Matt Thomas was really not a part of that string of wins. However, head coach Nick Nurse has not missed the fact that Matt Thomas is one of many Raptors players to which the phrase “next man up” refers.
Dating back to last season, the Toronto Raptors had several injuries at any given time. Still, every role player, including Matt Thomas, found ways to step up when their number was called and contribute to a 53 win season.
Nick Nurse was quoted in a recent TSN.ca article after the game about Matt Thomas by saying:
"“He makes more plays than just standing around shooting threes. He creates offense because he is doing the right thing. He’s more than just a shooter. He’s playing offensive basketball at a high pace and a high IQ.”"
Thomas showed his quality Saturday night by moving well without the ball, dribble driving to get in the lane when the three-pointer is taken away by the defense, and the ability to make good passing decisions. Matt Thomas had five assists in the game vs. Charlotte and was a +22.
Toronto Raptors need bench scoring.
Matt Thomas can help the Raptors immensely with his shooting coming off of the bench. With the loss of Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol’s combined 22 points a game it’s not obvious where the Toronto Raptors will make up that shortage.
It will help if OG Anunoby can increase his scoring to between 15-17 a game up from his near 11 points last season, and Fred VanVleet ups his scoring to over 20 a game. However, more shots for them means fewer shots for other starters, and it’s to be seen whether Kyle Lowry at age 34 can continue averaging around 20 points a game.
This is where Matt Thomas can really help the Toronto Raptors. He shot the three-pointer at a very efficient 47.5 percent last season but only averaged 10.7 minutes per game. Should Matt Thomas become a fixture in the Toronto Raptors eight-nine man rotation, he could create a one-two punch with Norman Powell off the bench that would be lethal for opposing teams’ second units to contain.
For his part, Matt Thomas seems willing to play whatever role the coaching staff gives him, but 2020/21 could be a breakout year for him.