Khyri Thomas Might Be The Best Defensive Guard In The Draft
This piece does not reflect the views of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Junior, G, Creighton
6’4, 199 lbs
College Stats in 2017-18:
33 games, 33 starts, 31.7 MPG, 15.1 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 2.8 APG, 1.7 SPG, 53.8 FG%, 41.1 3P%, 78.8 FT%
2x Big East Defensive Player of the Year (2017, 2018)
Second-team All-Big East
Where he’ll go:
Thomas is projected to be a first-round pick, but likely not a lottery pick.
Khyri Thomas is entering the draft at exactly the right time.
His main strength is on the defensive end, hence winning the Big East Defensive Player of the Year for the last two seasons. He has great upper body strength, a strong frame and quick feet to stay in front of pretty much any player. He anticipates passes and has great hands to steal the ball while moving his feet. He’s great at switching defensively, something we saw as an absolute must in the NBA Finals.
Going into the draft, that’s Thomas’ biggest strength – the fact that he can probably hop into a team’s rotation immediately on the defensive side of the ball.
“Each year, I think, I don’t want to say my numbers went up, but maturing, understanding the game a lot more,” Thomas said at the Combine in Chicago on why he entered the draft. “I felt like to develop my game even more, why not take the next step and play in the best league in the world?”
With all of this talk about defense, you might think that offense is an uphill battle for Thomas. That’s not the case at all. In his junior season, Thomas averaged a career-high 15.1 points per game while shooting 53.8 percent from the field and 41.1 percent from the 3-point line on 4.6 attempts per game.
He’ll need to prove at the next level that his range can extend to the 3-point line, but judging by his college numbers, I don’t see why they wouldn’t.
His strong body allows him to finish at the rim effectively. He does a weirdly good job of adjusting his body while up in the air. At the rim, he reminds me a little of Aaron Holiday, who we covered earlier this week. Both players play are combo guards but aren’t exactly what I’d call pass-first players. Both players will likely be asked to play both point and shooting guard throughout their careers.
With his strength, he’s able to post up smaller guards Shaun Livingston style. Thomas does a good job of keeping his elbows up and going up for the easy buckets.
He credits his discipline to attending Fork Union Military Academy in high school.
So, where are the negatives?
At 22, he’s not considered a young, up-and-coming player in this draft. That sounds weird, but it’s true. A lot of these guys are 19 and 20 and might have higher ceilings, although I would argue Thomas has a higher floor.
He’s not a great shooter off the dribble and occasionally forces plays that simply aren’t there.
Overall, this is a player who might not be a star at the next level, but he has the dedication and skill set to be a very solid in the NBA for a very long time.