Raps New 3-Point Threat Could Be a Game Changer
Source: James Lang/USA TODAY Sports
The 50-40-90 club is an exclusive home to some of the NBA's greatest shooters such as Steve Nash and Stephen Curry, and newly signed Raptors guard Matt Thomas, may be poised to join the ranks. Thomas, who shot 48.5% from three-point land, and 51.1% from the field for Valencia Basket of the Liga ACB in Spain this past season will be looking to keep up his hot hand for the defending NBA champions in his debut NBA season. This impressive shooting stroke paired with a grinder mentality could put Thomas in a great place to succeed this year for the Raptors.
All basketball fans know that we are living in a “peremitercentric” era where the three-point shot has never been more important. With this trend, it is clear that Matt Thomas will thrive in the NBA. Synergy Basketball shared some unheard of stats on Thomas’s shooting numbers from the past season including an 82% eFG% off a catch and shoot opportunity, which includes the baffling 99% rate when left wide-open. The numbers don't lie and with a shooting ability of this magnitude along with the modern NBA style of play we may see the beginning of a new top three-point shooter. After the loss of Danny Green this offseason the Raptors are left with a gaping hole in the shooting guard position but Thomas will fit this void perfectly. With his sweet shooting touch and team-first mindset, he will compliment his Raptors teammates greatly, as well as fit Head Coach Nick Nurses' fast-paced, ball movement system. Thomas would help with spacing the floor for his less capable shooting teammates such as OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam, giving them easier opportunities to take the ball to the rim or pass out to an open Thomas for three. Thomas’s shooting ability will also add space to his partner in the backcourt, All-Star Kyle Lowry. Lowry, an amazing shooter in his own right, will now have more chances to have the ball swung his way along the perimeter for more open looks, as well as have an incredibly reliable teammate waiting to be fed the ball on the outside. He also has an ease to his game which he’s put on display multiple times while playing for Valencia.
While the former EuroLeague Three-Point Champion may be a premier perimeter threat, he is far from the perfect player as Thomas does have a history of struggling on the defensive side of the ball. This could prove detrimental at times when facing off against All-Star caliber two-guards such as Zach LaVine or Victor Oladipo in the East, who push the pace of the offense with their athleticism. Thomas could be caught sleeping at times not from lack of effort, but from lack of athleticism. Thomas, however, does have the benefit of having fantastic perimeter defenders on his team such as the newly added Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson to take away some of the defensive pressure Thomas may have to face in other situations.
While Thomas is a great fit for the starting shooting-guard position most Raptors fans are eyeing longtime Raptor, Norman Powell to take over this role. Norm has shown flashes of greatness in his career, especially in the playoffs but has succumbed to the pressures of the spotlight in the past. Norm, who started only three games during the 2018-19 regular season averaged 8.7 PPG, on 44.4% shooting from the field and a less than ideal, 30% from deep. While Powell's career numbers are not terrible it is clear he is a better fit off the bench and plays off of Fred Van Vleets' playmaking ability well. Thomas would not only be able to add more to this team as far as stats are concerned, but his fit in the projected starting lineup would mesh perfectly in their current system.
Thomas may not be the big name free-agency signing that Raptors fans were looking for, but this under the radar signing could be pivotal towards the Raptors continuing their long string of success in the past decade. The new-look Raptors may take some time to grow accustomed to playing together, but once they begin to click, watch out for Matt Thomas to make it rain on NBA defences from all over the league, and help push the Raptors back into powerhouse status.