On Friday, the Toronto Raptors announced that they have signed guard Matt Thomas.
According to The Athletic's Shams Charania, who first reported the terms of the signing, Thomas has agreed to a three-year, $4.2 million dollar deal with the Raptors.
Official: @Theiceman_21 is a Raptor. #WeTheNorth- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) July 19, 2019
🖋️ https://t.co/reJDeFjCvc pic.twitter.com/dhwpwHvkxH
After failing to hear his name called in the 2017 NBA Draft, Thomas moved overseas to play in Spain's Liga ACB, which is widely regarded to be one of the best basketball leagues in the world. He spent the 2017-18 season with Monbus Obradorio and the 2018-19 season with Valencia Basket.
MORE: Fast facts on Matt Thomas
Thomas' greatest strength has always been his outside shooting. He was lights-out in college, where he averaged 8.5 points per game on 40.1 percent shooting from 3-point range over four seasons at Iowa State. He then averaged 15.4 points per game on 45.9 percent shooting from deep in his lone season with Monbus Obradorio, followed by 11.4 points per game on 48.5 percent shooting with Valencia Basket.
Those numbers helped the 24-year-old earn the reputation of being one of the best/most accurate shooters not in the NBA.
Thomas is a versatile shooter as well. According to Synergy Sports, almost half of his scoring last season came on an equal split of spot-ups and off of screens. He was incredibly efficient on both of those plays, ranking in the 97th percentile with 1.36 points per spot-up possession and the 73rd percentile with 1.10 points per possession off of screens.
Synergy Sports added that Thomas posted an effective field goal percentage of 82 percent on catch-and-shoot jump shots last season, including 99 percent when he was unguarded.
In other words: Thomas was automatic when left open.
Being a knockdown shooter in Europe is obviously different to being one in the NBA - the biggest difference being the line is almost two inches closer to the basket in FIBA - but, for context, his spot-up and off-screen numbers stacked up with what the likes of Danny Green, Paul George and Kevin Durant posted last season, an encouraging sign after the Raptors saw two of their best 3-point shooters in Green and Kawhi Leonard leave in free agency this summer.
The Raptors were unable to address that problem in the signings of Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, both of whom are defensive-minded forwards with questionable jump shots, so there's an even greater need for Thomas' skill set entering next season. He'll essentially be this team's Jodie Meeks, only with far more upside.
How Thomas fits defensively isn't as clear - Synergy Sports graded him as mostly a poor or average defender in Europe last season - but the combination of Johnson and Hollis-Jefferson, plus Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby, should be more than enough for the Raptors cover for him on that end of the floor, especially if he plays only spot minutes.
MORE: Offseason grade for the Raptors
While he isn't a big name, Thomas is reportedly someone the Raptors have had their eye for a while now. According to Blake Murphy of The Athletic, Thomas broke shooting records at a pre-draft workout with the team in 2017. The Raptors had plans for him to be on their Summer League roster in Las Vegas that year, but he ended up playing for the Los Angeles Lakers instead.
Thomas helped the Lakers win the title, exploding for 23 points on 5-for-5 shooting from the perimeter in the championship game.
HIGHLIGHTS: Matt Thomas follows his strong semifinals performance by going 5-5 from deep with 23 total points in tonight's win #LakersSummer pic.twitter.com/3hIWJs7QWQ- Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) July 18, 2017
Now that he's finally on their side, the Raptors can only hope that's a sign of what's to come from Thomas in the NBA.
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