In order for the Sixers to keep up with several other evolving teams around the league they will need to rely on secondary players. The 26th pick gives them a chance to bring in a player who isn’t talked about heavily but can still make a difference. Khyri Thomas out of Creighton is a player that can help the Sixers out by being the same reliable player he was in college, he won’t be a superstar, but he could play a vital role.
It’s not often that a team’s best all around player slips so late into the first round, but Creighton shooting guard seems to be the exception. A reliable scorer in his three years as a Blue Jay, Thomas steadily improved on all of his numbers throughout his collegiate career. In his final year in the Big East he set career highs for scoring as well as field goal percentage. The model of consistency, Thomas averaged 15.1 points per game in his final season, shooting 54% from the field and showing he has what it takes both inside the three point line and out. His jumper isn’t the prettiest thing in the world, but it works for his body type. Standing at 6’3”, his wingspan is much larger, at a whopping 6’10”. Because of this, Thomas’ release point of his shot is almost at the top of his head, his long arms make it harder for defenders to get close to the shot, making his field goal numbers look great. When watching his tape the shooting form actually reminds me a lot of present Sixers small forward Justin Anderson. While Anderson has never really received consistent minutes, his shot is something that helps him get run at times. If he can replicate what Thomas did in college, Anderson may be able to get on the court more for Philadelphia.
Besides shooting the ball, Thomas can score in other ways. He may not be the fastest player on the court, but he uses his smarts to get open around the net.
In the clip above Thomas uses his dribble to get separation from his defender around the free throw line and uses his long arms to get his jumper over for the easy bucket. Because he can handle the ball in half court sets Thomas could be in line for solid minutes right off the bat. One of the Sixers main problems this season was that they didn’t have enough guards who could create for themselves, especially at the shooting guard position. Both J.J. Redick and Marco Belinelli were great shooters, but those shots came from catch and shoot situations. Thomas could come in and help move the ball and make his own space for shots, a nice change from last year.
Khyri Thomas’ offense may be consistent, but his defense is going to be what makes him an important role player in the NBA. The co-defensive player of the year in the Big East, Thomas can cover either guard position and even come down and guard small forwards when necessary. What makes his defensive game so advanced is also what helps him offensively, his long arms. In almost any game you watch Thomas play you can see a handful of plays where he pokes the ball loose, shuts down a passing lane, or is able to contest a jumper just because he plays to his strengths and relies on his body.
For being such an aggressive defender it is shocking to see that his final year at Creighton Thomas averaged under 2 personal fouls per game. It says that while he can play tight on someone he knows his limits and plays in control. There really is no glaring hole on either offense or defense for Thomas, at the next level he looks like he could be a solid contributor from the start.
Many view Khyri Thomas as a 3-and-D player from the very start of his career, but I think that is his floor. If put in the right situation where he can be part of a rotation early on, Thomas can grow into that role from the start and eventually become a more integral piece as he grows and learns the NBA game. Because of his lack of speed/burst I don’t see Thomas becoming more than a spot starter, but I can see him becoming a very solid sixth man. Teams win because of depth, and Thomas could help provide that.
Thomas’ name has been mocked to the Sixers for much of the mock draft process, so there’s no reason to stop now. He fits perfectly on the second unit alongside T.J. McConnell which is the reason why I have the Sixers selecting him with the 26th pick in the first round. Philadelphia is the perfect spot, because there aren’t many proven players on the Sixers bench so Thomas could be given ample minutes to see exactly what he can do at the next level. The Sixers may not be drafting a franchise altering star, but they could be getting someone that can help them win games.