Everyone remembers last season, right? LeBron James joining Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh in Miama? Carmelo Anthony being traded to the New York Knicks? The #FreeKevinLove movement? The Dallas Mavericks winning the NBA championship? Ok, well what about the “Free Tyrus Thomas” sentiment? Ringing any bells? Does this help?
The Charlotte Bobcats forward is averaging just 21.3 minutes a night, yet putting up career-best numbers in points per game, field goal percentage and free throw percentage. His blocks and rebounds are just barely off his career-highs. And yet, Larry Brown continues to give Thomas erratic playing time, despite the fact that the pillowy Boris Diaw and Nazr Mohammed are the Bobcats starting frontcourt.
Royce Young put that together for CBSSports.com following my post on the item – Larry Brown and Tyrus Thomas – Come On! A little over two weeks later, Larry Brown was let go and Paul Silas was brought on as the Bobcats’ coach. And Tyrus Thomas saw a bit of a minutes jump – going from just over 20 minutes per game under Larry to almost 25 a night under Paul Silas – prior to Tyrus’ injury. When Tyrus came back later in the season, his minutes dropped again, as he was still recovering and he finished the season playing about 22 minutes a game with Paul Silas as the coach, just above the 20 under Larry.
With Tyrus’ injury issues to start this season, his performance has continued to lag from his impressive (and post/rant-inducing) early season play of a year ago. His numbers are down across the board, with the most shocking one probably his field goal percentage: While never an efficient scorer, Tyrus is posting a career low 35% FG% at this point of the season, 7% points below his previous career low. It’s also coming while he is being even less aggressive as well, with his attempts per 40 minutes down about 4 shots from last year. It’s been frustrating to watch, as Tyrus has struggled this year, both in play and attitude, as he has seemed disinterested at times when he has been on the court.
But, with that said, the Bobcats and Tyrus are in a different position than they were last year. Early last season, the Bobcats were still attempting to make a run at one of the bottom playoff spots and leaned on Boris Diaw as a veteran presence, who still played solid defense. But this year, with the Bobcats threatening to be one of the worst teams in history, what’s the motivation to play a veteran in the last year of his contract over a young player with 3 more years on his deal, for whom the team still owes a draft pick to the Chicago Bulls?
It is not as though Boris Diaw is lighting up the scoreboard (or doing a spectacular job of slowing the opponent from doing so). When using the Swap Tool to switch out Boris and Tyrus, the Bobcats are actually projected to improve, as Tyrus has done a better job on defense than Boris this year (and while both have been bad offensively, Tyrus is actually using fewer possessions, so he’s at least mitigating his negative offensive impact).
If the Bobcats are continuing to give Boris minutes in an effort to increase his trade value, he’s not doing them any favors, as he has three games this season with more turnovers than points and just put up 0 points against the Pacers in over 17 minutes.
Here are the per game minutes breakdowns for the various Bobcats bigs:
The impetus for this post was some comments I had seen around the Bobcats needing to use the amnesty clause on Tyrus Thomas – and I just wanted to remind everyone of the prowess he displayed early last year that garnered national attention (and also, the Bobcats, at this point, have to wait until the off-season to use the amnesty clause, so consider what makes the most sense for the rest of this season).