Though the Bulls have been wildly inconsistent defeating Cleveland one week then being trounced by the likes of Oklahoma City the next, they are witnessing the welcomed progression of the fourth overall pick in 2006, i.e. third-year forward Tyrus Thomas.
Perhaps his lassitude-like numbers and play have been a byproduct of coping with two head coaches with contrasting styles and irrelevant systems in his first three seasons in the league (Scott Skiles and Vinny Del Negro). The young guy still developing a sense of stability in the NBA.
To the joy of Bulls' fans, he may have found it.
He's heightened his numbers across the board: points, rebounds, blocks, and steals, in his third season and will continue to develop under Vinny Del Negro and the Bulls' coaching staff.
Over his last five games Thomas is averaging 17.8 points and 10.6 rebounds along with 2 blocks, all while shooting over 50 percent from the field and (prior to Thursday's game against Miami) Thomas had a string of four consecutive double-doubles; the longest streak of any Chicago player this season. He's also led the Windy City All-Stars in rebounding on 13 different occasions this year.
Here's what he did against Dwyane Wade and Shawn Marion of the Miami Heat in the last game before the much-anticipated All-Star Break:
Early in the first quarter on the Bulls' second possession of the game, Thomas received a pass from teammate Ben Gordon high out on the perimeter. Instead of attempting a bad shot, Thomas drove the ball underneath the basket and found a cutting Derrick Rose for the game's first points. Later in the opening period, Tyrus harassed Dwyane Wade on a Miami fastbreak and drew a near-charge on Wade as the 6'4", 220 lb. two-guard—Thomas himself weighs 215 lbs.—came bouldering toward him in the open-court.
In the second quarter with the shot-clock winding down, Thomas once again drove towards the rim causing the defense to collapse, sending Joel Anthony to converge towards him where he kicked the ball out to a wide open Thabo Selfolosha on the perimeter for a comfortable shot. As the quarter progressed, the former LSU forward continued to make plays for the Bulls both on offense and on defense. Off a Kirk Hinrich pass, Thomas drifted around Michael Beasley's handcheck and flushed down a monstrous two-handed dunk.
Coming out of halftime, he began a series of high basketball I.Q. plays, starting with finding Luol Deng inside for an easy lay-up off the glass and finishing with a steal leading to a fastbreak dunk. Thomas showed great anticipation in the passing lanes while guarding the multifarious Beasley and accurately timed Mario Chalmers pass, which he picked off and advanced the ball up the floor for a functionally-sound one-handed dunk.
He continued to exert his presence, this time on defense thanks to Dwyane Wade's craftiness as a ball-handler. Wade knifed into the lane and attempted a reverse lay-up before Thomas sent away the shot which led to a Ben Gordon three-point play on the opposite end of the floor.
In the final 12 minutes of the game he proved to be a vital part of Chicago's offense and scored two points and grabbed two rebounds in all four quarters of the game and made the Bulls' final field-goal with 35 seconds remaining.
As the game wound down, Thomas executed a five-point swing by blocking Chris Quinn's three-pointer which sent the ball up the floor and resulted in a Kirk Hinrich jumper. Thomas' block also extended the Heat's scoring drought to 3:35 in the fourth as Chicago outscored Miami 6-0 during that stretch.
Minutes later as he surveyed the floor for open teammates and after a few seconds of scanning his surroundings, Thomas reverted to his post-up game, plunging into the chest of Shawn Marion before executing a spin move on and-one.
The Bulls tend to allow Thomas to base camp from the elbow which is normally unconventional for a player of his talent, but it permits him to observe the floor and rifle passes to his teammates who are cutting off-the-ball for easy scores. He's still a long way from being a complete player displaying an unimpressive array of sweeping hooks and often being too anxious on defense. His decision making as well as his ball-handling needs work (11 turnovers in his last two games) but overall Thomas has excellent potential. His skill will unfold over the coming years as he adds size in the weight room and adds extra film sessions to correct his weaknesses on both sides of the floor.