If the old saying when constructing a monument goes “if you build it, they will come,” for athletes it should be “if you develop them, they will flourish.”
We last saw Thomas wearing a Chicago Bulls summer league uniform as the leading rebounder in the Las Vegas basketball tournament. Hopefully, the next time we see Thomas, he will be with the Bulls as a regular contributor.
In the summer league, Thomas was very consistent as he averaged 11.4 points, 12.4 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in five games. Even more impressive were his robust offensive rebounding totals. His 23 offensive rebounds were worth 1/3 of the team’s totals.
Thomas’ rebounding was not the only thing on display in the summer league.
The way he ran the floor was inspiring. He showed poise on the court and proved to the many of us who watched that he can handle the ball.
Undrafted out of San Diego State, Thomas was not necessarily known for his offense. His 21 points in the loss to the Milwaukee Bucks' summer league team should dispel that belief. If there is any more evidence needed, one should look no further than his 53 percent shooting in Las Vegas.
That is not all.
His chemistry with both second-year swingman Jimmy Butler and rookie Marquis Teague spoke volumes.
They shared the ball well, communicated on defense and picked each other up when one of them made a bad play. It was that chemistry which should motivate the Bulls to not only get Thomas locked up with a two-year contract, but also give him a chance to be a mainstay on the Bulls’ revamped “Bench Mob.”
If Thomas can impress and stand out in the summer league (he was nominated for the 2012 NBA Summer League All-Star team), imagine him running the floor with the likes of Taj Gibson, the only other returning member of the “Bench Mob.” Thomas’ ball-handling should allow him to be able to spend some time at small forward, thus giving the Bulls an element that they have not had since Meta World Peace was known as Ron Artest.
Thomas could be a rugged defender on the wing and the weak side with his shot blocking.
This move for the Bulls could not make any more sense than it does now. They can also develop the rest of Thomas’ game with coach Tom Thibodeau’s help.
Thibodeau would have a pet project in Thomas whom he could groom into one of the better defensive players in the NBA. Thibodeau is widely considered to be one of the greatest defensive minds in basketball. He understands the ins and outs of defensive play. Keep in mind that he helped an abysmal defender in Kyle Korver become respectable on that end of the floor.
Thomas, with his defensive abilities, would benefit from Thibodeau’s teachings.
That said, the Bulls must sign Thomas now and develop him right away. They may have found that one athlete who can flourish.