2020-21 Rockets roster review, offseason outlook: Khyri Thomas

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(Editor’s note: We are reviewing all players from the Houston Rockets who finished the 2020-21 season on regular contracts, i.e. not hardship. To access other reviews in this ongoing series, click here.)

Rockets Player: Khyri Thomas, 6-foot-3 guard, 25 years old

2020-21 statistics in Houston: 16.4 points (48.5% FG, 33.3% on 3-pointers), 5.0 assists, 3.6 rebounds, 1.8 steals in 30.6 minutes per game

Professional Experience: Three NBA seasons

Contract Status: Signed for next two seasons at $1.8 million and $1.9 million, respectively; $2.2-million team option for 2023-24

Thomas was signed to a hardship exception late in the regular season. However, he quickly made a positive impression with head coach Stephen Silas and general manager Rafael Stone, and that deal was converted to a multi-year contract within days. Because the Rockets had saved a portion of their 2020-21 mid-level exception (MLE), they were able to sign Thomas to what could become a three-year deal.

Highlights

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rHSurpSIFJs [lawrence-related id=49173,48807]

Analysis

Thomas was drafted No. 38 overall in the 2018 second round by Philadelphia before being traded to Detroit. Over the next three seasons, Thomas played sparingly in the NBA but flourished as a sharpshooter in the G League, where he averaged 17.7 points per game on 44.5% 3-point shooting. Historically, Thomas' track record has included high marks for on-ball defense, as well, having earned Big East Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2017 and 2018 during his college career at Creighton. The big question moving forward is 3-point shooting. While Thomas shot very well in the G League, he's only at 31.6% for his NBA career. The case for optimism is that his overall sample is very small at 39 games, and 26 of those came during his 2018-19 rookie season. It's very possible that Thomas has made improvements since then. Then again, his career G League sample (19 games) is even smaller — though it should be noted that Thomas averaged 6.3 attempts per game from 3-point range in the G League, which looks more representative than his 1.9 figure in the NBA. Thomas is a tough and versatile defender on guards, but good defenders who are limited offensively aren't all that unique or valuable in the NBA. On the other hand, strong defenders who can shoot at a quality level are vital in a league that is increasing placing an emphasis on "3&D" players. Houston hopes that Thomas will fit that profile in 2021-22.

Outlook

Expect Thomas to stick around for a while. He's exactly what Stone and Silas want in a rebuilding situation — a young player with upside who is signed to a team-friendly deal for multiple years moving forward. He can develop and grow alongside other young players in his demographic such as Christian Wood, Kevin Porter Jr., Jae'Sean Tate, and KJ Martin. The Rockets certainly wouldn't make Thomas untouchable in trades, but it's doubtful that he's valued all that highly after playing just five games in Houston. Moreover, his annual salary figure is low enough that it doesn't move the needle much, in terms of potential trade math. As a result, it feels like a safe bet that Thomas will get another opportunity in 2021-22 to build on his initial success in Houston. [listicle id=49741]

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