The New York Knicks must decide if they want to retain or dump forward Lance Thomas.
After struggling in New Orleans and Oklahoma City, Thomas established himself as a legitimate role player in New York.
He worked hard on his jump shot in the offseason, and came back as a surprising threat on both ends of the court.
Thomas only attempted 45 three-point shots during the first four years of his NBA career, and not a single attempt from downtown in all four years at Duke University.
In 2015-16, he reinvented himself as a long range shooter, launching 109 attempts and making them at a 40.4 percent clip.
The Knicks were 22nd in catch and shoot threes, yet Thomas made them at a 41 percent clip. The three-point shot has become such an essential part of the game, that without shooters your team won’t have a shot at winning.
Thomas was very efficient on offense despite the predictability of his game.
According to NBA Stats, Thomas executed spot up plays 39 percent of the time which was by far the most frequent play type of his choice. Thomas was in the 78th percentile of points per possession and shot 43.8 percent on attempts.
His value extended beyond the offensive end of course, as Thomas was always more known for his defense.
Thomas lowered opponent’s field goal percentages by -3.1 percent and shots within six feet of the rim by a -3.4 percent (via NBA Stats).
The Knicks allowed a pitiful 104.8 points per 100 possessions this season, but they were much better with Thomas on the floor. In the 1,313 minutes Thomas played the Knicks allowed 103.2 points as opposed to 105.6 points in the 2,648 minutes without him (per 100 possessions).
Thomas’ importance was on full display in a NY Daily News article by Daniel Popper. Popper discusses how different the Knicks looked after Thomas’ Jan. 18 knee injury.
Thomas shot 38.2 percent from the field in February and 21.7 percent in his three games in March. It was a dramatic drop off that just happened to coincide with the Knicks spiraling out of control.
The Knicks were worse in every category after Thomas’ initial knee injury, which isn’t surprising considering how well he played with the team’s core players.
According to Basketball-Reference, Thomas and Carmelo Anthony were +7.0 points when sharing the court, Thomas and Robin Lopez +6.3 points, and Thomas and Aaron Afflalo +3.1 points (per 100 possessions).
Thomas made just $1.6 million this season, but with the salary cap increase he will surely expect a significant raise. As with everything else it will come down to the money.
All the basketball evidence suggests that the Knicks should bring Thomas back.