5. Lance Thomas, SF, New York Knicks
There hasn’t been much discussion about Lance Thomas‘ free agency. Maybe it’s just a foregone conclusion that he’ll be back. Knicks’ fans certainly hope so.
He made less than $2 million in 2015-16 but was one of the team’s best players. Thomas went from an end of the bench guy to a three-point specialist, routinely chosen to guard the other team’s best player.
Thomas is the definition of a three-and-D guy. He molded himself into a three-point shooter because he knew it would put him on the court, and he always had the defensive chops to be a rotation guy.
Thomas finished the season at 40.4 percent from downtown, making 44 of his 109 attempts. Before 2015-16, he had only attempted 44 threes in his NBA career. Thomas didn’t attempt a single three in his four seasons at Duke.
The transformation was incredible. His defense though, was just as important, maybe even more.
Per NBA.com, Thomas defended 6.3 FGAs per game and lowered opponent’s field goal percentage by -3.1%, and the Knicks were just better when Thomas played. Especially Melo.
In the 588 minutes that Thomas and Melo shared the court, the Knicks were +7.0 points per 100 possessions (via Basketball-Reference.com). Anthony didn’t play better with anyone else on the team this season.
The Knicks could use a lot, but they must bring Lance Thomas back.