Heat Check: Adonis Thomas, Memphis Tigers
A former McDonald’s All-American, Adonis Thomas came into his freshman year with a tone of hype. Unfortunately, the 6’7” small forward missed 16 games due to an ankle injury last season and was never able to make a significant impact for the Memphis Tigers. For the majority of his sophomore campaign, Thomas has been frustratingly inconsistent, however, he has dominated lately and has finally begun playing to his talent level. Over the past 2 weeks, Thomas has posted double-digit scoring totals in 5 consecutive games, the longest double-figure scoring streak of his career.
The scary part about Thomas is that he is one of the most athletic players in Conference USA, but he is still miles away from realizing his potential. At 6’7” 240-pounds, Thomas is a matchup nightmare for opposing teams, and he utilizes his strength to go straight into his man and finish through contact. The most impressive aspect of Thomas’ development has been his ability to consistently knock down 15-foot jumpers. For most of his career, Thomas has relied primarily on his explosive athleticism, but the extended range on his jump shot has made him a much more all-around threat on the offensive end. After shooting 35% on 2-point jumpers as a freshman, Thomas is currently converting on 42% of his mid-range j’s.
As a sophomore, the biggest weakness in Thomas’ game has been his perimeter game. Thomas is truly an undersized 4, but has a tendency to reside on the perimeter, which is simply not where he belongs. He is currently shooting 25.8% from behind the arc, and has connected on just 16 of his 62 attempts from 3-point range. Recently, he has shown progress in his ability to knock down open 3′s. After making only 8 of his 40 attempts from long-range over the Tigers’ first 16 games of the season, Thomas has gone 8 of 22 from downtown in his last 10 games. If Thomas can continue to refine his jumper and improve his consistency from the perimeter, he has the ability to develop into one of the premier scorers in the BIG EAST Conference (which Memphis will enter this off-season and begin BIG EAST competition during the 2013-2014 season).
Thomas has played the best basketball of his career of the past 2 weeks, and has made his presence felt in every facet of the game. Over the last 5 games, Thomas averaged 17.4 points and 7 rebounds, while shooting 46.2% from the floor. In a C-USA matchup with the Marshall Thundering Hurd on February 16th, Thomas posted the first double-double of his career, and dropped a career-high 23 points. He followed up his career-night with 22 points and 8 rebounds against the Houston Cougars. Thomas has gotten hot at the right moment for Memphis, as the Tigers’ next 5 opponents have a combined winning percentage of .633. In their next 4 games, Memphis will play 3 teams ranked below them in the C-USA standings.
NBA Draft Stock:
With his jump-out-the-gym athleticism and NBA-ready physique, Thomas has been on NBA radars since his days in the prep ranks. While his recent performance will certainly help his stock, his inconsistency and lack of a true position will keep him relatively low on NBA draft boards. At the end of the season, Thomas will be forced to make a major decision about his future. The 2013 NBA Draft class is remarkably thin, and Thomas’ athleticism would earn him a 2nd-round grade in June’s draft. If he were to stay in school, Thomas would be able to solidify his draft status by continuing his development. However, if Thomas struggles as a junior, he could see his draft stock plummet, especially with the loaded class that is projected for the 2014 NBA Draft. Thomas would be smart to enter the draft after this season, and secure his future as a professional. If he does decide to take his talents to the NBA this off-season, look for Thomas to be a late 2nd-round draft pick, and spend time in the NBA D-League perfecting his craft.