Detroit Pistons’ Khyri Thomas making case for minutes after injury riddled start to career

Detroit Free Press

Omari Sankofa II
| Detroit Free Press

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Second-round draft picks generally don’t carry high expectations when entering the NBA. But the Detroit Pistons thought highly of Khyri Thomas’ potential in 2018.

They sent two future second-round picks to the Philadelphia Sixers to acquire Thomas (picked 38th overall) before taking a player with similar strengths in Bruce Brown four picks later. 

Brown has since solidified himself as a rotation player, while injuries have prevented Thomas from establishing a consistent role. An injury-depleted roster enabled Brown — along with several other young players such as Svi Mykhailiuk and Christian Wood — to seize more minutes last year. A stress reaction in Thomas’ right foot and an early end to the season limited him to just eight games in 2019-20. 

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On paper, Thomas has the pedigree to be a reliable 3-and-D role player. He’s only 6-foot-3, but has a 6-10 wingspan. He’s a two-time Big East Defensive Player of the Year. He was also a 40.6% 3-point shooter during his three seasons at Creighton. 

Thomas benefitted from the Pistons’ group workouts during the last three weeks, head coach Dwane Casey told reporters. The in-market bubble, which ended Friday, gave him an extended opportunity to showcase his game. 

And the timing could work in his favor since his contract is only partially guaranteed next season. His full contract is worth about $1.67 million, making him a value option if the Pistons decide to carry him into the season.  

“I thought Khyri Thomas had a great week along with Bruce,” Casey said. “But Khyri shot the ball extremely well. I was happy that finally the young man is healthy. Fought the foot problems last year and the year before. But really shot the ball and completed the camp with no issues whatsoever. Really proud of the way Khyri came out and played.” 

In small lineups, Thomas’ wingspan could enable him to defend some of the longer wings in the league, Casey said. Aside from Brown, the Pistons are light on impact wing defenders, which could lead to playing time for Thomas next season if his shot falls. Through two seasons, he has only hit 30.6% of his 3-pointers. 

Even though he has point-guard height and had a positive assist-to-turnover ratio in college, Casey doesn’t see Thomas as a potential point guard. If Casey did, it could open up a different path for him to see the court next season. The Pistons only have one true point guard under contract in Derrick Rose, and his deal expires next offseason. 

“He’s not a point guard,” Casey said. “He’s more of a shooter. He can tread water at the point, but not a true point guard. Again, to win in our league now we gotta have multiple ball handlers and he can too accomplish that. He can be the secondary or third pick and roll guy on the court when he has the ball in his hands.”

The biggest key for Thomas is staying healthy. He’s had injury woes since his NBA career began, as a sore hamstring cut his 2018 summer league stint short and also cut into his offseason development, causing him to fall behind in his conditioning. 

He’s since shown flashes in last year’s summer league and in stints with the Grand Rapids Drive. The hope for Thomas and the coaching staff is that he can successfully carry his current momentum into next season. 

“The main thing with Khyri is just staying healthy, keeping his body healthy,” Casey said. “It’s been unfortunate. He was ahead of Bruce when he first got here, and unfortunately he got hurt and Bruce took over that position and never took it back. So right now they’re coming in and competing for that spot, those spots, and Khyri has made a good case for himself in these three weeks we’ve been together.”

Contact Omari Sankofa II at Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa. Read more on the Detroit Pistons and sign up for our Pistons newsletter.

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