David Thorpe with 3QC (on Tyrus)
Do you think that Tyrus Thomas will live up to the massive hype that the fans and the Bulls organization have put up for him?
Yeah, I do. First of all, I think, since December 1 if you do PER, I think he's close to right around 18, which is really good and remember that he's still 22. The question is, he did it December, he did it January. I think his December numbers, his PER was just under 18. In January, it was just under 16. In February, it's sky-rocketed because he's done so well in February so far. He got to keep doing that and if he does, as long as he gets 30+ minutes, he normally does, then he's going to be a very similar player to guys like Kirilenko. He's going to be just an absolute stat-stuffer. He's going to be one of those guys that does 16 points, 11 rebounds, 2.5 block shots, 2 steals, 3.5 assists and take 2 charges every game. He's definitely aware.
He's such a defensive threat because not just his steals and his block shots, but when he's really plugged in, which he's been doing a lot lately, he's contesting every shot around the rim and that drives field-goal percentages down. He's deflecting passes that would otherwise would be lay-ups for someone. He's just all over the place. Even if he's a step below Aldridge, and the argument I'll make right now is that he'll never be the scorer that Aldridge is. It's just not who he is. Of course he has no choice when nothing is run for him like it is for LaMarcus. I'm not saying anything should be run for Tyrus.
LaMarcus is a low-post threat. Tyrus never played the post until he got to college. He's had four coaches in five years now. He still has a long way to grow and learn but even if he's just an above-average offensive player, he has a chance to be a dynamic rebounder. I would say starting next year he's going to be on people's Top 10 for All-Defensive team. He's really good defending pick & rolls. He's really good helping his space against smaller guys. He's obviously a Top 10 elite shot blocker already, playing 25 minutes a game. Defensively, he has a chance to be a big-time difference maker.
Offensively, his game is improving. He's a way underrated passer. He's sometimes impetuous with turnovers and that's just experience. Ask Joakim Noah, Aaron Gray, or Lu Deng, guys that score buckets inside, it's because of pinpoint passes that Tyrus is throwing. The other night, I thought Vinny did a smart thing. The Hornets were pressing and they had a little trouble. They just started Tyrus back in the backcourt and he just brought the ball up, no problem. He made the pass to Derrick Rose and they started their offense. I think that as Vinny learns his players more and more, I mean, he just got there his first year himself. He's going to realize that he's got the ball skills. I think the debate between Aldridge and Thomas is going to end up always being had and I think it's going to be a much more closer match than people probably suspected a year ago.
Do you think the coaching changes and the inconsistencies in minutes has maybe affected Thomas' development a little bit. Maybe not stunted his growth, but maybe stopped it a little bit. Do you think that's played a little bit of a factor?
I don't think there's any question of that. When you go through what they've gone through with a young player, there's going to be setbacks and there's going to be learning curves. Especially someone like Tyrus who's never really been a part of any kind of strong foundation. It wasn't like his high school program was great. He didn't go to junior college or prep school for a year. He went right to LSU. He red-shirtted because he got hurt and then he basically played for John Brady. No one accused of Brady of really having a tight disciplined Dean Smith style program. And then Scott Skiles did.
I think Tyrus would have been just fine with Scott and the myth that people think that Tyrus didn't like Coach Skiles. I don't think anyone liked Coach Skiles as a coach. He's not a guy that really cares what you like. When I first met Tyrus, he did nothing but praise to be sung about the kind of coach Skiles was and how much he respected him as a coach. Tyrus even said to me when I first met him last year last January, 'I missed that. I don't need freedom right now. I need structure.' He liked it. He knew where he needed to be on the floor. He's too talented, like Andray Blatche. They're so good, they're so talented and so tall and athletic and long. They can do almost anything. Skiles, I think, helped Tyrus locked him in with a laser-locked focus and a more tighter role. I think they're getting back to that now with Vinny. That's why I think he's gotten so much better, in terms of an efficient production.