The Disappointing Career of Tyrus Thomas

Tyrus Thomas’s disappointing NBA career isn’t getting any better, as the 29-year-old forward is heading overseas to play in Germany for this upcoming season. Thomas was hoping to get an NBA camp deal, but with apparently nothing brewing there, he’s opting to go to Europe and prove that he can still play.

There was so much promise for Thomas, the No. 4 pick in 2006, when the Chicago Bulls acquired him from the Portland Trail Blazers in exchange for No. 2 pick LaMarcus Aldridge on draft night. Thomas blossomed late in high school and wasn’t highly recruited before heading to LSU and really making a name for himself in the 2006 NCAA Tournament. Thanks to his superb showing in that tournament and his tantalizing physical tools, his draft stock skyrocketed and made the Bulls value him over Aldridge, who of course turned into a star.

But at the time, there were questions about just how good a pro Aldridge would be. Many saw him as a soft player who wouldn’t make a major impact in the league, and the thought was that if Thomas could develop an offensive game, he could be a two-way monster. I myself remember having doubts about Aldridge at the time and not having an issue with the trade.

Thomas showed flashes of his immense potential with the Bulls, earning a spot on the All-Rookie Second Team and then putting together a really nice third season after a bit of a sophomore slump. In 2008-09, he started 61 of 79 games, averaging 10.8 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.9 blocks in 27.5 minutes per game.

But the following season, Thomas broke his arm in practice right at the beginning of the year, putting him on the shelf for nearly two months. With rookie Taj Gibson showing promise, Thomas returned to a reserve role before getting traded to the Charlotte Bobcats in February of that season for Acie Law, Ronald Murray and a future first-round pick (a pick that was ultimately used to acquire Doug McDermott in 2014).

Thomas played pretty well for the Bobcats following the trade, averaging 10.1 points and 6.1 rebounds in 21.7 minutes per game. He also had an impressive showing in the postseason, and he parlayed that into a five-year, $40 million contract with Charlotte, a deal they’d rather soon forget. While the bouncy forward started strong in the 2010-11 campaign, injuries limited him to just 41 games played.

He hasn’t been the same player since.

Since the start of the 2011-12 season, Thomas has played in just 82 games over four seasons. He managed to play in 54 of 66 games in the lockout-shortened 2011-12 campaign, but he was awful, shooting under 37 percent from the field. That was followed by an even worse 2012-13 season in which he played just 26 games, which resulted in Charlotte using the amnesty clause on Thomas.

Thomas didn’t play in the NBA in 2013-14 before resurfacing in the D-League earlier this year. He then joined the Memphis Grizzlies on a 10-day contract and appeared in two games, but he wasn’t offered a second 10-day deal and returned to the D-League.

Now Thomas is heading overseas, and his NBA career could very well be toast. Perhaps he shows enough overseas that another NBA team will give him a shot, but there’s just as good a chance he doesn’t make it back to the Association.

It really is a shame that things haven’t worked out for Thomas, as he could’ve been a really fun player to watch if he hit his potential. He had all the athletic gifts in the world when he entered the league, and his jumper showed signs of improvement before things went south. Even if he never reached Aldridge’s level, Thomas could’ve been an impact player if he stayed healthy.

Unfortunately, now Thomas is on the verge of NBA irrelevance. Hopefully he can dig his way out of it.

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