Before the season, many a Bobcats fan was clamoring for Tyrus Thomas to uproot Boris Diaw from the starting power forward. Unfortunately, Thomas started twice and had his season shortened by knee injuries to just 41 games.
With injuries playing a big part of his season, how does this affect my grade for his year?
In the previous offseason, Tyrus Thomas was coming off of an impressive stint with the Bobcats after having been traded from Chicago. So the Bobcats decided to offer him a five-year $40 million contract (rear-loaded), which he agreed to.
Larry Brown, being Larry Brown, stuck with Boris Diaw as his starting power forward and brought Tyrus off the bench, but hardly gave him consistent minutes. One day he'd have 30 minutes and score around 20 points, and the next day he'd have 15 minutes with four field goal attempts and two fouls. It was confusing and frustrating for both fans who were upset with starting Diaw and probably Thomas as well. And that continued to happen for a couple of months until Larry Brown was ousted.
With Paul Silas as the new head coach, Thomas' minutes stabilized, though his field goal attempts continued to fluctuate. He played through some wrist soreness and put on a show against the Minnesota Timberwolves in early January, putting up 21 points, 11 rebounds and 2 blocks. Some analysts had Tyrus in their discussion for the 6th man award.
But then he would tear his meniscus and have surgery to repair it, leaving Tyrus sidelined until mid-March.
Upon return, we saw a much more cautious Tyrus Thomas. He wasn't as reckless flying for rebounds or taking risks in his short return to the Bobcats before being shut down for the rest of the season with more knee troubles.
As I saw it, there were two Tyrus Thomases this season: pre-injury and post-injury. The pre-injury Thomas was the one we all knew from the previous season: high-flying athleticism, poor shot selection, impassioned play, etc.
Pre-injury Tyrus' strengths mostly came on defense. Thomas has great instincts for shot-blocking and the athleticism to be a premier rim protector. He forces opponents into turnovers and affects their shot selection with his length and ability to send shots back to the sender. He also gets back on defense in transition and makes the opponents on the fast break second guess themselves with his length.
On offense, pre-injury Tyrus was ehh, mediocre. He has pretty decent range on his jump shot, extending to about 18 feet or so. His game in the post is unimpressive because he's not very strong and doesn't have a vast array of post moves to outwit the defender. He also struggles with his shot selection, taking contested mid-range shots or cornering himself against the baseline and launching a shot that hearkens back to the last time I played tennis when I was 13. He rebounds very well, due to his athleticism, length and unbridled passion for rebounding.
Post-injury Tyrus was confounding. He seemed to be a completely different player. He wasn't using his athleticism and he looked overly cautious about using his body.
With these knee injuries, you have to be concerned with Tyrus going forward. I know I am. Especially with that contract.
What to Work on
Well, he's got his work cut out for him. Hopefully Charles Oakley can help Tyrus work for on strength and solidifying his rebounding. I'm also looking for Silas to work with Tyrus to help develop his offense on the block. With injury concerns renewed, we should all hope he maintains his health, becomes more comfortable after his knee heals and recovers his pre-injury effort. Shot selection is something I've been looking for Tyrus to improve upon for a while, so hopefully he becomes more controlled in the offseason, too.
The Official Rufus on Fire Unofficial Fresh Prince Season Grade
Injuries lower Tyrus's grade at least a letter grade, though he was pretty effective when he was on the court. Just a shame we couldn't get a better look at how he would play with consistent playing time and teaching from Paul Silas.