Season In Review: Lance Thomas

Published: May 5, 2013

For many reasons, Lance Thomas’ journey into the NBA was an unlikely one. At Duke he won a national championship as little more than a role player. He wasn’t a scorer, not a terrific rebounder, nor a dominant athlete.

So how did he end up as a rotational NBA player despite large obstacles in his way?

I like to think that the aspiring professional sportsman can take note of Lance Thomas. His work ethic, personality and coach-ability all factored in securing a roster spot. The New Orleans Pelicans really love players like this, so don’t be surprised if they go for character over talent in acquisitions.

For the 2012-13 season Lance Thomas did what the coaching staff asked of him. Whether it was guarding the opponent’s best player, setting off-ball screens or crashing the boards Thomas did everything necessary for gaining time.

What he did well

It’s very difficult to judge quantitatively which areas Lance Thomas excelled in due to a relatively low sample size. This season he saw his minutes per game decline from 15 to 10.9. As such his opportunities to display his game were limited.

What we do know is that Thomas brings three things to the table. He brings energy, effort and defense. That’s right, on a team that was horrific on defense he actually stood out.

Lance held his opponent at the SF position to a PER of 11.7, comparable to defenders like Paul George (12), Luol Deng (11.2), Lebron James (12.7) and Chandler Parsons (13.9).

As well when Lance stepped off the floor the Hornets gave up 4.5 points extra per 100 possessions. When Greivis Vasquez was off the floor the Hornets gave up 4.1 points less per 100 possessions.

While it’s tough to argue vigourously for Lance’s defensive capabilities through statistics the trained eye will notice his value on that end of the floor. He did a decent job against Carmelo Anthony, Paul George and Paul Pierce when given the opportunity.

Aspects that was not as good

We all remember the situation. Needing a couple of free-throws to earn some McDonald fries Lance Thomas stepped up to be a hero to the expanding waste-line of the greater New Orleans area.

And then he missed; it was not so good.

However, as we’ve discussed before Lance Thomas showed his true character by offering to purchase fries for any fans in attendance the next day. This is what makes him the best locker room guy in my opinion (and Andrew Smith’s, probably un-McDonald related).

Talking about his on the court play, Lance wasn’t terrific offensively. He rarely had chances to display his game due to the sets being run as well as the restricted minutes. He worked very hard on his jumper and you could tell it had improved somewhat (hit 50% of shots 16-30ft).

The problem is that his limited talent cannot be maximised on the court. As a small-forward he needs to be able to stretch the floor or be an athletic freak. He is neither which results in a rather pedantic game.

One of the most telling statistics is that Lance player 11.7 minutes per-game in losses as opposed to 9.3 minutes in wins. This is quite concerning for a couple of reasons.

  1. For a defensive coach it seemed Monty played guys who could give more on the offensive end from time-to-time.
  2. The Hornets were more interested in developing other players

The Future

It’s tough to be an optimist for Lance Thomas’ prospects as an NBA pro. The thing is we know the commodity we have on the roster. He’s a work-horse who is willing to learn from the best (as cited in his Team USA experience).

I really hope for the sake of the organisation that Lance sticks around as an end of bench the player. He has more leadership than many give credit as he really is the true definition of a professional. If he can build on that to work more closely on his craft and channel it towards the NBA game then perhaps his role can increase.

My assessment is a bit bleaker due to the obvious limitations on the offensive end. Lance might need more sets to display an improved jump-shot. Alternatively he might need to focus on offensive rebounds.

If Lance is to find a place elsewhere to play then all Pelican fans will wish him the best. Finding other challenges can sometimes be the best thing for a player. However, I believe that under the right circumstances that he could have more of an impact. As we saw with Brian Roberts players can seize opportunities given the chance.

One thing is for sure and that is that regardless of what happens in the future, Lance Thomas truly is a reflection of the better side of the NBA.

You can follow James on Twitter at (@jsgrayson) to discuss all Pelican related matters. 


  1. Pingback: Season in Review: A Tale of Two Seasons | New Orleans Hornets |

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