Player Profile: Devin Thomas, Wake Forest
Due to Wake Forest’s poor outputs of the last several years, none of their players have registered on a national scale. Devin Thomas may be the next example of this player after a freshman season that saw him outplay his #169 RSCI ranking to become arguably the best Wake Forest freshman last season. Thomas posted 9 points per game on 55% shooting while grabbing 7.5 rebounds per game to lead the team in that category. His 11% offensive rebounding rate ranked 8th in the ACC while his 22% defensive rebounding rate ranked 4th. He still has room to grow obviously, but he looks like he could become a productive ACC player over a four year career.
Thomas’ offense is derived almost exclusively from the paint, as 72% of his shots were at the rim, as categorized by Hoop-Math. His most utilized possession type was a posted, where he posted an adequate field goal percentage, especially for a freshman player of his size.
Much of Thomas’ playing time came at the center position, where he is a bit undersized at 6’9″, with only an average reported 6’11” wingspan. Despite the fact that he was over matched size wise on the block, he was often able to score with some impressive footwork for a young player.
Thomas likes to finish with his preferred left hand and attempts to get to the left side of the rim for his finishes. His main move is to drop step around the defender and has a wide drop step that can get past the defense. With the drop step, he is able to finish with either hand out of this move.
Going forward, Thomas will need to develop a secondary move beyond the drop step to beat the defense on a regular basis. Once defenses key in on this move, Thomas will need to be comfortable with a second move to score effectively in the post.
Finishing around the rim
Along with post ups, Thomas is a decent finisher at the rim in traffic. He moves well without the ball, making the right cut off dribble penetration to find space for the dump-off pass. He uses the rim well to ward off shotblockers to compensate for his size. Of those shots categorized as around the rim, he shot 60%, which is an average number for a player of his size.
Thomas will again find most of his offense around the rim, so he will need to continue to work on his finishing around the rim. Once he catches the ball in the paint, he will need to work on gathering himself and putting up a good attempt, which he sometimes struggles with, as we will see below.
Areas of Improvement
Offensive Rebounding Finishes
Thomas is an elite offensive rebounder, thanks mainly due to his hustle to chase down the loose balls. His size doesn’t allow him to grab many rebounds, as he is often smaller than the opposing big men, so he has to rely on his strength and positioning to get the offensive board over taller players.
After he gets the offensive rebound, he struggles with finishing the putback. After gathering the rebound, he often puts up a wild shot immediately instead of gathering himself to go up strong and on balance.
If Thomas continues to be an elite offensive rebounder, he will need to focus on becoming more efficient after these rebounds. Whether that means focusing on gathering himself to put up a better shot attempt or making the pass to reset the offense, if Thomas cannot become better after getting the offensive rebound, it will just be a wasted opportunity for the offense.
Turning the ball over
Thomas struggled with turning the ball over last season, as his 3.5 turnovers per 40 minutes pace adjusted ranked 14th worst among power forwards from last season. He seemed to struggle equally both with turning the ball over when making a move to the rim and with bad passes.
It seems to be a case of playing too fast, which also relates to his struggles with finishing offensive rebounds above. Thomas needs to work on making quick decisions without being sloppy, which should cause him to cut down on many of these turnovers.
Due to his size deficiency, he may struggle with turning the ball over trying to make a move to the rim, as he will have to be creative to avoid his shot getting blocked. The main aspect he needs to work on this year is to make better passes to his teammates, so they can keep the offense moving.
Thomas was tasked with playing the center position the majority of his time last season, which was difficult for him to defend centers based on his size and strength. This was most evident in the post, as he did not have the strength to move offensive players off the block. Once the post entry was made to an offensive player who has already carved out great position, they can easily finish over the smaller Thomas.
What Thomas can do to improve this is to keep getting stronger, so that he can push opponents off the block and not get backed down after the catch is made. Opponents will still be able to shoot over him without being bothered, but a 12-15 foot midrange shot will be better for the defense than an easy shot in the paint.
One of the keys to Thomas’ success this year is whether the Demon Deacons can get any productive minutes out of Andre Washington. This will allow Thomas to play at the power forward position, where he should have more success on the defensive end. Offensively, he has some tools to be a nice role player but he needs to focus on making better decisions with the ball, as outlined above. Thomas can fill a nice role on this Wake Forest team by being a great rebounder on both sides of the ball, while providing some offense around the rim.