Remember when the Washington Redskins started out less than stellar in Robert Griffin’s rookie year? This prompted Head Coach Mike Shanahan to say after one his many losses that year, “We’re not playing for the playoffs, were playing to find out who will be on this roster for years to come”. Well that is what is taking place during 76er games this year, especially with the reserve players.
We all know that the 76ers are tanking this year but there are still pertinent tasks that need to be completed. One of these tasks is finding out who will be able to be a reliable option coming off the bench for the foreseeable future. The answer might be former Georgetown Hoya / D-Leaguer, Hollis Thompson. The 6’8, two hundred and six pound rookie has had an up and down season but might finally be hitting his stride going into the All-Star break. If Thompson can continue to make positive contributions, he may play himself into a new contract and could be 76er for some time.
In his last ten games, Thompson is shooting at a ridiculous 61.9 % clip and is averaging 8.3 ppg. over his last 6 contests. Additionally, he has knocked down threes at a ridiculous rate in his last five games — 100% (6 for 6). While this recent spurt is impressive one could argue that Thompson has played solidly all year, as leads all rookies in field goal percentage on the season at 48.1%; owns a TS% of 57.1; an eFG% of 54.9 and averaged 7.4 ppg. in the month of December.
I know these are not the gaudiest stats ever, but we are not looking to find star players on the 2013-14 roster. We are talking about finding reliable role players who could be the difference in getting the 76ers over the hump or not. Think potential James Posey or Trevor Ariza type players, not All-Stars. Speaking of comparisons, Coach Brett Brown has already compared Thompson with former Spurs legend Bruce Bowen. Coach Brown also stated that if Thompson ever wants to have a career like Bowen then he needs to start expanding his bow tie collection now. Yeah okay, that second part isn’t true but those comparisons are accurate.
Let’s take a look at Thompson’s career stats which will shed some light on some of these comparisons. Thompson has never been much of a scorer, but he has improved over time for every team he’s played on. Starting out at Georgetown Thompson averaged 4.8 PPG his freshmen year and followed that up with 8.6 and 12.8 PPG in his respective sophomore and junior years. During his stint at Georgetown Thompson never shot below 43 percent from distance in any season. Thompson then went on to play in the D-League for the Tulsa 66ers where he averaged 5.7 PPG, 3.3RPG and 2 APG. When you compare Thompson’s D-League stats to his NBA stats of late (8.3 PPG in last six, 3.4 RPG in last 10) you have to be impressed at his consistent improvement rate.
Alright we have looked at the stats, so what conclusions can we make from them? Obviously Thompson is a good three point shooter but his overall shooting percentage (48.1 percent) is something to admire as well. Thompson has been efficient but has not been handed the green light yet as evidenced through just 4.7 shots per game, and 1.7 three point shots per game. It may be time for Coach Brown to take the training wheels off and see if Thompson is capable of handling more shooting responsibilities. More shooting responsibilities doesn’t mean free reign either, but it could benefit this team if Thompson is directed to shoot more three pointers.
I do not think we should ever expect Thompson to average 20 ppg., but rather be one of the league leaders in three point percentage. There is no good reason that Thompson should not be awarded a bigger role this season. In addition to his courts skills, we have seen that Thompson is a team player and does not have an attitude problem by how well he dealt with his recent removal from the starting lineup. If you don’t know what I am talking about, Thompson replaced James Anderson in the starting five two months ago and was just recently demoted out of that spot. Thompson has since taken the demotion in stride and has not griped about it in any way.
So who is Thompson competing with for a more permanent spot on the roster? Portland’s 2010 first round pick at twenty second overall, out of Memphis, Elliot Williams. The former Memphis Tiger is more of a shooting guard at 6’5, 180 pounds. Williams is shooting an abysmal twenty five percent from three this season to go along with 3.8 PPG and a negative turnover to assist ratio. In their last ten games Thompson is only averaging three more minutes per game; however that is translating to two more rebounds and four more points per contest than Williams. You might make the argument that they play different positions, but the fact is Williams is locked in as a shooting guard for his entire career while Thompson can play both small forward and shooting guard. In fact, wouldn’t Thompson be the better shooting guard at this point considering that he is bigger, taller, and shoots better percentages from both the field and three point range.
Thompson dropped only 4 points against Boston the other night and all of those points came from the charity stripe, so that didn’t help his chances at securing a spot in the Rising Stars Challenge. However, if he can continue to take advantages of the opportunities given to him, than GM Sam Hinkie and Brown might have to consider making him a pillar of their future bench. At this point in the season Thompson has warranted, if nothing else, serious consideration for a spot on the Sixers’ 2014-15 roster . Hopefully Hinkie doesn’t pull any trade deadline moves involving Thompson and deprive us of seeing the solid rookie develop.
Keep an eye on Thompson Philadunkia nation, he could be on the roster for more than just the year of the tank.
Alex Gorge is a scribe for Philadunkia. You can follow him on Twitter @apg3000.
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