“As a kid growing up I always had a dream of playing in the NBA.”
The 25-year-old inked a three-year minimum salary contract in July after spending the past three seasons playing in Europe, but the guard never gave up on his ultimate career goal.
“When I was in Europe I was just trying to enjoy the journey, enjoy my process, try my best to live in the moment, which I felt like I did, while in the back of my head still (having) the vision of one day hopefully playing in the NBA if the opportunity ever came just because I felt like my skill set meets the needs that most teams are playing with – shooting a lot of threes,” Thomas said Thursday during an appearance on Writers Bloc on Sportsnet 590 The Fan.
Thomas’s favourite players to watch were Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Ray Allen, JJ Reddick and Richard Hamilton – all great shooters – so it’s fitting he’s now best known for his terrific three-point accuracy.
The Iowa State product knows there’s a steep learning curve to adjusting from a European style of play to the NBA where there’s different spacing on the floor plus an extended three-point line.
“Where in Europe you can really close off the paint and prevent driving lanes, it’s almost impossible to do that, I feel like, in the NBA because you’re just going to give up open shots – which, I mean, that’s a big reason why I’m here,” Thomas added. “You really have to pick your poison because it’s hard to defend, especially the way the game’s officiated as well.”
After four years at Iowa State, he headed overseas where he spent the 2017-18 season with Obradoiro CAB in the Spanish league. The 6-foot-4 Thomas then signed a two-year contract with the Valencia Basket that came with an opt-out clause allowing him to pursue an opportunity in the NBA.
Thomas connected on 47.7 per cent of his attempts from beyond the arc in 2018-19. Overall, he averaged 12.7 points per game for Valencia last season en route to a EuroCup title during which he went 10-for-16 from distance in the Finals.
The defending champion Raptors open their season at home on Tuesday against rookie sensation Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans.