Earlier, SomeoneFamous asked someone to break down Lance Thomas's impact on games because he or she really couldn't see what he brings to the team.
Because this is SomeoneFamous, and not just SomeoneRegular or SomeoneUnremarkable, we took this charge very seriously. So, I went back and looked at Lance Thomas's impact on Wednesday's game at Cleveland. Despite his relatively clear box score, Thomas left a mostly positive impact on the game through subtle, savvy play at both ends. In his 15 minutes of play he defended Kevin Love admirably, took advantage of his matchup against Matthew Dellavedova, and set a couple of unique screens for positive results. Let's break some of these down, Vine Film Room style.
1. Thomas takes advantage of a Cleveland defense that has yet to set, sealing off the smaller Dellavedova in the post. A solid entry pass leads to great positioning, Cleveland reacts urgently on the pump fake, and Thomas gets a three point opportunity.
2. Thomas beats Kevin Love to a difficult rebound off a wayward Sasha Vujacic three point attempt. You can tell Thomas is positioning himself to defend the fast break before he gets a good read on the rebound trajectory. Kevin Love doesn't get great positioning, as three point attempts rarely rebound so closely to the rim. Like most offensive rebounds, this led to an extra Knicks possession.
3. This one certainly won't show up in the box score. Thomas does a good job maintaining the delicate balance between staying home on Kevin Love and showing help on the pick and roll. Thomas manages to help so far as to get both feet in the paint, yet he's able to adjust on the kick-out to Love, closing out effectively enough to make him forget about shooting. He stays balanced enough to challenge a potential drive, and keeps his hand up. Love bobbles the ball instead.
4. Here's a savvy offensive play by Thomas, who beats everybody down the floor on a fast break. He parks underneath the basket, and when he realizes the ball is about to be kicked to Langston Galloway, he makes it look like he's calling for a post entry pass. Thomas knows he'll never get such a pass because Galloway had been shooting 66% from three point range at this moment in time. So instead of setting an illegal screen or doing nothing, he puts a hand up to fake as though he's posting up Thompson for an excuse to put a body on him. This buys Galloway an extra half a second, and he buries the three.
5. Finally, here's an amusing series that shows what type of player Lance Thomas strives to be. In the first video, you'll see him get wiped out by a Tristan Thompson screen on a slow-developing fast-break. This is about as illegal a screen as you'll see, though it was not called by the officials.
On the very next possession, 10 seconds of game action later, Lance Thomas set a screen so hard and well-timed that Matthew Dellavedova slammed into it hard enough to be whistled for the foul. Dellavedova then immediately began massaging his shoulder.
It might be difficult to measure Lance Thomas's impact on a basketball game on first viewing, or within a box score. However, Thomas will typically demonstrate, albeit quietly, that he can be trusted to hold his own defending various types of players, he will keep the ball moving, and he can be trusted not to make explicitly losing plays. In Wednesday's matchup against Cleveland, he stayed statistically pedestrian while performing a variety of roles solidly.