Tyrus Thomas Trade: Further Analysis



On a wild NBA Trade Deadline Day, the Charlotte Bobcats swung a deal to get the elusive athletic power forward that Larry Brown has been pining for all season.

The Cats have obtained Tyrus Thomas from the Chicago Bulls in exchange for Ronald “Flip” Murray, Acie Law, and a future first round pick.

I touched on Thomas in an earlier post; the knock on him is immaturity/lack of consistency.  More specifically, Thomas is infamous for “mental lapses.”  This makes him an interesting match with Larry Brown, who demands near-perfection and is a stickler for detail.

Most players in a Larry Brown system take awhile to “get it,” going through a process of assimilating everything before eventually settling back down and really showing improvement.  However, not all players respond, so this will either be the best thing that happened to Tyrus Thomas or a spectacular disappointment.

If Thomas does work out, it will be interesting to see what happens with Boris Diaw.  As we’ve watched Boris since he’s been a Bobcat, it’s clear that he’s struggled this season while playing with Steven Jackson.  Last year, prior to Jackson’s arrival, more of the offense ran through Diaw as he was able to utilize his “point-forward” skills.

Could Thomas eventually start, allowing Boris to move to the bench as a sixth man?  It’s not a perfect solution to the Jackson/Diaw conundrum, as Jack plays so many minutes that it’s inevitable that Diaw will play with him some.  But this way you could maximize the time that Diaw is on the court with the offense running through him, and not Jack.

Furthermore, we’ll be watching to see what happens with Thomas in the offseason (and Diaw, for that matter).  The Cats will be in pretty much the same boat with Thomas as they were with Raymond Felton this past offseason.  Thomas will be an unrestricted free agent, which means any other team will be able to offer him a contract starting at a qualifying offer of $6.2 million.  The Cats would then have a right to match.

But even with all the cap space out there, would any team in their right mind offer Thomas a contract for that much?  Might the Bobcats be able to sign him to a more reasonable deal instead?

Here’s looking forward to seeing Thomas in action for the first time soon; we don’t have any confirmation yet, but one would assume that the Cats will be trying to get Thomas suited up for Friday night’s tilt with the the Cavs.

That’s enough about Thomas for now, here’s a quick breakdown of what the Cats gave up to get him:

Acie Law

Acie Law was thrown in to the Stephen Jackson trade to make salaries match and because Larry Brown is perpetually auditioning “third point guards.”  However, Law had already been a bust in Atlanta, wasn’t getting any playing time in Golden State, and couldn’t break into the Bobcats rotation either.

The few moments that Law did get off the bench were primarily garbage time; even then he looked hopelessly overmatched.  His shot wasn’t falling, he didn’t seem quick enough, and didn’t show any real confidence or “game-managing” ability.

The one significant chance that Law got was in a December matchup against the Knicks in NYC.  Down 2 with seconds left, Law was inexplicably inserted into the game.  Furthermore, the play was drawn up for Law to get the ball on the final play — he took it coast-to-coast and forced up a layup that never really had a chance and was easily swatted away by Danilo Galinari to seal the Knicks win.

I would be willing to bet that Law will be out of the league and playing overseas next year.  He’s just not skilled or athletic enough to make it in the Association.

For Chicago, he simply represents a $2 million expiring contract as they clear room to make a splash in the Lebron/D-Wade/Bosh/Joe Johnson free agency sweepstakes this summer.

Ronald “Flip” Murray

Flip is the definition of a journeyman in the NBA.  The Bulls will mark Flip’s 8th NBA team in 8 years.  It isn’t exactly clear why this hired gun can’t stick anywhere or get a long-term contract.  Offensively, he’s an above-average, sweet-shooting, somewhat undersized 2-guard.  Though ballhandling and distributing are not his strengths, he can slide down to the point in a pinch.  This is how he’s been able to carve out a career in the league.

Defensively, he’s below average, due to his size and lack of elite quickness and athleticism.  This fact probably comes the closest to answering why Flip has, and will continue to have, a journeyman’s career.

Flip was signed to a bargain 1-year $1.9 million deal by the Bobcats prior to the season and was a good fit.  After sitting out several games to start the season, Flip joined the lineup and frequently provided a much-needed scoring punch off the bench.

He is currently averaging 9.9 points per game — exactly his career average, too — but is not shooting as high of a percentage as he had in the past.  Nonetheless, he will be missed.  While the Bobcats blogosphere is undoubtedly hopeful that DJ will step up and Gerald Henderson might even see some playing time, the safe bet is probably on Steven Graham filling in for the bulk of Flip’s minutes.

Ultimately, he was included in the trade from the Bulls’ perspective because he is on a one-year/expiring deal, but Flip will probably play an important role for the Bulls the rest of the season.  Remember, Chicago traded away John Salmons for more cap relief, so they have a hole at the 2-guard spot.

The Future First-Round Pick

This one is probably the hardest to part with.  As we’ve said over and over here at the Baseline, the best way for a small-market team to jump-start a run at a championship is to hit a home run with a first round pick (the Spurs and Tim Duncan are probably the best example, here).

But under Larry Brown, the Bobcats are clearly going about business another way.  And with Michael Jordan’s disastrous track record at making draft selections, maybe it’s a good pre-emptive strike to trade away picks for young veterans anyways.

Let’s remember a few things, though.  First, the Bobcats already owe a first-round pick to the Minnesota Timberwolves; second, you cannot trade away your first round pick in consecutive years and third, it’s not yet clear if there are any further conditions on the pick used in today’s trade.

The initial pick we have to give up was traded to the Denver Nuggets in the summer of 2008 (for their #20 pick in that draft, which we used on Alexis Ajinca — that’s a whole other story); the Nuggets have since moved it in another deal and it now is the property of the T-Wolves.

The pick is protected somewhat; last year it was protected if it was in the lottery, so we got to use it on Gerald Henderson.  This year it is only protected if it’s even higher, like a top 8 or 10 pick (Note: not exactly sure on that).  Whatever the case, barring a total collapse by the Cats, it looks like our first round pick this year will be the property of the T-Wolves.

So, given the rule about not trading away your first round picks in consecutive years, the earliest that the Bulls will get our pick in exchange for Ty Thomas will be 2012.  That’s a little scary, as Larry Brown will probably be gone by then, and who knows what the roster will look like.  It’s entirely conceivable that the Cats could return to the lottery by then and desperately need some help in the draft.

UPDATE: No sooner than I posted this and sat down for some dinner does Rick Bonnell come through to confirm that the future first-round pick owed to the Bulls for is indeed protected.  The exact nature of the protection is still unclear, but it is assumed to be similar to the protection that is attached to the pick that we currently owe to the T-Wolves (the exact nature of which is also unclear, but whatever…).

-Dr. E


  • Great Deal for Cats
    (82%, 102 Votes)
  • Better Deal for Bulls
    (5%, 6 Votes)
  • Not Worth 1st Round Pick
    (13%, 16 Votes)

Total Voters: 124

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