According to ESPNChicago.com’s Nick Friedell: “The Chicago Bulls have agreed to terms with free-agent big man Kurt Thomas, according to a source with knowledge of the deal. Thomas, a 15-year veteran, averaged three points and four rebounds last season for the Milwaukee Bucks. He will back up Joakim Noah, essentially replacing Brad Miller’s role on the roster. Thomas will undoubtedly serve as a mentor for Noah, as Miller did, and will help rookie center Omer Asik adjust to the NBA.”
Sam Smith of Bulls.com added that: “Thomas agreed to a deal for slightly more than the veterans’ minimum, which means the Bulls have about $3 million remaining to fill out the roster, which now has 11 players.”
Just like the Ronnie Brewer and C.J. Watson deals, this signing is a good bargain for the Bulls.
Sure, Thomas is a bit long in the tooth — Kurt will turn 38 years young on October 4 — and he’s an offensive downgrade from Brad Miller in terms of passing, driving and shooting range. However, Kurt can hit spot-up jumpers from midrange at a pretty high percentage.
Last season, Thomas drilled 45.2 percent of his shots from 10-15 feet and 47.0 percent of his shots from 16-23 feet. The season before that, those numbers were 53.0 and 46.0 percent, respectively. Thomas will also stick the occasional putback and knocks down his foul shots a good clip (82 percent in 2008-09, 80 percent in 2009-10).
And although he’s lost a step or three — he’s older, it happens — Thomas can provide solid post defense and rebounding for 10-15 minutes a game.
Seriously, Kurt can still rebound. For his career, Thomas has averaged 9.8 rebounds per 36 minutes. In 2008-09, he averaged 10.4 rebounds per 36 minutes. In 2009-10, his per 36 minute average was 10.0. And his 2009-10 rebounding percentage of 15.8 would have ranked him behind only Noah on the Bulls. So Thomas can still corral the basketball, even if his minutes have been reduced in accordance with his gray hairs.
Thomas is also a well-noted NBA tough guy who isn’t shy about committing hard fouls when necessary. If you check the numbers, you’ll notice that Kurt led the NBA in fouls in 2001-02 and 2002-03, and he ranks 41st all-time in total fouls (3240).
As Smith wrote: “Thomas has long been known around the NBA as a player others don’t want to engage, and even last season Thomas famously stood up for one of his teammates. Boston’s Glen ‘Big Baby’ Davis had committed a hard foul on Bucks rookie point guard Brandon Jennings. Thomas hadn’t been playing then, but he remembered. When the teams met a few weeks later, Thomas took down Davis with a hard shot that had Celtics announcer Tommy Heinsohn bellowing ‘thug’ at Thomas. Thomas is a player known to have the backs of his teammates.”
I don’t like Thomas as much as Miller, but he still has NBA skills, came at a (much) cheaper price, and will probably fit Tom Thibodeau’s defense-first system better than Big Brad would have. My only real concern is his age. What if Noah gets hurt? How many minutes could Thomas absorb if Joakim misses significant time?
But hey, maybe I’m just borrowing trouble here.
The Bulls shored up their frontcourt depth while retaining financial flexibility in both the short and long term. That’s pretty sweet. It’ll be interesting to see how the Bulls spend their final $3 million. I’ve heard rumblings about Eddie House. House is a wee tiny man, but he can shoot the three and play the two. Of course, the Celtics — with whom House won a championship in 2008 — are looking into bringing him back, so who knows?
Here’s a clip of that incident with Big Baby: