Take a quick look at some of the names among the stat leaders in the Turkish Airlines Euroleague in the second week of competition and they are filled with former NBA players making an early impact overseas.
Sonny Weems (CSKA Moscow), Shelden Williams (Elan Chalon-Sur-Saone) and Jordan Farmar (Anadolu Efes) have all impressed: Weems, 22 points per game, Williams with 11 rebounds per game, and Farmar is averaging 5.5 assists per game.
But Williams has company on the boards thanks to a youngster who had a cup of coffee in the league last season with the San Antonio Spurs in addition to three D-League teams.
It may be early, but Malcolm Thomas is settling in nicely in the Euroleague.
Back in later August, Thomas signed a multi-year deal with Maccabi Tel-Aviv and was fresh off of workouts with the New York Knicks and Miami Heat in hopes of landing a guaranteed deal in the NBA. And by judging from his play at the Las Vegas Summer League with the Chicago Bulls, he nearly reached that goal. At summer league, the 6'9 forward out of the San Diego State University averaged 11.4 points and 12.4 rebounds per game, leaving the Bulls to entertain the thought of extending Thomas a training camp invite and a non-guaranteed deal. The same goes for Miami and New York.
Thomas wanted the guarantee.
Little did he know then it would eventually come in Israel.
Ultimately, the dollar and cents of it all may be what closed the door to the NBA at this time and opened a new door (back) overseas with Maccabi. But in his first two games, it's clear Thomas made the right move. While he is averaging 9 points and 9.5 rebounds in 22 minutes, Thomas appeared more at ease scoring 14 points and grabbing 11 rebounds against Montepaschi Siena (6 offensive rebounds), compared to his Euroleague debut against Unicaja Malaga where Thomas struggled to score the ball (4 points) but cleaned up on the glass (8 rebounds) in 14 minutes.
Keeping his confidence and playing at a consistent level - both in the Euroleague and Israeli League -- will only benefit Thomas and eventually his NBA stock depending on how his season goes with Maccabi. He's a fine young talent to keep tabs on this season, especially if he can build upon his rebounding production.
Clearly, Thomas can still send it in...
This is Thomas' second go-around overseas after averaging 21 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 blocks per game playing for Mobis Phoebus of South Korea last season during the NBA lockout.
Once the work stoppage was resolved, Thomas signed with the Los Angeles Lakers last December and split time between the Lakers and the D-League with the Los Angeles D-Fenders. What followed next for Thomas was a mixture of hope and frustration: signed by San Antonio and appeared in three games, sent down to the Austin Toros, waived by the Spurs, rejoined the D-Fenders, signed with the Houston Rockets, sent down to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers and then back with the D-Fenders.
In all with the D-Fenders, Thomas averaged 13.8 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2 blocks per game (19 games, 13 starts) on the season and he played very well during the D-League Finals putting up 18 points and grabbing 14 rebounds Game 2 of the Finals against the Austin Toros. During the playoffs Thomas' numbers spoke volumes about his ability: 17.9 points and 12.3 rebounds per game in 7 games.
Couple that with the way he played at summer league, and it's no wonder Thomas wanted to shoot the moon for a guaranteed deal.
But there is still work to be done.
For Malcolm Thomas, that long road to NBA staying power now travels through Tel-Aviv and the Euroleague.