Malcolm Thomas is no newcomer to the NBA D-League. Since 2011, he's played for four different teams: The Rio Grande Valley Vipers, L.A. D-Fenders, Austin Toros and Santa Cruz Warriors. But this year, he may not be spending all that much time in the NBA's minor league.
Since going undrafted in 2011, Thomas has had a hard time sticking with a team. In 2011, after averaging over 20 points and 10 rebounds per game, he was cut by Mobis Phoebus as they were seeking a more veteran player. Then, after being signed by the Lakers on December 13th, 2011, he was sent to their D-League affiliate, the L.A. D-Fenders, but was waived by the end of the season. After that, it was the same old story for Thomas: Sign with an NBA team, get sent to the D-League on assignment, only to not have his contract re-newed by the season's end. He's spent time with the Rockets, Warriors and Bulls over the last few years, but he's never been given the chance he's looking for. Now, as the number one prospect in the D-League, he's expected by many to get that all-elusive call-up and if last night was any sign of what is to come, it may happen sooner rather than later.
In his season debut, Thomas led the D-Fenders with 36 points and 18 rebounds. He shot 12-for-17 from the field, 2-for-4 from the three and 10-for-15 from the charity stripe. He also recorded four steals, three blocks and three assists.
The Vipers really had no answer in stopping Thomas. In the first half, he scored most of his points with his back to the basket and after the Vipers made defensive adjustments at the half, Thomas displayed his ability to run the floor, handle the ball and shoot in the third and fourth quarter. However, Thomas' strong output came in a losing effort, as the D-Fenders couldn't overcome the Vipers' ridiculous night from the arc (in which they attempted 50 threes), losing by a final score of 124-114.
Given the makeup of the D-Fenders' roster, Thomas will be called upon to carry the bulk of the scoring load this season, which may be the opportunity he needs to showcase his true potential to NBA teams.