SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz didn’t stand pat at Thursday’s trade deadline.
The Jazz are acquiring guard Matt Thomas from the Toronto Raptors in exchange for a future second-round draft pick, KSL.com has confirmed. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski was the first to report the deal, which got done in the final hour before the 1 p.m. MDT trade deadline.
Not exactly the impact level of trading for Aaron Gordon as the Denver Nuggets did, or acquiring Norm Powell as the Blazers did. But it’s something. Thomas takes Utah’s 15th roster spot, meaning the Jazz would have to waive a guaranteed contract in order to acquire someone in the buyout market.
In Thomas, the Jazz get one of the best shooters in the world. The question is: Can they turn him into an all-around basketball player?
If the answer yes, this is a steal of a deal. If it’s no, it cost them only a 2021 second-round pick they got when trading Derrick Favors to New Orleans two years ago.
It’s a low-risk move and one that probably won’t have much of an impact on this season. The 6-foot-4, 190-pound Thomas likely won’t break into the rotation in the regular season, let alone the playoffs. But a career 45% 3-point shooter is always worth taking a flyer on.
The Iowa State product has appeared in 67 games for the Raptors in his first two seasons in the league. He shot 47.5% in his first year and has hit on 41.5% this season. And if you factor in his 47% 3-point percentage from his time playing overseas, it’s clear he can light it up.
With stats like that, why has he been a healthy scratch in 18 games this season for a struggling Raptors team? Let’s hear from his now-former coach.
“But you understand, you gotta play at both ends too, right?,” Toronto coach Nick Nurse said earlier this season. “I’m just like you, my eyes light up just like yours do when you see him come in there and start banging shots.”
Nurse was responding to a question on whether Thomas was in line to win the final rotational spot for the Raptors. The winner, Nurse said, would be the “whole player.” Thomas, who has played 10 or more minutes just seven times this season, apparently was not that.
Thomas was in the rotation for three games to start the season but quickly fell out of it.
“They’re just coming out and fouling and giving up boatloads of points in a short amount of minutes, and they can’t get that many back on the other end,” Nurse said of Thomas’s bench minutes.
But the Jazz have made competent defenders out of players before, and as Nurse said, Thomas’ shot can make eyes light up.
Thomas picked up the nickname “Mr. 99%” because of his effective field goal percentage on catch-and-shoot unguarded attempts during his final season in the Spanish League. If he’s open, he makes it. And he’s going to an offense that is pretty good at generating open shots.
The Jazz take the most wide-open 3s —defined as those take with a defender 6 or more feet away — in the league. However, the Raptors are also one of the league’s best at creating open looks from 3-point range, and Thomas still fell out of the rotation.
But there was no Rudy Gobert in Toronto.
The Jazz have the No. 2 defense in the league, according to Cleaning the Glass; the Raptors are No. 19. In Utah, Thomas’ defensive liabilities likely won’t stand out as much. Joe Ingles and Georges Niang have both carved out nice roles in Utah by starting as shooters and evolving into something more.
It’s the fourth straight season Utah has swung a midseason trade — but for the first time, it isn’t with the Cavaliers. Last season, the Jazz landed Jordan Clarkson from the Cavs, a year after they acquired Kyle Korver. In 2017-18, they traded for Jae Crowder in a three-team deal — that was the last deadline deal the Jazz had made before Thursday.