2008/09 Player Evaluation: Etan Thomas

 

Previously: Oleksiy Pecherov, Juan DIxon.

STATS

Per-game: 11.8 minutes, 3.1 points, 2.5 rebound

Per-36 minutes: 9.4 points, 7.8 rebounds

Percentages: 48.5 FG%, 69.6 FT%, 52.5% TS%

Advanced (explanations): 10.1 PER, 12.7 REB%, 19.1 TO%, 14 UsgR, 99 ORtg, 111 DRtg, 0.1 WSAA (win score above average).

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Mike Prada: 2008/09 probably proved once and for all that Etan Thomas is done as a functional NBA player. He’s now played just 26 of the Wizards’ last 164 games since the end of the 2006/07 season, and he was pretty injury-prone before that as well. His value pretty much lies in his expiring contract, which totals 8.5 million dollars for trade purposes once you factor in his 15% trade kicker.

Etan was given chances to prove he was healthy again. Brendan Haywood went down with his wrist injury, suddenly opening up minutes at the center position. Despite JaVale McGee’s impressive start, then-coach Eddie Jordan gave Etan seven starts in the first month of the season, in yet another example of "favor the vets." Etan didn’t capitalize and eventually found his way to the end of the bench before a season-ending knee injury. (An injury which, if you read the press release, was supposed to be temporary and became worse).

The measurables in Etan’s season are staggeringly bad. Once an excellent rebounder, Etan’s rebound percentage was over three percentage points below his career average. The Wizards were 12 points worse with him on the court—eight on offense and four on defense. His true shooting percentage fell six percentage points off his last healthy season’s mark. He turned the ball over on nearly 20 of his possessions. I can go on.

But it was more than just measurables here. Watching him, the guy just looked done and overmatched. It wasn’t for a lack of effort; he was as "active" as ever on the glass and certainly fought hard to finish putbacks. He just couldn’t do it anymore. It became common in that first month of the season for the other team to go on huge runs when he was in the game. The buzz for JaVale McGee was only eclipsed on this site by the frustration of Eddie Jordan running Etan out there again and again, desperately hoping he still had something to give. Unfortunately, he didn’t.

With the prospect of yet another major injury recovery, it’s probably time to stop depending on Etan Thomas for anything. He never had value to other teams for his on-court contributions in the past, and he certainly won’t now. Luckily, Etan seems very well set up for a career outside of basketball. For that, I salute him. He certainly won’t be one of the 60 percent of NBA players who goes broke after five years, and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear from him in the Washington political scene in the future.

JakeTheSnake: One of the great things about Etan Thomas is that he realized that he can have a greater impact than just being a guy who goes out and dunks basketballs.  His work in the community is second to none, and regardless of whether or not you agree with his stances on different political issues, you have to respect an athlete who's willing to take a stand for what he believes in.  He really lives out the title of his book of poetry, More Than an Athlete.
 
It's a good thing that Etan is well-aware that he's more than an athlete, because I'm not sure how much longer the athletic side of him can hold up.  In the limited minutes that he got this season, the Wizards were outscored by over 10 points per 100 possessions with him on the court.  That just can't happen.  In comparison, the Sacramento Kings as a team were only outscored by 9 points per possession this season.  His play improved slightly as the season went along and he started to get comfortable with being on the court again, but he received so little playing time after late November that it's really hard to make a judgment on how much or little his play improved.
 
While I don't miss the days when Etan Thomas would be given more minutes, over the more deserving Brendan Haywood, I wish that the disparity between the two wasn't this glaring.  The outlook doesn't look great, now that on top of everything else he has to recover from a torn ACL, but crazier things have happened.  Let's hold out hope that he gan regain some of his old form in time for next season, or that his expiring contract can net something of value.

Truthaboutit: What can I say about Etan Thomas' season? Well, at least he has intelligence and social involvement to fall back upon.

Etan's 2008-09 wasn't nearly as tragic as his previous season, at least he saw the court (for all of 306 minutes over 26 games). Then again, working his way back from open heart surgery only to go down with a torn knee ligament in mid-January seems pretty devastating. Then again, again, at least he didn't have to toil through the remainder of a miserable year. Although, if you ask Etan, he surely would have been glad to do so.

Sadly these days, to most Wizards fans, Etan is just an expiring salary. The mauve $7,354,500 million number on Sham Sports representing the last year of the worst contract Ernie Grunfled has doled out during his tenure as Wizards GM.

Seems kinda silly now that the swan song of a 6-year, $36.8 million contract offered to Etan by Milwaukee, and matched by the Wizards in the Summer of '04, included a player early termination option. Like Etan was going to raise his value to the point where he would turn down $7+ million for a chance at a bigger payday.

Hindsight makes it easy to chide Grunfeld for matching, but the free-agent market forced his hand. Big name posts like Rasheed Wallace (re-signed with Detroit for 5-yrs, $57 mil), Carlos Boozer (signed with Utah for 6-yrs, $68 mil), Erick Dampier (Golden State sign-and-trade to Dallas for 7-yrs, $73 mil), Kenyon Martin (New Jersey sign-and-trade to Denver for 7-yrs, $91 mil) andMehmet Okur (signed with Utah for 6-yrs, $50 mil) were getting huge contracts (the Wizards only showed passing interest in Dampier).

Low-level guys like Adonal Foyle (6-yrs, $51 mil from Golden State) and Brian Cardinal (6-yrs, $33.8 mil from Memphis) were getting absurd contracts. Hell, even Mark Blount was a hot commodity, eventually resigning with Boston at the rate of 6-years and $38.6 million.

Decent bigs were scarce and after making a great move to snag Antawn Jamison from Dallas on draft night, Grunfeld wasn't exactly comfortable with Brendan Haywood, Kwame Brown, and '04 2nd round pick Peter John Ramos holding down the paint. Etan, and his third highest team PER, was decidedly a risk worth taking (Michael Ruffin and Samaki Walker would later ink cheap contracts to fill out the front-court).

So don't necessarily blame Grunfeld, blame low supply and high demand raising prices. A past overpaid, but relatively unavoidable, contract, made worse by Etan's health issues (including those before surgery to repair a leaky aortic valve), is our expiring asset today. Yes, I'm telling you to take it as a silver lining.

It's really a shame, because Thomas has many qualities which would have made him a great role player, perhaps the second big off the bench, had he been fully healthy during the entire four-year postseason run. But these are our Washington Wizards and things just wouldn't be right if they always came easy.

The Wizards desperately need a quality upgrade in the front-court, and the team can no longer depend on Thomas. Ideally Grunfeld will find a trade which works out for everyone, with Etan's destination possibly buying him out, offering The Poet the flexibility to do what he pleases, whether it be political activism with his prosaic style, or catching on with a contender seeking a solid character.

Then again, I wouldn't be that surprised if Thomas was in training camp next season. Whatever the case, I wish him well and hope for a next year that's much better than the last two, for him and the team.

Rook6980: Etan Thomas, another of the Wizard's walking wounded in this season of despair.

After having open heart surgery in October 2007, and missing the entire 2007-08 season, Etan Thomas missed a couple of early games due to a sprained ankle and then suffered a torn MCL in his left knee, which ended his year. I'll admit that I've never been a fan of Etan Thomas. I always thought that Haywood was the better player and deserved the lion's share of the minutes. I never understood Eddie Jordan's insistence in starting the undersized, less talented Thomas over Haywood.

Thomas worked hard to come back from the heart surgery, but even before the knee injury, you could tell that he was still incredibly rusty and had not regained his energy level or the skills that had so impressed Eddie Jordan.

Now, with Brendan Haywood healthy, Andray Blatche adequately filling in the backup Center spot, and the incredible athleticism and potential of JaVale McGee; Etan's value to the team is reduced to how much Ernie Grunfeld can get in trade for his expiring contract.

Either this Summer, or by the February 2010 Trade Deadline, Etan Thomas will no longer be on the Wizard's roster.

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