Against the Bucks, Malcolm Thomas might have a shot to get his feet wet


Update: Spurs say Matt Bonner will also miss tonight’s game with a nasal fracture, will undergo minor corrective procedure on Monday and be fitted for a mask. He’s expected to be available against Oklahoma City on Wednesday.

With the injuries to Danny Green and Tiago Splitter, and the news that Tony Parker will be held out of the Spurs’ Sunday night game against the Bucks, San Antonio recalled Malcolm Thomas from the D-League’s Austin Toros on Sunday. It’s the biggest news surrounding the Spurs since we all learned Matt Bonner will be wearing a mask to protect his newly broken nose.

Given the fact San Antonio doesn’t have enough healthy bodies to fill out a full 13-man active roster, it’s unlikely Thomas is rejoining the Spurs  just to sit in a suit behind the bench (though it’s not a certainty). If he is active for the first time this season, that will leave Gregg Popovich 12 players for the team’s game against Milwaukee.

The Spurs recently guaranteed Thomas’ contract for the rest of the season prior to the league’s Jan. 10 deadline to act on non-guaranteed players. The former college teammate of Kawhi Leonard at San Diego State was signed away from the Los Angeles D-Fenders, D-League affiliate of the Lakers, back in early December.

Thomas had exploded offensively early in the D-Fenders’ season, and the Spurs jumped on him. In 10 games as a member of the Toros he’s averaged 15.2 points, 9.4 rebounds, 3 assists and 2.4 blocks in 32.6 minutes per game. Remember, Thomas had a cup of coffee with the Spurs during the 2011-12 season, so he’s already got at least a modicum of corporate knowledge when it comes to Pop’s system.

He’s an intriguing prospect who plays that valuable stretch ‘four’ position, but Thomas has bounced around the NBA and even spent time playing overseas with Maccabi Tel Aviv B.C. of the Euroleague and the Israeli Basketball Super League. The 25-year-old has a raw skill-set, but he’s got plus athleticism and nearly Leonard-like length (7-foot-2 wingspan) at 6-foot-8, 223 pounds, according to DraftExpress. And he uses it. He’s demonstrated some decent ability as a defender and rebounder wherever he’s been, and was a very active shot-blocker in college. Now he’s added a budding 3-point shot to his expanding tool chest.

Thomas is only shooting about three 3-pointers a game in Austin, but he’s hitting them at just better than 36 percent, which is a very good number. D-League numbers should be taken with a boulder of salt — Nando De Colo absolutely tears it up down there — but he’s shown specific skills that have a solid chance to translate to the NBA in a role-player package.

The Spurs are clearly making a cheap investment in Thomas, too. The original signing wasn’t because of any sort of injury on the current roster, and when they had a chance to waive him without risk or cost, they guaranteed him for the rest of the season and locked their full 15-man roster in place by doing so. Thomas is signed through 2014-15, though his contract for next year is not guaranteed.

These types of players don’t pan out all that often, but it’ll at least be interesting to watch going forward with a team that rarely changes face from year to year, aside from a few minor alterations here and there. Thomas has the raw tools of a position the Spurs seek, and now they’ve committed that final roster spot — San Antonio strongly values the flexibility of an open roster spot every season — to the young forward.

It’ll likely be completely dependent on the game situation tonight, but Thomas might get his first chance at NBA action this season. And really, against the worst team in the league, this might not be the worst place to get his feet a little wet.