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O Brother Where Art Thou, Malcolm Thomas?

For most of the league, life in the NBA is stable. LeBron James, for instance, has a fairly good idea of where he’ll be from day to day, even year to year. Same goes for the NBA’s middle class, players like Kyle Korver or Martell Webster. But for the bottom rungs, trying to find a home in the NBA can turn into something of a literal odyssey.

This brings me to Malcolm Thomas.

Once upon a time, it seemed that Malcolm Thomas would assuredly find his NBA home. Undrafted out of San Diego State, he had a cup of coffee with the San Antonio Spurs at the end of the 2011-12 season before getting an invite to the Chicago Bulls Las Vegas Summer League team, where he played very well. Most expected him to stick with the Bulls. Unfortunately, negotiations fell apart and Thomas departed overseas.

He would eventually return, signing a 10-day contract with the Golden State Warriors before returning to Chicago for the remainder of the year. He signed a contract to close 2012-13 that included a non-guaranteed year for 2013-14 and most assumed he stood a decent chance of making the team, especially when he showed up in Las Vegas and set the LVSL record for most rebounds in a game with 22, which is impressive no matter what the circumstances. It’s even more so when you remember that LVSL games are only 40 minutes long.

Alas, it was not to be, as Malcolm Thomas has been cut loose once more. The Bulls waived him less than two weeks after the end of summer league, right before Thomas’s contract called for about $250,000 of his salary to become guaranteed. Speculation held that Thomas would be invited back to Bulls camp even after being waived, but he was not, even after he tweeted he was in Chicago about a week and a half before Bulls media day. Of course, his next tweet came a day later, and it was … less encouraging.

Since then, nobody has heard anything. And I have to ask why. I mean, I will admit to some bias here, but is Malcolm Thomas really worse than guys like Marko Jaric, who seems to get a camp invite every year despite being out of the league for about six years? Or Dan Gadzuric, who got a camp invite from the Lakers? I mean, come on.

Thomas is undersized, yes. His offensive game is raw. But his athletic gifts are obvious and he’s actually a decent defender, even at his size. He’s an excellent rebounder. What am I missing?

I’m going to take a moment here to give you some insanely meaningless numbers. This is the ultimate in #SmallSampleSizeTheatre, but I’ve already admitted my bias, so who cares at this point? Here are Thomas’s per-36 numbers with the Bulls:

12 points, 11 rebounds (5 offensive) on .556 FG and .500 FT, 2 steals, 16.7 PER.

Awesome, right? Of course, as I said, those numbers are ridiculously meaningless. He also posted 7 fouls per-36. Also, the entire sample size we’re working from here is literally 36 minutes of basketball, so … yeah. Those aren’t so much his stats per 36 minutes as they are just his stats from his whole tenure in Chicago.

Perhaps somewhat more meaningful would be the only game Thomas actually played real minutes in: April 9, vs. Toronto. He logged 26 minutes, scoring 6 points on 3/6 from the field and grabbing 8 rebounds. He even chipped in 2 assists, a block and a steal. But come on, I can give you all the mildly deceiving statistics you want. This is just fun:

My impression is that teams aren’t sold that his athleticism will make up for his size disadvantage, which is sad. I guess we just need to find the NBA version of the New Orleans Saints, who can turn his disadvantage into an advantage. Hopefully that team exists, somewhere.

If not, I’ll always remember you, Malcolm.

Caleb Nordgren

Caleb is a proud Chicagoan still adjusting to life away from the big city. He's a journalism student at Michigan State, the Editor of Pippen Ain't Easy and can be found at any given time on Twitter, talking about basketball and generally being sarcastic.