The 27th pick of the 2021 draft, Thomas was having a breakout third season for Brooklyn prior to the injury, averaging career highs virtually every major statistic, including points (26.9), rebounds (3.8), assists (2.1) and minutes per game (32.4) through eight contests (seven starts). The 22-year-old will be eligible for a rookie scale extension in 2024.
Here’s more from the NBA’s two New York-based teams:
- Ben Simmons continues to be sidelined for the Nets — he’ll miss his 12th straight game on Thursday due to a nerve impingement in his lower left back, per the NBA’s official injury report. Dan Martin of The New York Post details how Brooklyn has begun to thrive without Simmons in the lineup, despite the team planning to build around his unique skill set in 2023/24. According to Martin, the Nets — who have won three straight — have gotten key contributions from different players “nearly every night” of late, including Royce O’Neale, Mikal Bridges, Nic Claxton, Dorian Finney-Smith and Cameron Johnson.
- When the Knicks signed Isaiah Hartenstein to a two-year, $16MM contract last year, they cited his shooting, play-making and passing as complementary skills to bruising center Mitchell Robinson. However, as Stefan Bondy writes in a subscriber-only story for The New York Post, Hartenstein quickly learned last season that he needed to adapt his game to fit head coach Tom Thibodeau‘s system in order to stay in the rotation. “I think that’s a thing a lot of NBA players don’t do. That’s kind of how you whittle down the league,” Hartenstein said. “And for me, that was adjusting it to less of a finesse game and more of getting guys open [with screens], more of just crashing for the rebounds. Whereas before it was more passing, catching it in the pocket, playing off that.” Hartenstein doesn’t put up gaudy stats, but he thinks he’s in the conversation for being the best backup center in the league. When Bondy asked about his impending free agency in 2024, the 25-year-old said, “We’ll see what happens. I love New York, so we’ll see what happens.”
- The Knicks‘ schedule became more difficult after advancing to the quarterfinals of the NBA’s inaugural in-season tournament, notes Steve Popper of Newsday (subscription required). New York will play at Milwaukee on Tuesday for the quarterfinal matchup, meaning the Knicks will play the Bucks five times instead of four in ’23/24. If the Knicks and Celtics advance to the semifinals in Las Vegas, they would have to play Boston a fifth time as well. Still, the Knicks view it as a chance to get better. “I don’t look at anything as a consequence,” forward Julius Randle said, per Popper. “Winning games, playing good basketball, got a chance to compete against the best. Who wouldn’t want that opportunity?”