Despite some fans hoping that his stellar play in Summer League would earn him an invite to the Spurs training camp, Deshaun Thomas is heading to France next season. According to Buckeye Extra, Thomas will join a Parisian team next season. The details are not clear yet but it will be either Paris-Levallois or Nanterre. The news was a surprise considering there were reports linking Deshaun to Spanish team Estudiantes de Madrid earlier this week.
For Thomas, it's probably the ideal situation. He'll still need to earn playing time, but the opportunities to be a key contributor will be there for him. Had Thomas signed a deal with the Spurs (which might not have even been an option this off-season), he likely would've spent a ton of time in Austin or a ton of time in a blazer and button up shirt behind the Spurs bench. This way, he will get to live in Paris while providing for his family and hopefully getting consistent playing time. The league is not as competitive as others but the trade off is Thomas should get plenty of opportunities to get on the floor and that's what he needs at this point.
For the Spurs, who in Deshaun's' words "didn’t know what they want to do with their 15 (roster) spots," this means keeping Thomas' rights for cheap and not having to pay for him to develop. There were reports that the Spurs were looking to draft someone who was willing to spend some time abroad, just like they did with Denmon, and it makes sense. If he can polish his game, he will surely have an opportunity to fight for a roster spot on a later day. With only Tiago Splitter in the books after a couple of season, he should get a chance if he develops. But it could also happen sooner.
While draft-and-stash, American-born players have been hit or miss, there is a precedent for a second round small forward making the transition after just one season abroad. Detroit Pistons back up small forward Kyle Singler spent a year in Spain after being drafted in 2011, playing mostly with Real Madrid, before signing a three year contract with Detroit the following season. That year of experience allowed Singler to gain confidence and become a key part of the Pistons' rotation last season. We don't know if that's the plan with Thomas, but the Singler model is a path Thomas could take that could be beneficial for both him and the Spurs.
On the other hand, there's the possibility Thomas could go to Europe and end up there for a while. And that's fine. He may be in his late 20's before making it to the league. We'll call this the Gary Neal model. Coming out of college, Neal could score, but his lack of size and athleticism (combined with some legal trouble while in school) forced him to ply his trade overseas for several years before finally making the transition to great success. There are similar questions about Thomas' size and whether he's athletic enough to play small forward. So going to Europe could help him sort some things out on the defensive end.
If Thomas can follow either the Singler model or the Neal model, that would be great for both him and the Spurs. It might not look like it at the moment, but by signing in Europe Thomas has taken the first step in becoming an NBA player. You just won't get to see his development first hand, but fear not, we'll be keeping you posted on Thomas' progress throughout the season.