First it was all about Kyrie wanting to get out of Cleveland and then it was all about whether or not Isiah Thomas was healthy. We are now one week removed from the blockbuster trade that capped off a ludicrous NBA offseason and as the dust settles one thing is for sure – opening night of the NBA just got so much more interesting.
The 2017-2018 NBA season will kickoff with the Cleveland Cavaliers playing the Boston Celtics. Former teammates Kyrie against LeBron night one for top dog in the Eastern Conference.
But don’t forget about Isaiah Thomas.
Don’t forget about the 5’9 28 year old point guard who also has a new home in Cleveland. Don’t forget about the MVP candidate who added another stop to his tenure this offseason. Don’t forget about Isiah Thomas because in the last year of his contract and coming off a hip injury, he might have the most to play for.
2011-2014 Sacramento Kings:
After being projected to go mid-to-late second round by Draft Express and Bleacher Report, Thomas fell to the last pick in the 2011 draft. After just barely getting his name called on draft night Isaiah started 37 games his rookie season before progressing to be the King’s official starter the next two seasons in back-to-back disappointing 28 win seasons. Even in the midst of sub par win totals and constantly being looked down upon for his height (literally), Thomas became a 20 point per game scorer and made history as a part of the only NBA team (that I could find) with three players averaging 20 points a game (Rudy Gay and Boogie Cousins). The 24 year old Thomas made it through his rookie contract and signed a four year, $27 million dollar contact. From last pick to twenty points a game and leading a team on the hardwood. Home sweet home right? Not so much.
In a sign and trade deal the Suns acquired Thomas and added him to what became the most crowded backcourt in the league. After coexisting with Gay and Cousins, Isaiah was paired with Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic. Three starters for two spots didn’t make sense and didn’t work. Isaiah went from a starter to an off the bench role, a huge step backwards in the trajectory of a young player’s career. His numbers suffered accordingly and soon Isaiah was headed out of town again after just 46 games.
Isaiah arrived in Boston and had a strong finish to the 2014-2015 season. This was a nice consolation prize for being on three teams in two seasons, a typical sign of an NBA journeyman. But when the next season rolled around Thomas had solidified himself as the Celtics starter and a budding star in a young roster. He was back on the right career path. As a now 27 year old Isaiah had statistically his best season since his second year in Sacramento and was selected to his first All-Star game. Most pundits thought this was the ceiling of the now re-established point guard. But Thomas continued to be the gift that kept on giving, following up good with great and another all-star year bid the following year. Thomas became the 6th Celtic to score 2,000 points in a season and finished 5th in MVP voting in the 2016-2017 season. Outside of just his on the court numbers Isaiah became something Boston fans were proud of. He finished 14th in NBA jersey sales and had the city behind him when he returned to the court to play a playoff game just days after his sister tragically passed away.
But all that glitters is not gold and so in the offseason following his best year yet and a first place playoff berth in the East, the Boston Celtics traded their point guard.
After establishing himself as the star on a team and leading that team to the Eastern Conference Finals Danny Ainge and the Celtics front office pulled the rug out from under Thomas. The Celtics had been gathering assets and picks for years ever since trading their big 3 in 2013 to rebuild for a team to surpass LeBron in the East. That’s what made this trade even more devastating for Thomas is that the general consensus is he would be a part of that future Celtic dream team and not one of the moveable assets. Trading places with Kyrie Irving (the first pick in the 2011 draft) makes Thomas go from the lead to second, or possibly third, fiddle on a new team. A new team whose future is cloudy with the likely, and highly speculated, departure of LeBron after this season. In the final year of his contract and with a max contract extension on the line Isaiah Thomas is playing with his back against the wall once again. On top of this all Isaiah is back to playing for pride. The man has now spent a whole news cycle listening to reporters, sources and the media worrying about his health or if he’ll ever be the same on the court again.
Yes the odds are stacked against Isaiah, but that hasn’t stopped him before.