Start Isaiah Thomas At Point Guard? Not Just Yet

Isaiah Thomas has been lovely in the first three weeks of his NBA career, and he blew up on Wednesday as the Kings earned their first road win of the season against the Raptors. Cold Blooded had 20 points on 6-12 shooting and six assists, and the team seemed to play better when he, not Jimmer Fredette, was running the offense. The injury to Marcus Thornton has opened up some time for both Jimmer and Thomas, and has forced Tyreke Evans, the starting point guard when Thornton's healthy, over to shooting guard.

Fredette is struggling in every facet, and the team wasn't terribly successful on offense with the Evans-Thornton starting backcourt before MT's injury. Hence: a brewing call to elevate Isaiah to the starting five and move Evans to two-guard or, when Thornton's back, to small forward. But in my estimation, such a shift in Evans' role and the team's attack is premature.

First, Evans-Thornton have had just two games under Keith Smart, who led a Monta Ellis-Stephen Curry backcourt to a strong offensive season last year at Golden State. I'd prefer to see how Smart's attack with Tyreke and MT evolves before pulling the plug. This assumes, of course, that Thornton is just dinged; we'll know today whether he'll be ready for the weekend games. Going further, Evans has played four pro games under a coach not named Paul Westphal. His entire pro development (or "development") has been run under Westphal. Let's find out if Smart can get the piece into the puzzle. There's not much to lose.

The second part is that while Thomas' play looks more like that of a point guard, he's not appreciably more of a traditional point guard than Evans. They have nearly identical assist rates this season, and Thomas isn't much higher in per-minute assists. Further, Thomas has been prone to turnovers (a 15 percent turnover rate, vs. 12.8 percent for Reke). If you want to see whether the Kings would be better with a true point guard in the starting lineup, you need to make a roster move, because like just about every point guard that Geoff Petrie has acquired since trading Jason Williams in 2001 -- we're talking Mike Bibby, Bobby Jackson, John Salmons (who played some PG in 2007), Francisco Garcia (ditto), Quincy Douby, Bobby Brown, Ronnie Price, Jason Hart, Pooh Jeter and Beno Udrih. I'm not making a blanket judgment statement on the quality of those point guards -- Udrih, Bibby and Jackson proved to be effective, others not -- but there are, every last one, impure guards. There's one exception: Sergio Rodriguez, who the Kings borrowed from Portland, shipped out as fluff in the Landry-Martin deal and who now plays in Spain.

Again, if you want to see how the Kings fare with a traditional point guard in place of Evans, you first need the Kings to acquire a traditional point guard. Thomas isn't that. He's a damn fine pick-up in the late second round, and looks like one of the better bench guards the Kings have had since both Bonzi Wells and Kevin Martin were on the roster in 2005-06. (Rashad McCants was pretty good in 2009.) But tossing him into the fire of the starting lineup for anything other than injury replacement right now seems misguided. (On that injury replacement condition: if Thornton remains out, I think Thomas would be a fine replacement for Jimmer in the starting five, solely because Jimmer doesn't look remotely comfortable.)

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