Isaiah Thomas' odd approach to restricted free agency

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Isaiah Thomas is taking an interesting approach to free agency. We make blind guesses as to why.

Isaiah Thomas' NBA journey has been anything but typical.  As the 60th pick in the NBA draft, he overcame every obstacle to earn a starter's role in the NBA.  His own team has continually tried to replace him in the starting lineup, yet he's continually overcome every obstacle to find a place in the league.  Despite consistently impressive numbers, there still remain a vast majority of NBA fans and analysts who see him as nothing more than a bench guard.  So it should come as no surprise that Isaiah's foray into restricted free agency has also been anything short of unusual.

Despite the uncertainty surrounding his future with the Sacramento Kings, Isaiah Thomas continues to be a model member of the franchise.  Isaiah showed his support at city council meetings during the vote to fund the new arena.  Isaiah is just returning from a visit to India, where he's representing the NBA.  But, of course, he's also representing the Kings, who are owned by the first Indian-born NBA owner, Vivek Ranadivé.

Many free agents seem to misunderstand restricted free agency.  They view it as an opportunity to get paid and to choose a new situation.  While those players may get paid, it is rarely with the team they hoped to join.  Roy Hibbert's current contract was signed with the Trail Blazers, but matched by the Pacers.  Eric Gordon famously begged the Pelicans not to match the offer sheet he signed with the Suns.

But while many free agents seek to maximize their value and find a better situation, Isaiah's actions suggest he wants to stay.  It's perfectly reasonable that Isaiah also wants to maximize his value.  IT has been an incredible value to the Kings organization, especially relative to his minuscule contract.  This is his first opportunity to secure a contract in line with his NBA value, his first opportunity to secure his family for the rest of their lives.  Isaiah is going to want the biggest contract possible, and he should.  He's been playing for peanuts, relative to NBA standards.  He's earned a pay day.

But along with that, it almost feels like Isaiah is trying to convince the Kings to match whatever offer he receives.  It's been widely speculated that the Kings won't break the bank to keep Isaiah.  Too big an offer sheet, and Isaiah could become this offseason's Tyreke Evans, signed-and-traded away.  And while fans would be upset to lose Isaiah, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Kings let Isaiah walk.  The difference is that I don't think Isaiah wants to.

This is pure speculation, of course.  Perhaps Isaiah is simply showing potential bidders how great he is.  Maybe he's just being his usual great self with no ulterior motives.  But it's a unique and fascinating situation.  Nobody expects the Kings to match a big offer for Isaiah.  Will Isaiah's surprising story contain yet another twist?

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