72 GP, 34.7 MPG, 20.3 PPG, .453 FG%, .349 3P%, 2.9 RPG, 6.3 AST, 1.3 STL, 0.1 BLK, 3.0 TOV, 2.6 PF
Needs to work on:
- Getting his wrist healthy
- Continuing to improve distribution skills
- Shot selection
Here is the complete list of players who have averaged 20 points and 6 assists per game in a season while maintaining a PER of at least 20 by the time they were 25 years old: Tiny Archibald, Gilbert Arenas, Bob Cousy, Stephen Curry, Baron Davis, Clyde Drexler, Steve Francis, Walt Frazier, Penny Hardaway, Tim Hardaway, James Harden, Devin Harris, Grant Hill, Kyrie Irving, Allen Iverson, LeBron James, Kevin Johnson, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Stephon Marbury, Calvin Murphy, Chris Paul, Oscar Robertson, Derrick Rose, Isiah Thomas, Dwyane Wade, Ray Williams and ... Isaiah Thomas.
Here's the complete list of those players that were listed as under 6'0: Calvin Murphy and Isaiah Thomas.
Now what's the point of narrowing that selection by height? Well, it's because Isaiah Thomas' height is seemingly the only thing anybody can talk about. It's brought up countless amounts of times in arguments as to why he shouldn't be a starter, it's why he fell all the way to 60th in the draft, and it's probably why he won't get paid anywhere near the same as a player who is 6'1 and posted similar stats would.
Thomas' own team even seems to doubt him. Upon taking over the team, one of the first things the Kings did was acquire a Point Guard in Greivis Vasquez, who they started from the Day 1 and continued to do so until Vasquez was traded despite Thomas outperforming Vasquez to the point where Vasquez barely saw the floor in the 4th quarter. In 18 games off the bench, Thomas averaged 17.8 points and 4.8 assists, and those numbers increased to 21.2 and 6.8 respectively when he was given the reins after Vasquez was traded to Toronto.
Thomas gets a lot of flak for not being a prototypical pass-first Point Guard, but the fact is that there really aren't a lot of those guys in the NBA anymore, and the ones that are have to be exceptionally good scorers as well. Chris Paul is the best passer in the NBA, but he's also one of the best scorers, a rare (and deadly) combination. John Wall and Ty Lawson are immediately after Paul in assists per game, and both are capable of taking over a game with their scoring. Probably the only player in the Top-10 who isn't a huge threat to score is Ricky Rubio. Thomas ranked 11th in the NBA in assists per game last year, and would have been 8th if he had been a full time starter from Day 1 and his 6.8 assist per game average held out.
Does Thomas still need to improve as a distributor? Sure, just like all young players need to improve on their game. His Assist to Turnover isn't great at 2:1, and even that was a bit of a fall from his previous two season, so getting that up closer to 2.5:1 or 3:1 is a need. But Thomas' strength lies in being a scorer, where he's proven that even at 5'9, he can score on just about everyone in the league. Offensively, the Kings were a phenomenal +5.5 points per 100 possessions better with Isaiah on the floor than off it, by far the biggest net change on the team.
Thomas could have been even better offensively last year had a midseason wrist injury not hampered his shooting so much. Before the wrist injury, Thomas had been well above 40% from beyond the arc, an elite number and a big jump from the previous year. However he fell back down to earth due to the wrist, shooting 32.7% in January, 34.7% in February, 25.8% in March and just 12.5% in two games in April. Thomas' struggles with his shot led to him not taking as many from long range, opting to attack the paint and/or pull up for his deadly mid-range jumper. The 16-23 foot shot is one of the least efficient shots in basketball, and as such teams tend to give them to you a lot, but Thomas made teams pay by hitting a great 46.6% of them.
Thomas' height is also not a problem when it comes to finishing at the rim, where he's one of the best in the NBA. In fact, his 68.5% at the rim is better even than teammates DeMarcus Cousins (67.3%) and Rudy Gay (67.8%). Thomas also does a good job of getting to the line with a solid .371 Free Throw Attempt Rate, mainly because of his aggressiveness in attacking the basket, and when he is at the line, they tend to go in since he's an 85.0% free throw shooter.
Perhaps Thomas' biggest weakness on offense is that sometimes he's too aggressive and opts to take a bad shot or two. There are usually a couple times a game when Thomas will run up the court and pull up for a transition three or long jumper with nobody under the rim to rebound if it misses, and sometimes that's in a situation where the Kings could have afforded to be patient. Yes, we love him when those shots go in because they make for great entertainment, but strategically it's not the best idea, and he'd probably be better served to not take as many of those shots.
Defense is where a lot of people go after Isaiah. Sure, his being 5'9 doesn't hurt him on offense, but what about the other side of the floor? The Kings are one of the worst defensive teams in the league and having a 5'9 Point Guard surely can't help that! It's definitely true that Isaiah isn't a phenomenal or lockdown defender, and his steal rate is about average for a guard. But the Kings have been better defensively with him on the floor the past two years than when he was off, and this year it was dramatic with a 3.9 points per 100 possession difference. Of course, the Kings didn't exactly have a Doug Christie alternative at PG, and that duty fell to guys like Ray McCallum, Jimmer Fredette and Greivis Vasquez, the latter two of which are closer to being described as mobile traffic cones than defensive stalwarts.
Thomas is now a Restricted Free Agent, and a lot of the conversation around him surrounds how much he'll get paid, and whether or not the Kings would be willing to go over a certain amount to re-sign him. I personally would be extremely disappointed if they didn't, as the Kings have unquestionably been much better with him on the floor the last couple seasons and a replacement for his value and production doesn't seem to be readily available. Thomas has more than proved that he's one of the better young guards in the league, and it's time he received some recognition for it.
Tuesday: Jason Thompson