The Curious Case of Isaiah Thomas

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The NBA is going to name the starters for the2017 NBA All-Star game tomorrow. The most recent ballad returns revealed LeBron James and Steph Curry leading the pack with 10,66,147 and 9,90,390 votes. The Eastern Conference has LeBron, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jimmy Butler all locked up in Forwards amongst the starting five. The other two guard’s spot though are up for grabs. Talents like Kyrie Irwing, Kyle Lowry, Demar Derozan, Dwayne Wade, Kemba Walker and John Wall are all in contention and each of them provide a compelling case as to why they deserve that spot. Another name that certainly needs attention is the rising Celtics star and often underappreciated Isaiah Thomas.

With Kyrie almost a definitive lock for the first guard spot, Isaiah Thomas should get the other one. To fully appreciate what he is doing to the league and as to make a persuasive case, let’s take a look the following points.
Isaiah came into the league five years ago. He was drafted 60th by the Sacramento Kings, last in the second round (last in the entire draft). In his rookie season, he averaged 11 points and 4 assists coming off the bench. After getting traded to Phoenix for no-names, again as a part of the second unit, he averaged 22.5 points and 6 assists. He also finished second in the 6th-Man race that season. And finally, joining Brad Stevens and the crew in the rebuilding phase of the Celtics, he is now the primary scoring option and the starting point-guard for the Boston Celtics. Last season for the Celtics (he played 21 games) he managed 19 points a night with zero starts and got into the All-Star Game.

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In the fourth year of his tenure, Brad Stevens lifted the 0.325 losing team to a 0.611 win team and are now sitting at the third spot in the East and are have the seventh best record in the NBA. Isaiah Thomas has been a major reason why. He has helped them become a good team (defense is holding them back) and for the first time since the era of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen they have won 50 and more game.
This season he is racking up 28.7 points, 2.6 rebounds and 6.1 assist a game. Isaiah is managing all this with a field goal percentage of 49%. Brad Stevens has allowed his talents to mature as the go-to guy on his talent laden team and is now the spark plug of his squad. His playing time this season has gone up by just 1.5 minutes which has contributed of an output of over six plus points and an increased shooting from both the inside and beyond the arc. To top it all off, his turnovers are down.
He has shown ability to make drives to the hoop and can kick the ball out to perimeter. He excels at scoring off double-ball-screens, is a tenacious defender and executes 77% of pick and rolls with success. This 5’9” player is shortest in the league. Drafted behind 59 other players, he is now leading the association in fourth quarter scoring with 10.1 points on an average. His clutch gene has time and again proven his undeniable talent. NBA fans witnessed that potential when Thomas delivered a 50 point night with 29 in the fourth. In the lustrous history of the Celtics, only 2 have managed to acquire the same feat. With the addition of a bonafide foundational player in Al Horford, they are now wining. Many have reasons to believe that he could potentially win the Most Improved Player of the Year award over the heavily favored Eric Gordon from the Rockets. In the last 20 years, he has the highest PER rating at 41.9 and is followed right behind by Russell Westbrook (39.4) and way past the highest of 40 set by LeBron in the same span and is amongst the top ten MVP contenders this season.

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The question naturally arises: how far will the Boston Celtics go?
The Celtics are a good team. But they are a couple of pieces to short to give the Cavaliers any reason to even sweat a little. First, Danny Ange must gather a component to simply add on to their fire power. Second, which is a more glaring problem, they need a defensive addition. With the starting five of Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Marcus Smart, Al Horford and Isaiah Thomas, their defense is unable to contain opposing offences. Apart from Bradley, the team is slow on switching on defensive assignments and fails at closing out three point shooters. Al Horford becomes a non-factor against pick and rolls utilized by players like Kevin Love and Mark Gasol. Though some line-up changes did help improve their defensive ratings, by switching in Kelly Olynyk, it goes up by a staggering 22 points. This is only a temporary solution as Olynyk is limited in the paint and a permanent substitution is the need of the hour. They have a young team and are surrounded by talented pieces. Keeping in mind the two Brooklyn draft picks that they have, the Celtics have a bright future ahead of them.

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Isaiah Thomas is proving to the league why he must be taken seriously. All the while drawing comparisons to Hall of Famer Allen Iverson, he is statistically having a similar year to Steph Curry from when he won his first MVP. Playing in the most competitive position in today’s day, he has certainly made a compelling case as to why he should start the All-Star Game. And should he make it, he would be starting beside the other guard Kyrie Irwing who was drafted number one in the same year.

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