NBA free agent Isaiah Thomas is 100 percent healthy once more and ready to contribute right away for any team willing to take a chance on him.
Things haven’t exactly gone smoothly for the 31-year-old guard in recent years, making him a wild card choice for teams in this year’s rather thin free agency pool.
After playing just a combined 44 games in the last two seasons, Thomas made his triumphant return to court for the Washington Wizards in the 2019-20 campaign. While he was still limited due to that nagging hip injury, the two-time All-Star actually showed flashes of his old self, norming 12.2 points and 3.7 assists on 40.3 percent shooting from the field and a career-best 41.3 percent success rate from deep in 40 games.
Despite his respectable showing, Thomas was traded to the Clippers at the deadline and was waived two days later. He hasn’t been on an NBA roster since.
At his best when he played for the Celtics, Thomas was once considered a walking bucket capable of going on remarkable scoring binges. There was a point in time when the University of Washington alum was considered the most dominant 4th quarter scorer in the league, earning the title of “King of the Fourth.”
A lot has changed since then. Even with the league going small these days, the 5-foot-9 guard’s diminutive size makes him a defensive liability.
While contenders would love to have a sparkplug off the bench like Thomas, his teammates would have to compensate for his lack of effectiveness on that end.
Furthermore, there’s some concern about how effective he will still be following that hip resurfacing procedure. But as far as Thomas is concerned, that medical issue is finally behind him.
“It's like night and day for me. There's no more pain. I've got my full range of motion. For three years, I was trying to play the best players in the world on one leg,” he said in an ESPN report.
NBA teams, of course, will not be expecting Thomas to go back producing 20-plus points a night. Still, they would love to have that veteran energizer off the bench with playoff experience to help boost their roster.
That said, here are three teams that should take a look at Isaiah Thomas next season.
The Sixers' bench needs a lot of work, especially with the uncertain future of their back-up point guards. Alec Burks and Raul Neto will also enter free agency this offseason, so they need to address that situation pronto.
Isaiah Thomas will no doubt help shore out their bench scoring, considering Philly was 26th in the league in that department last year at just 32.8 points per game.
Newly-appointed Sixers head coach Doc Rivers relied heavily on his reserve scoring specialist Lou Williams back in his stint with the Clippers. Thomas could potentially play the same role as Sweet Lou if Philly decides to give him a shot.
Adding another capable ball-handler also opens more possibilities for the Sixers, since they can slide Ben Simmons to the power forward spot. This will greatly improve their offensive sets, considering defenses simply laid off on Simmons whenever he was operating outside the perimeter.
Thomas is a career 36.4 percent shooter from distance and he’ll make defenders pay if left wide open. While known primarily as a shoot-first combo guard, Thomas is also a capable playmaker averaging 5.0 assists in his 11-year career. He could do a lot of damage alongside Joel Embiid in pick-and-roll scenarios.
Thomas’ biggest allure, however, is that the Sixers won’t have to break the bank to get his services. They could probably even offer him a one-year deal just to test out where he’s at physically.
Thomas has been angling for a Celtics reunion ever since he got waived by the Clippers last February. The one-time All NBA Second Team member made it clear that he holds no ill will towards the franchise after they traded him to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2017 in that massive Kyrie Irving deal.
Some pundits felt the Cs did him dirty by trading him away even after the dedication he showed to the team where he blossomed into an All-Star. Thomas once averaged 28.9 points per game for Boston in the 2016-17 campaign. If they welcome him back to the fold, the diminutive guard said he will embrace a bench role and do whatever it takes to help the team win.
For sure!! I just want to be apart of something. Small piece to help at any point. That goes for any team thought next season. I JUST WANT TO WIN! https://t.co/v3djurzjj7
— Isaiah Thomas (@isaiahthomas) September 8, 2020
The Cs did have a spectacular run in the 2020 playoffs, but their weak bench proved to be their Achilles heel in the Eastern Conference Finals. Thomas does have his shortcomings, but no doubt he could provide some much-needed firepower for head coach Brad Stevens.
He could play as back-up for Kemba Walker and ensure the Cs don’t lose much scoring production whenever he takes a breather or figures in an off night. Defenses also won’t be able to commit fully to Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, considering Thomas is a gifted shooter.
Moreover, his arrival won’t disrupt Boston’s strong team chemistry since Thomas has a good relationship with former teammates Brown and Marcus Smart.
Signing Thomas, however, should be more than be just a feel-good story for the Cs and he must prove he is healthy once more to make this happen.
Golden State Warriors
Isaiah Thomas was quite vocal about his desire to be a part of the Dubs’ exciting system.
I need that warriors action. I’ll come off the bench serving!!! https://t.co/0dnyLQHdJD
— Isaiah Thomas (@isaiahthomas) August 15, 2020
With superstars Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson all healed up for next season, Golden State could use another high-scoring guard to relieve them off the bench.
The Warriors certainly missed Shaun Livingston’s contributions after he announced his retirement last year. While Isaiah Thomas is nowhere as big as the 6-foot-7 guard, he could offer the same value from a leadership standpoint.
Thomas’ game certainly fits the bill with how the Warriors like to run things. He plays fast, is a lights-out shooter, and an unselfish playmaker on the break. Warriors head coach Steve Kerr also don’t have issues going small. We could even see a three-guard rotation, with Thompson playing the 3 and Curry playing off-ball at shooting guard.
Thomas, nonetheless, must carry his weight on defense to earn significant minutes. Curry is not a solid defender himself, so the Dubs might get exposed with the two of them sharing the floor together.
The Dubs do have intriguing youngsters like Ky Bowman and Jordan Poole on that roster, but they could definitely use another battle-tested veteran who they can acquire at an affordable price.