The Tony Parker era is about to end in San Antonio very soon. This season is quite possibly the last time that the beloved point guard will be putting on a San Antonio Spurs jersey in NBA arenas as he hangs up his sneakers for the last time. Soon, the Spurs will have to replace Parker. What about Isaiah Thomas?
Thomas will be a free agent in July, and his market value will be determined by his performances with the Los Angeles Lakers.
In six weeks, the season will be over and he will be evaluated by teams, including L.A., across the league this summer.
It is unlikely that he will command the max contract that he is looking for, but Thomas’ services are still in need. There are a number of teams who could use another ball-handler, such as the Oklahoma City Thunder’s bench or Minnesota Timberwolves’ starting lineup.
Perhaps they’d be able to sign Thomas for less than a max contract; however, Thomas’ best fit would be south in San Antonio as a championship contender.
The soon-to-retire Parker isn’t your usual playmaker. He’s more suited to running around and looking for opportunities to score inside. The Spurs are used to scoring point guards like him and Thomas is built similarly. Their system calls for plenty of ball movement so the assists are pretty much spread out anyway. In fact, Thomas is a better scorer than Parker and should be equal to the task as a playmaker.
For his career, Parker is averaging 16.0 points, 5.7 assists, and 2.8 rebounds while Thomas has career averages of 18.9 points, 5.1 assists, and 2.6 rebounds.
For those wondering about Thomas being a locker room problem, the situation with the Cavaliers is quite unique. Not only was he frustrated with his own play, he may have also been concerned that his return from injury has resulted in the Cavaliers’ chemistry problems.
Though he appears to be blaming other players for the chaos that was the Cavs’ locker room, that’s only because of how badly the team was playing. Remember, it was a historically terrible month of January for the Cavs. Everyone was frustrated.
But if you look at Thomas’ time with the Celtics especially in the 2016-17 season, he had a reputation as “The King in the Fourth,” a title that reflects his penchant for scoring many of his points in clutch situations. Even with defenses focusing on him, Thomas repeatedly got off his shots whether outside or inside. And even when he was doubled, he found the open man. He was the leader of an upstart team making noise in the playoffs. He was an MVP candidate, an All-Star, All-NBA selection, and brought the Celtics to the brink of the NBA Finals.
Does anyone even remember any time at all with the Celtics when he was a poison in the locker room? Of course not. They were winning and Thomas was a model citizen.
Had he not been injured, the Celtics could have kept him and he might be the one leading that team this season, not Kyrie Irving.
All Thomas needs is a chance.
And he certainly received that chance to showcase his wares in the game between the Lakers and the Miami Heat. Bill Oram of the Orange County Register wrote about Thomas’ own thoughts about his best game of the season.
“The newest Laker scored 29 points in 29 minutes in the Lakers’ 131-113 win over the Heat on Thursday night, his best performance since being acquired from Cleveland on Feb. 8. Earlier in the day, the former All-Star said if he is given ‘the same opportunity that I was given in Boston, I would do the same thing.’
It was hard to argue after Thursday’s performance, with Thomas trading big shots with Heat star Dwyane Wade in the fourth quarter. Thomas used it as a reminder to the league.
‘I could do it,’ Thomas said after the win. ‘I’ve done it before. I’m a scorer, I’m a guy that makes plays. So when given that opportunity, I’ve showed I can do it, but there’s no other way around it. I’m not here to prove to anybody I can do it, the world knows what I bring to the table.’”
Thomas is never lacking in confidence and any team that picks him up knows what he’s capable of—scoring in bunches, passing the ball to an open man when he can’t score, and a never-say-die attitude even when the chips are down.
Since he had just come back from an injury, his short stint with the Cavs isn’t the best picture of what Thomas can provide a team. It’s with the Lakers that Thomas has had more opportunities to shine. Perhaps it’s the fact that he’s surrounded by younger players that he feels more respected and, thus, more comfortable.
“All you need is one team to love you,” Thomas said Thursday, according to Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. “It’s like the draft all over again. You just need one team.”
Gregg Popovich is the perfect coach for Thomas who needs a system that showcases his talents and helps mask his defensive deficiencies. The Celtics were able to do that for him. The Spurs can do that as well.
Thomas knows that Pop is a no-nonsense coach, someone who wants to win just as much as he does. Popovich knows how good Thomas is and how good he can be if he were to play for the Spurs.
In an interview a little more than a year ago, Popovich perfectly described how Thomas plays.
“It’s just hard to keep up with him,” Popovich said according to Jay King of Mass Live. “He’s a tricky little dude.
“He’s got a lot of ways to score. He’ll find the open man if that’s appropriate. But he’s just tough to stick with, and the way the game is today, when you have shooters around people like that, you end up with two (players) on one in certain situations, and then it’s a matter of timing. Either he wins the battle of finding the open man, or you get back to where you have to be. So he’s just very clever with the way that he scores.”
Having a starting lineup that features Thomas, Kawhi Leonard, and LaMarcus Aldridge looks like a strong playoff contender already. If the opportunity arises, the Spurs should look to sign Thomas in the offseason.
He could well be the point guard that the Spurs have been looking for to take over for Parker.