Overlooked his whole life, Isaiah Thomas is now turning heads this year with his fearless and aggressive nature.
“You have to develop your whole game to completion”
Over All-Star weekend this past month, this quote from Isaiah Thomas was circulating around, emphasizing how hard work had paid off for the little man. However, beyond the All-Star grinning ear to ear all weekend, some people around the NBA began to take notice of the evolution of Isaiah’s aggressive and clutch abilities.
In the midst of a career year, Thomas is averaging career highs in points, assists, rebounds and free throw percentage (21.4, 6.8, 2.9, 88.9%). Along with these career highs, Thomas has a higher assist percentage than Stephen Curry and also has the 13th-most win shares in all of the NBA. His consistent scoring and passing ability deserves recognition, especially when considering the rest of the players in the NBA who average 21 and 6 or better:
Not only is this a rather short list, but also includes some of the NBA’s best.
However, in order to understand the improvements Isaiah has made, as well as the value he has to the Celtics, one must look a little deeper.
Behind the smiling, high-spirited Celtic is a fearless attacker. Thomas ranks third in the NBA in drives per game, behind only DeMar DeRozan and Eric Bledsoe. Thomas scores more points on drives than James Harden and LeBron James, while ranking fifth in the NBA in free throw attempts among players who average eight or more drives per game. Due to this relentless penetration, he ranks sixth in the league in potential assists per game.
Thomas’s ability to score around the rim has led to defenses, even those with great interior defenders, to shift their focus to him, which creates space for the rest of the Celtics’ shooters.
Aside from that ridiculous pass…look at how all of the defenders converge once Isaiah gets into the paint.
Every single defender’s eyes are focused on Isaiah as he attacks the hoop. He has commanded this attention by utilizing one of the league’s best hesitation dribbles to get to the hoop and finish among bigger defenders all season long.
As seen above, Thomas has not slowed down when the game is on the line. Thomas is fourth in the league in total points scored in the clutch this season, and is doing so in a very efficient manner. Also, he isn’t merely taking the final shot, as his clutch genes have commanded respect from defenses when the game is on the line…providing openings for his teammates:
It’s hard to credit one player for the Celtics’ success thus far, but Thomas has been a pace-setter for this young team. After being drafted with the last pick in the 2011 draft, Thomas has enjoyed proving his doubters wrong. So far in Boston, Thomas hasn’t just proven his doubters wrong, but he has made them feel their mistakes. Just a week ago, Suns General Manager Ryan McDonough claimed that trading Isaiah was his biggest mistake, after seeing his ability to flourish in the Celtics’ fast-paced offense.
Now that Isaiah’s game has come full circle and he is no longer a spark plug off the bench, but an aggressive pure point guard, it’s no surprise that people have started to recognize his ability. For a guy who is shadowed by the tag of Mr. Irrelevant, this success is no small accomplishment. Isaiah has searched for validation his whole life, but now that he’s gotten it, don’t think for a second he’s done. Don’t let the smile and size fool you.
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