Isaiah Thomas is an obvious talent upgrade on our team and as Kevin points out in great detail, he fills a few big needs on our team. So for those reasons alone, this trade seems like a win.
However, there's a small voice inside my head questioning if this is all going to work out well. I'll explain the best I can.
Isaiah Thomas is now on his 3rd team in less than a year and both his former teams feel they are better off without him.
In Sacramento there were rumblings about him taking too many shots and it almost seemed like the team (or maybe it was just Cousins) was relieved to see him go.
The Suns were one of the most exciting feel-good-chemistry teams of the year last year. After adding Thomas in the offseason, one of their stars (Dragic) went from promising to re-sign with Phoenix to full mutiny mode, burning his bridges leading up to the deadline. One of his prime complaints was his role on the team due to the crowded backcourt.
Should we be worried about our new pint sized point producer? Is there any worry that Thomas might stunt the growth of our wonderkind future face of the franchise Marcus Smart?
First of all, as you might expect, Danny Ainge isn't worried. He's very confident that Thomas will fit in well and everything will be hunky-dory.
While it's also clear that the Celtics need depth in their backcourt, there is the obvious question of how Thomas' presence will affect rookie Marcus Smart. Thomas came off the bench in Phoenix, and it's possible he'll continue in that role.
"I think he complements Marcus," Ainge said. "I think that they can complement each other. It doesn't really change Marcus. Marcus can learn a lot from him. He can take pressure off Marcus. We've already seen that Marcus can guard multiple possessions."
But what else is Ainge going to say? If he's worried about anything he's going to keep that to himself.
So I thought I'd do some digging and check with the fans of the teams that Thomas has played for. I reached out to Dave King of Bright Side of the Sun and Akis Yerocostas of Sactown Royalty and they were kind enough to forward me on a conversation that they had this summer about Isaiah Thomas. Here's a portion of that conversation that I think is relevant to this discussion:
With all of his accomplishments, the Kings were more than ready to get rid of him this offseason. They even signed Darren Collison to replace him before he left. How did that devolve so badly?
Honestly, this is what is perplexing Kings fans the most. Thomas was a fan favorite, both for his on-court ability and his off-court persona. It's possible that the new management is trying to make this their team and clean house, but to cut ties with one of the only good assets they had makes little sense to me. The truth of the matter is that it came down to vision and money; The Kings did not see Isaiah Thomas as a starting point guard and as such didn't want to pay him starting point guard money. In their eyes they could get a quality guy in Darren Collison for less money to replace much of the value they lost in Thomas. That remains to be seen but all the evidence suggests that Thomas is a much better player than Collison.
Is $7 million a year too much for Thomas, or is it too little?
I think it's a perfect price for Thomas. Here's a guy who averaged 21.3 points and 6.8 assists as a starter last year in just his 3rd year in the league. That salary is also decreasing over time meaning it gets even better as his deal goes on. Should his production remain similar, he's fantastic value to contract and a great overall asset for the Suns.
The Suns reportedly want Thomas in that 3rd guard role off the bench, which sounds like a good role to me. What is Thomas' best NBA role?
Thomas's best role is that of a scorer. That's why so many consider him to be a 6th man type. He is good enough to be a starter in my opinion, but the Suns already have two amazing guards in Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe (assuming they bring back Bledsoe). If you need points, putting in Isaiah Thomas will help you out. If you need energy, Isaiah Thomas will help you out.
As a final note, I just want to say that Phoenix Suns fans are getting one of the easiest guys in the NBA to root for. Thomas is a guy that works his butt off, never gives up, never says never, and will never quit. We will miss him in Sacramento and I think it's very possible that the Kings will regret their decision to not bring him back.
Dave King also was kind enough to share his current thoughts on Thomas:
Isaiah is a great guy and he got along well with all the players. However he's got a huge chip on his shoulder that he exposes when he feels threatened for playing time. He wants to win games but can't see how that happens any better than him running the show. Give him 35 minutes a night and he will be thrilled. But anyone else at PG might feel pushed aside.
So the bottom line is that Thomas isn't a bad dude by any means. He just scores high on Bill Simmons' "irrational confidence" indicator. That can be a really good thing if monitored and managed effectively, which will be a challenge to Brad Stevens.
I am still a little worried about Marcus Smart and his development. I think that Stevens can utilize a 2 point guard system and there's obviously some strengths and weaknesses that allow each player to balance out the other. I just hope that Smart gets the right amount of space and opportunity to grow and develop as his own player. First he had to be Rondo's understudy, then he showed some real promise as the lead guy, and now he's going to share the stage with Thomas (who might not be good at sharing the stage).
Of course there's also the matter of Avery Bradley, the incumbent SG starter and defensive specialist. One of these three is going to be coming off the bench and Stevens may have to experiment with who works best in what role.
Maybe this will end up being a minor concern but in my mind it is a concern to keep an eye on. I'm sure, however, that Brad Stevens is already working on a master plan to work everything out. It should be very interesting to see how he handles all of this for the rest of the year and beyond.