Since the trade deadline, the Boston Celtics have been rejuvenated.
It was just another example of Danny Ainge's voodoo when he traded for Isaiah Thomas, Jonas Jerebko, and Luigi Datome, only releasing Marcus Thornton, Tayshaun Prince, and a Cleveland pick. Former Kings GM and coach, Jerry Reynolds, laughed when he heard how little the Celtics had to give up.
"That future Cleveland pick ain't going to be Isaiah Thomas. I can tell you that."- Jerry Reynolds
Now the Celtics are winning games, just half a game behind the 8th seed, and are playing fun basketball. Avery Bradley has a hot hand, Jae Crowder is filling his role well, and Isaiah Thomas is a superhero.
In his first four games, Thomas has averaged 22.3 points in 27.8 minutes off the bench. He is so offensively talented that defending him is a chore. You can't leave him on the three point line because he will knock it down given too much space. But you can't play him too tight because he will punish you with a first step like a cheetah. This is how Isaiah Thomas makes his money.
Isaiah attacks the basket fearlessly. He is just 5-9, the smallest player in the NBA, but ranks among the best in scores off isolation and drives. Watch as he beats his man off the dribble and charges at Al Jefferson-who is over a foot taller than Thomas-with the speed and determination of a Russell Westbrook or Monta Ellis.
Or here, where he nearly dunks on Gerald Henderson.
With the Phoenix Suns, Thomas was highly successful on drives off isolation, and he only turned the ball over 9.1% on all drives to the basket. Ever since joining the Celtics, Thomas has ranked 7th in points per game off isolation, according to Synergy.
But scoring isn't the only result of an isolation situation. Thomas also produces off of drive and kicks. Isaiah constantly drives and looks to the perimeter for the hot hand in Avery Bradley and even newcomer, Jonas Jerebko. Defenders tend to think that Thomas is only looking to score, and when they forget that they have lost their man, it is too late.
Through four games, Thomas has averaged 1.3 points per possession on ISOs, which would rank him fourth in the league. When he doesn't score, he turns the play into free throws. Thomas is phenomenal at absorbing contact, finishing, and getting to the line (his small stature makes the refs call fouls in his favor). He converts 40% of his ISOs into foul shots.
Isaiah Thomas has been playing like a star. Luckily, he is locked under contract until 2018, and if Ainge wants to trade him, he can be a valuable piece. In any case, Thomas is an outstanding player, one who has been overshadowed and undervalued his entire career.