Despite the successes of Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Kevin Durant, among others, Isaiah Thomas is the true MVP of the NBA.
What Isaiah is doing for a player his stature is ridiculous, and people either can envy that, or relate to it. Most people are doing the latter. Thomas has turned the Celtics from a playoff contender, into a legitimate threat to win the NBA Finals. The Celtics are currently 31-18, good for first in the Atlantic Division and second in the Eastern Conference, nipping on the heels of the Cleveland Cavaliers. At the moment, Thomas is the second biggest name in Boston sports, trailing only Jesus Christ reincarnated, Tom Brady.
For starters, Thomas is second in the NBA in scoring, dropping in 29.4 points a night. He trails only Russell Westbrook’s 30.7 ppg, despite IT taking 4 less shots than Westbrook on average. Thomas has shut the mouths of the “Isaiah Thomas isn’t a foundational player” crew. But even his most loyal believers could not have seen this coming.
In his latest game, Isaiah dropped 44 points on the Toronto Raptors, scoring 19 in the fourth quarter, where he has typically done his most damage. IT leads the NBA in fourth quarter scoring at 10.5 points per game, showing he’s most dangerous at the most critical times in games. When he gets cooking in the fourth, he’ll let you know what time it is. Winning time. He’s gone over 20 points four times in the fourth quarter so far this season, becoming the “King in the Fourth.”
Thomas has only picked up his scoring since his usual backcourt partner, Avery Bradley, went down with an Achilles injury, which has caused him to miss the last 12 games. In those last 12, the Celtics are 8-4, with Thomas averaging 34.5 points per game. In those 12 matchups, IT went over the 40-point mark three times, and was only held under 30 twice.
He should win Eastern Conference Player of the Month for January (he got snubbed for December, for the record), after scorching defenses to the tune of 32.9 points, 6.9 (nice) assists, while shooting 49% from the field, 43% from deep and 94% from the free throw line.
Being the only player on his team that can consistently create his own shots off the dribble, the fact that nobody has been able to stop this 5’9” behemoth is incredible. However, Thomas isn’t just a chucker.
Fun fact: Isaiah Thomas shoots more free throws than he does threes. His change of pace, body control and speed allow him to blow by defenders and draw contact at a consistent rate. Thomas shoots 8.5 freebies a game, hitting 91% of him, making him the most deadly shooter from the line. Eight of his 18 shots from the field come from behind the arc, where he hits 38% on the year.
Thomas’ ability to run an offense has also improved on the year, thanks to the additions of Al Horford, Jaylen Brown and Gerald Green (when he actually plays). Due to these additions, Thomas is averaging a career high in assists, with 6.4 a game.
Him and Horford have excellent chemistry on the pick-and-pop and pick-and-roll game. Any indecision by a defender either leads to a Thomas layup, or a Horford three or dunk. Thomas and Brown have been exciting in transition, where Brown uses pure power and athleticism to finish above the defense.
The fact that Isaiah Thomas wasn’t named an All-Star starter above Kyrie Irving is beyond me. Maybe I should have voted more? Thomas could join the short list of players to win the MVP despite not being named an All-Star starter. Also on the list are Bob Petit, Bill Russell (twice), Wes Unseld, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Moses Malone, David Robinson and, most recently Steve Nash. All of whom are Hall of Famers or Future Hall of Famers (Nash).
Thomas would be the first Celtic to win the MVP since, you guessed it, Larry Bird all the way back in 1986. With the way Thomas has improved his game for last year into this year, he could become the first player to win the MVP and the Most Improved Player Award in the same year.
However, Thomas still has to finish strong. Last year after the All-Star break, Thomas scored 23.6 per game. For Boston to hang on to the number two seed in the East and win the Atlantic Division, they’ll need Thomas to put up at least 26 a night. Scoring 20 points hasn’t been a problem for Isaiah, as he’s scored 20+ points in 33 straight games. A streak that is second only to John Havlicek, whose Celtics record sits at 40 straight games.
In five years in the NBA, Thomas has gone from last overall pick, to starting point guard, to castoff and bench player, to solid starter, elite guard, and now, an MVP candidate. With his contract running up after next season, the Celtics better start packing up the Brinks truck for their franchise point guard.
Cover Photo via Ball Don’t Stop
Other Photo via Twitter