For Isaiah Thomas, Boston will send Marcus Thornton and a 2016 first-round pick via Cleveland to Phoenix, league source tells Yahoo Sports.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) February 19, 2015
When the dust finally settled following the NBA trade deadline, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo NBA reported that Isaiah Thomas was on his way to the Boston Celtics. This was following some confusion on the part of ESPN’s Marc Stein, who just minutes prior tweeted that the Philadelphia 76ers would acquire Isaiah Thomas along with future first round picks.
Who can really blame Stein for making this mistake? This was among the most explosive, fast-paced, and confusing NBA trade deadlines in history. Just about every deal that appeared to be straight forward between two NBA teams ended up involving a third, or even a fourth team in some cases. Stein redeemed himself anyway, by later breaking the story that the had received a return for a second expiring veteran off their roster.
Hearing Tayshaun Prince to Detroit for Jerebko and Datome
— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) February 19, 2015
Regardless, the big news for the Celtics is the addition of Phoenix Suns point guard Isaiah Thomas. Having just turned 26 years old, Thomas is on an extremely friendly contract which will keep him in Boston through 2018 for an average salary of $6,750,000. While Thomas was the third option on Phoenix in a backcourt which included Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic, Thomas is easily capable of being a first option on less-equipped teams.
Statistically, Thomas is poised to fit right in with the other Celtics guards, mainly Marcus Smart and Avery Bradley. Of the three, Thomas averages the most points per game (15.2), most assists per game (3.7), best 3-point percentage (.391), and is just .003 percent behind Bradley in overall shooting percentage. Thomas also gets to the charity stripe approximately three times more often than Smart or Bradley per 100 possessions. In other words, despite being just 5′ 9″, Isaiah Thomas likes to take the ball to the hoop.
Thomas’s height is problematic in some situations, however. He is considered a defensive liability, particularly when he is matched up with a taller guard. Fortunately for him, Bradley and (even more so) Smart are considered two of the leagues most persistent defenders. This allows Coach Steven some flexibility with who Thomas will have to cover, since Bradley or Smart can step up and take the more difficult assignment.
With Thomas and Bradley so close in many statistical categories, it is important to remember that Thomas was on the back-burner a lot of times in Phoenix. He was averaging five less minutes a game than Bradley, and he started in just one out of 46 games. This means that Thomas takes an even bigger statistical leap over the Celtics guards when they are analyzed per 36 minutes. The big question going forward will be whether he can be equally productive with, most likely, a bigger share of minutes in Boston.
There was some initial backlash from Boston fans on the acquisition of another guard, mainly due to Thomas taking playing time from the beloved Marcus Smart. However, the guards will fulfill very different roles; Thomas will allow Smart to keep working on his three stroke and defensive game, while also potentially teaching him a thing or two about driving to the hoop.
Additionally the Celtics needed a replacement for the expiring contract of Marcus Thornton anyway. The fact that they were able to turn Thornton, along with a sure-to-be LATE 2016 first-round pick from Cleveland into a sure scoring boost for the Celtics is nothing short of impressive. Ainge was able to turn water in to wine today, as he sent a largely ineffective player who was on his way out in two months and a relatively invaluable draft pick and turn it into an asset for his team.
In all likelihood, Thomas is just a taste of what awaits the Celtics during the offseason. He is one of many assets, which Ainge acquires with ease, which he can use to reel in other players (free agents or trade targets) to get Boston back on the radar. The addition of Isaiah Thomas will provide an instant boost to the Celtics, especially in the area of scoring. It will be exciting to see what he is capable of when he can get the ball in his hands a little more often.
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