Ever since the departure of the Big 3, NBA analysts and even Celtics fans have been clamoring for a superstar to once again don the green. Over the last 3 years, the rumors have certainly been swirling. The Celtics own a true treasure chest of assets, including prime draft selections, young talent, and even some established talent that could all play a part in engineering a move to bring a true NBA superstar to Boston.
Chances are, if a superstar is rumored to be on the trade block, the Celtics are “rumored” to be in hot pursuit. The Celtics brass and fan base would absolutely love to have any one of the Klay Thompson’s or Kevin Durant’s of the world. But entering the fourth year of the rebuild, the only move publicly recognized as “franchise-altering” is the signing of a good, not great, NBA all-star Al Horford to a max contract this past summer.
However, back in the 2014-2015 season, Danny Ainge made a rather under-the-radar move to those outside Boston when he acquired point guard Isaiah Thomas from the Phoenix Suns for Marcus Thornton and a 2016 first round pick obtained from a previous deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers. The move finally got Thomas in green, a move Ainge tried to engineer in the past. In fact, do you know who Danny called just as the clock struck midnight and free agency opened in 2014? Isaiah Thomas. The 5’9 guard from Tacoma, Washington could score. We all knew that. Yet, many didn’t expect Isaiah to be more than just a spark off the bench.
In his first 117 games with Boston, Thomas is averaging 22.1 points per game and just a shade over 6.0 assists a game. As the “little guy” continues to grow as an NBA player, he just keeps getting better and better. After being acquired by the Celtics, Thomas averaged 19.0 points per game to finish out his first half season in green. The next year, he added a full 3 points onto his average and finished with 22.2 ppg. Now, in the 2016-2017 season, Thomas has put up numbers of a top NBA point guard with 26.4 ppg and 6.3 assists per game. You wouldn’t know it due to public perception of the undersized guard, but his player efficiency rating is actually higher than those of publicly deemed NBA stars, Carmelo Anthony and Kyrie Irving. IT is lethal on the offensive end, and it’s time people start to realize it.
Being the go-to scorer on the Celtics has helped Thomas grow in leaps and bounds. While indulging my taste buds in some Kowloon last night, I scrolled down my twitter feed and saw quite the eye popping stat: Isaiah Thomas has taken 145 free throws this season. No other Celtic has more than 27. Is that absurd or is that absurd? He’s dominating the ball, and it works tremendously when he’s on the floor.
The Celtics’ rise from cellar-dweller to being perhaps one big move away from title contention is in large part due to Thomas. He turned a 25 win team into a 42 win team. Then, he turned that 42 win team into a 48 win team. Not only is the success brewing on the court, but off the court in opposing players taking interest in what the Celtics have assembled. For the first time in franchise history, the Celtics signed a max contract free agent. The first time in franchise history! Not only that, but they heavily intrigued one of the top stars in the entire league, Kevin Durant. Getting spurned by Durant was seen miles and miles away, but for that brief offseason period, the Celtics and their fans saw the light at the end of the tunnel getting closer and closer. Still to this day, that light is almost within arm’s reach.
Who should you thank for all of this? None other than the little guy, Isaiah Thomas.
By Mark Panzini