Isaiah Thomas faces growing pains as Sacramento Kings starting point guard

Isaiah Thomas looks on during a pause in action against the Brooklyn Nets. (Photo: Tobin Halsey)

Isaiah Thomas has a come a long way from being the last pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. The 5-foot-9 point guard has fought through skepticism and doubt over his height to become a starter for the Sacramento Kings.

“I knew ever since he was going into the draft, he was going to do big things just knowing how he plays,” said Thomas’ former college teammate Terrence Ross, who now plays for the Toronto Raptors. “And he has that dog in him that he’s going to go out there and give you everything he has. He’s a great player. Everything he’s doing, I’m just proud of him.”

Thomas is indeed having a terrific season. He’s playing at a career-best level this year and taken advantage of every opportunity that’s come his way. Though he’s beaten the odds up to this point, he still has a ways to go before reaching his ceiling. As his recent play demonstrates, the third-year guard has some work ahead of him before he’s considered one of the top players at his position.

Thomas has played at a high level all year, even at the start of the season when he came off the bench for 18 games. From October to December, Thomas averaged a healthy 19.3 points and 6.1 assists over the course of 29 games.

Thomas’ production hasn’t dropped off following the turn of the calendar year, but what has fallen is his efficiency. In 2014, Thomas has shot 41.9 percent from the field compared to 46.3 percent in 2013, while increasing his attempts by three per game. His 3-point percentage, which had been at a career-high level throughout much of the season, has dropped from 41.5 percent in 2013 to 32 percent in 2014.

His penchant for shooting has limited his growth as a playmaker. The third-year point guard has averaged 6.2 assists per 36 minutes in the new year, a slight decrease from his 6.9 per 36 average from October to January. Thomas has shown flashes of making his teammates better, but it’s still an area that doesn’t come naturally at this point in his career.  Last night in a loss to the Boston Celtics, Thomas recorded just six assists while taking 23 shots to score 24 points.

Former teammate Greivis Vasquez is not surprised that Thomas is playing well since his departure to Toronto in the Rudy Gay trade. But as someone who produced career numbers a season ago for a bad team, the Raptors guard put the notion of statistical production into perspective.

“I think Isaiah is having a great season,” Vasquez said earlier this week. “I think the numbers he’s putting up are great numbers, ain’t no question. You don’t really need to discuss or doubt anything that he can play in this league.

“But to me, it’s more about winning than anything,” Vasquez added.  “I put (up) big numbers last year and I was on a losing team.”

Thomas still has weaknesses that need to be addressed. However, he’s proved skeptics wrong many times before. It may be time for him to do it again.


Jonathan Santiago
Jonathan Santiago serves Cowbell Kingdom as senior editor specializing in writing, podcasting and video production. He also handles the majority of CK’s day-to-day beat coverage of the Kings.

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