By John Albinson, Chief Sports Editor
Isaiah Thomas never had time to listen to doubters. Selected with the last pick of the 2011 NBA Draft by the Sacramento Kings, his official league pre-draft projection reads: “Thomas will mount a spirited attempt to make an NBA roster.” Standing at 5’9”, Thomas spent the first three seasons of his career with Sacramento, where he first began to flash his true potential as a star. After averaging 20.3 points per game in his final season with the Kings, Thomas was acquired by the Phoenix Suns in the summer of 2014. After one relatively unexciting season in Phoenix, he was traded to the Boston Celtics. In his first season donning the green and white, he finished second in NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award voting. In his second season, he took over the starting point guard role and earned his first NBA All-Star selection (effectively becoming the lowest draft pick to earn an All-Star berth). This year, in his third season, Thomas has been playing the best basketball of his life—and he’s showed no signs of slowing down.
Thomas has been having himself an MVP-caliber season this year. He’s averaging 29.9 points per game, which is second in the league behind Oklahoma City superstar Russell Westbrook (30.9). He’s also averaging career-highs in assists and rebounds per game; most importantly, he’s lead the Celtics to a 33-18 record—good for second in the Eastern Conference. Thomas has become a fan favorite in his city, and certain Boston sports icons have also recognized his massive talent and popularity. In the past week, Tom Brady told Thomas that it is “[his] turn next,” and former Celtics great Paul Pierce proclaimed that Thomas had “taken the torch.”
After scoring a career-high 52 points in a game against Miami on December 30, Thomas has been on an absolute tear in 2017. He averaged 32.9 points per game in the month of January, leading the Celtics to a 10-4 record. In the midst of his offensively prolific month, Thomas was named an All-Star for the second consecutive year; the next week, he was named Eastern Conference Player of the Month, prompting Bill Simmons to label Thomas’ January “[one] of the craziest hot streaks in Celts history (if it even qualifies as a hot streak anymore).” Most notably, Thomas has become known for his fourth-quarter efficiency, leading the league in points scored in the final fifteen minutes, at 10.1—the fourth-best mark in the league over the past 20 years. As Thomas himself even said, “the fourth quarter ain’t for everybody.”
With Brad Stevens, one of the best head coaches in the NBA, plus Thomas and a slew of future first round picks, the Celtics seem to be one of the most promising teams in the league. Of course, the team hasn’t won a playoff series since the days of Pierce, KG, Allen, and Rondo (2012 to be exact), but that’s expected to change come this year’s postseason. As Thomas tweeted last month, “Couple people that hate me but way more people show love.” As he’s quickly ascended from second round draft pick to NBA superstar, that sentiment could not be more true.
Photograph Credits: Sporting News