Even though Christmas is nearly here I have been a real Grinch about the Cleveland Cavaliers chance of being able to land New Orleans Pelicans superstar DeMarcus Cousins or Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George.
But, I will not be a total killjoy this holiday season as Yahoo Sports NBA Insider Shams Charania decided to spread some holiday cheer to Cavs fans:
Cavaliers All-Star guard Isaiah Thomas is targeting the first week of January for his season debut with Cleveland, league sources tell Yahoo.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) December 18, 2017
With Isaiah Thomas finally making his long-awaited debut for the Cavs, the team will finally be complete after the infamous Kyrie Irving trade. In honor of IT’s #3 (which he chose because his favorite player growing up was Allen Iverson), I will be breaking down just why exactly the return of Thomas is so big for the Cavs in three very clear ways.
1) Finally finding balance with their main floor general
When the Cavs traded for Thomas, considered one of the main pieces of the before-mentioned Irving trade, they were aware of the fact that it would be a while until Thomas returned to the floor due to his hip injury. No problem, thought the Cavs at the time, as they had also signed former MVP Derrick Rose to hold down the fort in Thomas’s absence and also signed Calderon as an insurance policy.
But, with Rose leading the first unit’s offense at the point, the team struggled mightily, with the bench having to bail out the starters on countless occasions. Rose was the lynchpin of some of the team’s struggles as he looked to score more often than not and not create for his teammates by averaging a measly 1.7 assists when he was the Cavs starting point guard.
The other problem with Rose is the fact that throughout his career he has been sidelined with a myriad of injuries and the injury bug did bite again, after this no-call foul on then-Milwaukee Bucks center Greg Monroe:
This caused the team to turn to both Iman Shumpert, a natural shooting guard who was just as bad as Rose, and Jose Calderon, who has been reliable for the Cavs but can only keep it up for so long at 36 years old.
Besides turning to Calderon and Shumpert after losing Rose to injury, the team also had to turn to LeBron James as the team’s starting point guard. While James is arguably one of the greatest playmakers of all time, point guard is not his natural position and expecting him to primarily play point all season long would just wear him down and would be foolish if the team wants to win another NBA Championship.
With Thomas finally returning, the Cavs have their answer for the hole at the point guard spot. He will take some time to gel with the team, but when he does he will be dynamic with his panache to score the ball in bunches and is always a more than willing playmaker. The Cavs did have a former-MVP running the point early on in the season, but now they will be led by Thomas, someone who finished fifth in last year’s MVP voting (only just behind his new teammate LeBron James.) The duo of James and Thomas creating, slashing, and scoring will be amazing for the Cavs as they continue to be the cream of the Eastern Conference’s crop.
2) The Cavs offense will go beyond…Plus Ultra
Speaking of the duo of James and Thomas, who are now nicknamed David and Goliath, the offensive production for the Cavs will be jumping off the charts in every aspect of the game.
According to NBA.com, the Cavs currently have the third-best offense in the league, behind the Houston Rockets and the Golden State Warriors. The stats that jump off the page for the Cavs are the fact that they rank sixth in assist percentage, eighth in three-point shooting percentage, and eleventh off of points scored from free-throws scored. With the return of Thomas, all three of these statistics can only improve as he can contribute in major ways.
As mentioned before, the Cavs would finally have stability at the point guard position in part to the fact that Thomas’s return would create even more offense for the Wine and Golders. With a career average of 5.2 assists, which is huge compared to both Rose (1.7) and Calderon (2.0), the ball will be able to flow even more with Thomas running the point and his career average will probably be a lot higher after this season due to playing alongside players like Kevin Love and LeBron James and his old teammate Jae Crowder.
In terms of three-point shooting, Thomas again would be huge for a Cavs team that prided themselves on being an elite three-point shooting team a year ago. With a career average of nearly 37%, Thomas can be a huge asset to a team that features Love, Crowder, Kyle Korver, Channing Frye, and even James as reliable three-point shooters and will easily cause the team’s three-point percentage to near the top of the league. Also, look for Thomas’s career three-point percentage to also skyrocket with so many open looks playing alongside what is shaping up to be an All-Star team.
Finally, Thomas is notorious for not only being able to kill opponent’s defenses from beyond the arc, but also from attacking the rim as seen below:
With an other-worldly ability to finish at the rim, Thomas will also draw plenty of fouls for the Cavs and this will be especially apparent with the defensive nightmares players like Love and James also create to allow Thomas to operate in space. With the added draw fouls, Thomas will make teams pay from the charity stripe, where he has knocked down his shots 87.6% of the time. Pairing him alongside a player like Korver would be perfect for the Cavs in crunch time situations where the opposing team is forced to foul the Cavs, with a near-guarantee every time either one of them are at the free throw line.
Overall, the Cavs have always had a blistering offense ever since LeBron James returned to the team a few seasons ago but this season they have lacked the same punch that it always has. When Thomas returns, the team will finally look like its old self and can arguably be at the same level as Houston’s by season’s end.
3) “Leadership is practiced not so much in words as in attitude and actions.”
From the moment he has entered the league, Thomas has been viewed as an underdog his entire career which causes him to play with a chip on his shoulder. He was considered too short and a long shot to stay in the league, and was picked 60th overall by the Sacramento Kings. The Kings, who have not had a winning formula in almost twenty years, then traded away a talented Thomas to the Phoenix Suns, and he still had to battle for minutes with Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic, only making his chip bigger. He was then shipped off to the Celtics, expected to tank and the chip was only getting bigger and bigger.
With already an edge, Thomas decided that he would will the Celtics to win and over time, they became the Cavs biggest rival. But, even after being anointed as the future of the Celtics (and one of their all-time greats!), Thomas was doubted yet again and was traded to the Cleveland, a city that has plenty of people with a mentality of us against the world.
Instead of sulking, or moaning, or whining about being traded to his biggest rival, Thomas viewed his new opportunity with the Cavs as a blessing in disguise. In his Players Tribune piece titled This is for Boston, Thomas was quick to say this about his new home:
“I’mma just say this here, point-blank, to get it over with — and then you can go ahead and post it on whatever bulletin boards you want to: You are not going to want to mess with the Cavs this year…Me on the Cavs is a match made in heaven. If you’ve watched any Celtics games last year, then you know how many times I would have to go through double and even triple teams, just to get my shot off. … But this year … man, it’s not even going to be a thing. You really going to throw three guys on me, when I’m sharing a court with the best basketball player on the planet? Nah, I don’t think so.”
This confidence and swagger, combined with a player with the same mentality as The Land itself is a near-Disney story and his attitude is damn-near contagious and will only trickle down to the rest of the team.
It is already showing too just from Thomas’s support while on the sidelines. Every single game, whether home or on the road, Thomas can be easily seen cheering on his teammates and has become famous on social media for his attitude:
With Thomas, the Cavs finally have a true leader at the point guard position, something they never had in Kyrie Irving. Instead of preaching conspiracy theories about the Earth’s shape or not wanting to play alongside the greatest of all time, Thomas is just working his way through the #SlowGrind and salivating at playing alongside LeBron James. His leadership is critical for the Cavs and will help give them an edge heading into the New Year and towards their quest for another NBA Championship.
With his Cleveland debut on the horizon, there is plenty to be excited about when it comes to Isaiah Thomas and what he brings to the table. The three biggest things that he brings to the Wine and Gold are the fact that he creates stability at the point guard spot, is a dynamic offensive threat that will only make the Cavs even more lethal, and the fact that he is a true leader, something that Cleveland has never had with Kyrie Irving running the one. While there will be growing pains, like there were at the beginning of the season, when Thomas returns but when he finally gels with the Cavs things are coming up Milhouse for the team for the near-future.