Latest posts by Sam Amico (see all)
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CLEVELAND — Isaiah Thomas is set to make his Cleveland Cavaliers debut after missing the first 36 games with a hip injury.
He will be brought along slowly, sitting out one game of back-to-back sets early on.
How might Thomas help the Cavs? Let’s take a look:
1. Thomas is 5-foot-9 and uses his mind and body to create space and free himself for open looks. He can shoot from the perimeter and despite his smallish frame, finish at the rim and draw fouls.
2. Thomas is left-handed, and even in today’s NBA of endless film study, that still counts for something. He was third in the league in scoring (28.9 ppg) last season with Boston. The man who finished second, Houston’s James Harden, is also a lefty.
3. Unlike a lot of point guards, Thomas enjoys playing off the ball. That is great news for a team with LeBron James — who often waves off point guards and brings up the ball himself. That annoyed the living tar out of Kyrie Irving. It won’t bother Thomas. He would much prefer to score than pass.
4. Thomas is a good teammate, a fighter, someone who always has your back. Unlike several All-Stars, he isn’t involved in any sort of clique and isn’t looking to make friends with opponents. Anyone not wearing a Cleveland uniform will be considered an utter enemy by Thomas.
5. Two things almost always motivate NBA players: Contracts, and the feeling they were somehow slighted. Thomas has both going for him.
6. He is in the last year of his current deal. Like everyone in every profession everywhere, he is seeking max dollars in his next contract. So Thomas understands he will have to play some of the best basketball of his career between now and the end of the season — and especially, at money time in the playoffs.
7. Along with that, Thomas has thrived off doubts — about his size, about his ability to lead, about his ability to win at this level. Now, everyone is questioning if he can actually come back from a devastating hip injury. Already, Thomas is promising strong results.
1. Defense. Thomas’ size enables taller guards (read: every guard) to back him down and shoot over him. Nor is he strong enough to bump opponents off their spots.
2. Passing. Thomas is hardly a horrible passer, and even if he were, playing next to James tends to make that aspect of the game not as important. But Thomas is a fun-loving, shoot-first, ask-questions-later type of player, and the rest of the Cavs will need to adjust.
3. That nasty injury. Some athletes have tried to return from hip injuries similar to the one suffered by Thomas. Some have failed. It’s officially called a “right femoral-acetabular impingement with labral tear.”
4. That means Thomas could have a lost a step, and when you’re 5-9, quickness really counts. This isn’t a concern for Thomas or the Cavs, but it is something for fans to watch.
As one NBA insider said, Thomas isn’t Kyrie, “but he’s not far off.” Thomas may actually be a better fit next to James — as again, Thomas will slide over to the role of primary scorer when James decides to handle the ball and set up the offense.
Thomas can drive, dish, deliver and mostly, score. He can wear down opposing guards with his constant movement, using offense as his best defense.
Bottom line: If Thomas is three-fourths of the player he was last season, the Cavs have an All-Star guard who can put up close to 30 a night, and will be very, VERY tough to beat.