It has only been eight days since Isaiah Thomas came back from the hip injury that had sidelined him since the last season’s playoffs. He has now played three games for his new club, the Cleveland Cavaliers, and things are looking well for the two-time NBA All-Star.
Thomas, who will turn 29 next month, has averaged 15.0 points, 3.3 assists, and 1.0 rebounds in only 19.7 minutes per game in the three games he had played for the Cavs.
Apparently, while head coach Tyronn Lue is slowly acclimatizing Thomas’ body into playing professional competitive basketball again, it was also evident that the 5-foot-9 point guard has a lot to contribute to the squad, especially on the offensive end, when he becomes 100 percent healthy.
To this point, Thomas’ highest-scoring game for the Cavs was a 19-point performance in a 131-127 win over the Orlando Magic at the Amway Center last Saturday. Last season’s All-NBA Second Team member started the game and shot an impressive 7-for-13 from the field, including a 2-for-4 display from three-point range, for a 53.8 percent clip in only 21 minutes of play.
Thomas’ recent feats have done nothing but increase the team and fans’ expectations. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said, “the Cavs may still be interested in retaining Thomas,” even if LeBron James decides to leave the club in free agency this summer.
Like James, Thomas will also become an unrestricted free agent come July. Windhorst said that Thomas’ “best chance” of getting the big-money contract that he wants would be with the Cavs, which is the team that could pay him the highest maximum salary.
Thomas is a bargain at the moment, with the Cavs owing him only $6.2 million at the end of the season. Many analysts opine that he could become the sixth player in Cleveland’s lineup to get paid more than $10 million a year if he decides to stay.
However, Windhorst believed that a deal with the Cavs is not a sure thing as three other teams could also potentially land the diminutive floor general. The ESPN reporter specifically named the Brooklyn Nets, Indiana Pacers, and Thomas’ former team, the Phoenix Suns, as “possibilities” for the former Washington standout.
The Nets, Pacers, and Suns all have the cap space to accommodate a max contract player like Thomas. The three clubs also have current needs at the point guard position with Jeremy Lin out for Brooklyn, Indiana juggling Darren Collison and Cory Joseph, and Phoenix missing Eric Bledsoe, who is now with the Milwaukee Bucks.
Windhorst then noted that aside from the Cavs owning Thomas’ full rights, Cleveland will also be “under some pressure to retain him” because he was the “prime asset from the Kyrie Irving trade” with Boston last summer. These, plus the fact that Cavs owner Dan Gilbert “loves underdogs,” are the main reasons why the Cavs should try to keep Thomas, Windhorst added.
Even so, the option to jump out of the Cavaliers’ boat will always be there for Thomas, particularly if James decides to leave this summer. It remains to be seen, though, who among the Nets, Pacers, and Suns would be willing to give in to Thomas’ demands.