With the NBA’s free agency booming, players across the league have either re-signed with their current squads or found new homes. At this point, many teams are looking for veterans and actors that they can sign on with a minimum contract and use at small capacity. One name that has been rumored for a possible return to the league is goaltender Isaiah Thomas. After an 81-point pro-Am championship game in early August, a video of an emotional Thomas saying the NBA ditched him went viral in the basketball world. Although Thomas saw some time on the court in the 2020-21 NBA season, his rise and fall is surprising to say the least.
The 2011 NBA Draft saw Thomas drafted with the final draft pick by the Sacramento Kings. Thomas would see his score increase as his role grew, with the team spending three seasons in Sacramento. He would move to the Phoenix Suns, who were still in the early stages of a rebuild, via a signing and trade deal ahead of the 2014-15 season. His score dropped, but it didn’t take long for him to be traded to the Boston Celtics, where he had his best years. Thomas’ score would increase upon his arrival in Boston as his role became more and more important and Boston once again became a threat in the Eastern Conference. The 2016-17 NBA season would be Thomas’ breakout year. Playing almost every game, Thomas has dominated the field, averaging over 28 points per game while posting his career-highest shooting percentage. Boston would end the season as a seed in the Eastern Conference and Thomas would finish fifth in the MVP vote. Thomas played in the first round of the playoffs against the Chicago Bulls days after learning that his younger sister had tragically passed away. After returning from his funeral, he would drop one of the best playoff performances in Celtics history and beat the Washington Wizards in seven games before losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers in five. Thomas will only play two games in the conference finals after suffering a hip injury. It would be the start of Thomas’ downfall.
Ahead of the 2017-18 season, Boston made a trade that shocked many, trading Thomas and several others at the Cleveland Cavaliers for Kyrie Irving. Thomas would miss the majority of his time with the Cavs due to his hip injury the previous season. He would only play 15 games with the Cavs before being traded to the Los Angeles Lakers midway through the season. As his score dwindled, he would only play a few games for the Lakers, a trend Thomas would see in the coming seasons. In the 2018-19 season, he would play 12 games for Denver, coming off the bench in every game. In the shortened 2019-20 season, he would play 40 games for the Washington Wizards, starting all but three games. He would be traded on the deadline to the Los Angeles Clippers but was lifted today. In the 2020-21 season, Thomas would only play three games for the New Orleans Pelicans, posting a career-low 7.7 PPG.
Considering how many teams view the 2021-22 season, it’s likely that Thomas wouldn’t start in any team that could use his scoring and presence. A team would be interested in Thomas it’s the Los Angeles Lakers. Thomas would find not only the Lakers but LeBron James, who is looking for another championship run. With the cap dominated by trio James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook, the rest of the cap is filled with smaller and minimum contracts. Thomas wouldn’t see much time, but a chance to win a championship would be promising. The most recent reports stated that Thomas had worked for the Lakers along with several other free agents. Another California team that could use Thomas would be the Golden State Warriors. In a situation like that of the Lakers, the Warriors are considering a championship run. While the team doesn’t have a veteran presence like previous incarnations, Thomas would be a reliable option behind Stephen Curry. With the Warriors, Thomas could provide mentorship to several of the young guards on the roster.
One final team that rumored to be interested in Thomas were the Boston Celtics. Thomas didn’t have the best relationship with the Celtics after being traded, mainly because of the relationship with former general manager Danny Ainge. With Brad Stevens replacing Ainge and the quite different roster in the 2016-17 season, a reunion could have been mutually beneficial. With Marcus Smart re-signing, Dennis Schroder signing a one-year contract and Payton Pritchard showing off in the Summer League, Thomas is unlikely to return to the Celtics. There are other teams that could use Thomas in their rotation, but few of those teams are true title contenders. While the past few seasons have been quite unfair to Isaiah Thomas, one can only hope to see him back on the pitch in the 2021-22 season.