Throughout the offseason, we’ll be counting down the Top 50 players in the NBA from 50 to 1. Who will just miss the cut? Which names do you expect to see? Regardless, you’ll be able to find them all right here.
Why He’s Great: I don’t like the way we talk about Isaiah Thomas. Every conversation is based around how he compares to other short players… but he’s better than tall players, or how great he is in the fourth quarter… but he’s great in the other three quarters as well.
So here’s how I’m going to quiet both of those lines of thinking: Isaiah Thomas scored 223 total points in NBA-defined “clutch” situations. Subtract those points and he averaged from the 2,199 he scored over the entire season and you get 1,976. That’s 26 points per game. Here’s a list of players who averaged fewer than that, arranged by height:
- Chris Paul: 6’0”
- Stephen Curry: 6’3”
- Bradley Beal: 6’5”
- Kawhi Leonard: 6’7”
- Carmelo Anthony: 6’8”
- Giannis Antetokounmpo: 6’11”
- Karl-Anthony Towns: 7’0”
- Kristaps Porziņģis: 7’3”
There. Every height is covered. Subtract Isaiah’s clutch points and he still outscored all of them. Let’s stop framing the conversation around how good Thomas is for his height. He’s just a great player, no qualifiers needed.
Why He’s Below No. 23 (Kyle Lowry): It is really, REALLY hard to hide Isaiah on defense. Here’s the area where his height does matter. He’s not long enough to make any sort of a difference in passing lanes. Any opposing point guard can see above him, improving their own passing. Almost any player in the league can post him up. He might be the league’s worst defender among players so good on offense that they can’t be taken off of the floor. Kyle Lowry is a very good defender. You don’t have to scheme around any weakness with him.
His hip injury is scary too. Hips are not knees. Sports science knows how to handle torn ACLs now. Hip injuries are rare enough for teams not to have internal expertise, but common enough to have ruined plenty of careers. Bo Jackson is the most famous. Jonny Flynn is most recent example in the NBA, and his physical profile is very similar to Isaiah’s. There’s a chance Isaiah isn’t the same next year, or ever. Lowry has some injury issues as well, but none as scary as Isaiah’s hip. More likely he falls off slightly due to age than greatly due to injury.