This year, the race for the MVP has been dominated by two triple-double powerhouses: Russell Westbrook and James Harden. The two have so far blown past the rest of the pack in terms of individual performances. However, don’t overlook the other players just yet. Because that’s what people have been doing to 5’9 Isaiah Thomas for years, and now, look where he is: elbowing his way into the MVP discussion.
It’s been a career year for the Boston Celtics’ point guard, one whose growth has been meteoric since he was picked 60th in the 2011 draft. Here, we discuss how worthy he is to be mentioned beside Harden, Westbrook, and the other candidates for the regular season’s highest individual award.
Isaiah Thomas: The King in the Fourth
Let’s start with the basics, the stats. Isaiah Thomas is averaging 28.2 points per game. For reference, that makes him the 4th best scorer in the league right now, behind Westbrook, the Pelicans’ Anthony Davis, and Harden. His 2.7 rebounds and 6.2 assists may not be much to sniff at, but he’s had some pretty impressive games as a playmaker. For instance, he hit a career-high 15 assists against the Utah Jazz. Those plays have led the Celtics to the 3rd spot in the East right now, behind the Cavs and Raptors.
But honestly, it’s the scoring we have to look at here. Some of the Celtics’ wins this season have been punctuated by enormous performances by the ‘little guy’. He’s had a 44-point game this season against the Grizzlies, and most impressively, a 52-point output against the Heat. He joins a small group in Celtics history breaking that 50-point barrier – a list which includes Larry Bird and Paul Pierce.
And the most impressive thing of all? Despite his small stature, Isaiah Thomas is the biggest man on the court when it counts. Isaiah Thomas leads the league in fourth quarter scoring at 9.9 points (Westbrook has 9.5). When it’s money time, you can expect Thomas to hit the cold-blooded shot. That’s why he’s earned the Game of Thrones-inspired nickname, “King in the Fourth”.
Isaiah Thomas: The New Allen Iverson
Thomas draws a lot of comparisons to Hall of Famer Allen Iverson. In the early to mid-2000’s, Iverson became known as one of the league’s most dynamic scorers despite being only 6’0. He led the Sixers to an NBA Finals series and was awarded the 2001 MVP. Now, at 27, Isaiah Thomas is outdoing Iverson in several key stats of his 2003 season, at 27 as well:
Isaiah Thomas vs Allen Iverson at age 27: pic.twitter.com/eMXVkiMEr7
— NBA Central (@TheNBACentral) January 10, 2017
It’s the same reason Thomas has gotten Kevin Garnett’s support. During an appearance on KG’s Area 21, The Big Ticket told Thomas, “I’ve got you in the conversation for MVP. What you do for your team is huge.”
While it’s doubtful that Thomas will somehow overtake the two leaders in the MVP race right now, he’s still primed for future success. The best players in the league make their way into, and remain in, these kinds of discussions over years. Thomas is just getting started. Not bad at all for a guy who was picked last in the draft.