Isaiah Thomas was a game changer for the Celtics last season. In just 25 games (including playoffs) for Boston, he changed the fortunes of the team. Now, with a training camp in Boston under his belt, Thomas looks ready to take his game to a whole new level.
In the 21 regular season games he averaged 19 points, 5.4 assists, 2.1 rebounds and 2.6 turnovers per game. That’s some pretty impressive production considering he was thrown in at the deep end and had little practice time with the team as the late season grind took full effect. Couple that with the fact that he sat out 8 games in a row in March with a lower back injury (which didn’t fully recover until the off-season), what he was able to accomplish was even more incredible.
With assists like this one, Thomas immediately became a fan favourite in Boston.
In those 21 games, the Celtics won 14 of them and in doing so made every Boston fan proud. Even when the Celtics were completely out-matched by Cleveland in the first round of the playoffs, the team didn’t give up and fought out every game, making it as hard as possible for the Cavaliers. After eventually being swept in game four, the proud Garden crowd gave the Celtics a standing ovation for making something out of a season many thought would be filled with losses.
Thomas summed up the playoff experience perfectly, stating “we’re proud, but we’re not satisfied.” This sentiment was echoed by his teammates and I’m sure it drove them during the off-season to be better.
Thomas is known as one of the best pick and roll players in the league and this season with the addition of Amir Johnson, I expect this to continue and reach new heights. Thomas and Johnson have looked very comfortable working the pick and roll in training camp and the few preseason games they have played in together.
Obviously Thomas’ size makes it difficult for him to be a force on the defensive end, and larger guards can cause him trouble. Thomas will never be a great individual defender, but if he can improve enough on the defensive end to the point that he can play great team defence, Boston will be able to wear teams down.
The big question that has surrounded Thomas since he was acquired has been whether or not he should be starting? I’m sure this question will continue to be asked throughout the season and for as long as Marcus Smart and Thomas are on the same team. For now though, I believe we should be focussing on the fact that a team run by Smart and Thomas has huge potential to take Boston forward.
The starting dilemma will of course be all up to coach Brad Stevens. Stevens has worked wonders for Thomas’ game and it was amazing how quickly Stevens figured out how to get the best out of Thomas last season. With a training camp and many more practices together this relationship will only be better in season 2015/16.
After making the playoffs last season, the playoffs are once again the goal for this team and Thomas. With a roster that is better than last year, and more stable, I hope to see Thomas take full advantage of this and average somewhere around 20 points and 6 assists a game.