In the end, the Isaiah Thomas experiment in Cleveland was a failure. Thomas arrived injured, played just 15 games for the Cavs, and publicly criticized the team and coaching staff.
On Thursday, he was traded to the Lakers.
“The whole last year-and-a-half has been tough for him,” Sports Illustrated NBA insider Jared Zwerling said on Ferrall on the Bench. “He lost his sister in a car accident, gets traded twice. The guy was the last pick in the draft in 2011, so he clearly did a very nice job of getting back to where he maybe should have been in his career: a standout player, a huge steal. So I give him credit in his career and all the things he went through over the last year-and-a-half. But the hip injury was tough.”
Thomas averaged 28.9 points per game in Boston last year. He shot 46.3 percent from the floor, led the Celtics to the No. 1 seed in the East and was an MVP candidate.
In Cleveland, though, he struggled to find a rhythm playing with LeBron James, Kevin Love, and Dwyane Wade and averaged just 14.7 points on 36.1 percent shooting.
“It’s hard to blend in with that,” Zwerling said. “The offensive opportunities are not there and you have to play a second or third wheel. He was the No. 1 option in Boston, so the transition was very difficult and different for him. The pressure was definitely there after the injury. However, the guy still has to produce and in L.A. he’ll get that chance. Maybe he’ll stay there in the long-term. The guy’s a terrific scorer when he’s healthy. I can’t rule out a future there. He’s still pretty young and in the prime of his career. He just needs a team than can give him more of an option offensively. In Cleveland, he was the third or fourth wheel in many ways. That’s very difficult for a guy that was the No. 1 option in Boston. I think he’s going to get a bigger opportunity in L.A. for sure.”
Thomas was dealt before the deadline along with Wade, Channing Frye, Derrick Rose, Jae Crowder and Iman Shumpert for Rodney Hood, George Hill, Jordan Clarkson, and Larry Nance Jr.
“They’re in win-now mode, obviously,” Zwerling said of the Cavs. “LeBron James is the best player in the league. He’s the best player of his era. So you have to get to the NBA Finals. That’s a no-brainer. That’s how they see the situation now. You have four guys coming in that are younger, they’re going to bring a lot more explosive firepower, they’re going to put some points on the board. The question is, can they defend? That’s what we didn’t see with the Cavaliers. They were on of the worst teams defensively. So that’s the most important thing with this team.”
Aside, of course, from LeBron’s impending free agency. But who knows? If James gels with his new teammates, he may stay in Cleveland.
“It does give LeBron some momentum,” Zwerling said. “It gives him more rest, which is key. LeBron, the last eight years, he’s played more than 110 games, including the playoffs and NBA Finals. So getting Clarkson up there and Larry Nance and Rodney Hood, who’s a fantastic scorer, it’ll help LeBron alleviate some of the pressure that he’ll need to really get those legs under him for a long and deep playoff run. It’s win-now mode. The Celtics should be a little worried.”