As the NBA approaches the halfway point of the season, almost every headline has revolved around players like James Harden and Russel Westbrook. Don’t get me wrong, both Brodie and the Beard are having electrifying seasons that can guarantee them as the front-runners for MVP thus far. Night in and night out, both Harden and Westbrook are carrying their teams with performances filled with triple-doubles. However, lurking in the shadows of these two stars and other great point guards in the league is Isaiah Thomas.
Through 43 games this season, the Celtics are more than four games above .500 with a record of 26-17, which puts them at third place in the Eastern Conference behind Cleveland and Toronto. Although that record is fantastic, it does not give justice to the impact that Thomas has had on the thriving Celtics. For those who have kept a keen eye on the Celtics this season, the offense has been red hot; however, there are some troublesome statistics that fans should worry about. In terms of average blocks, steals, and rebounds per game, the Celtics are on the lower half of the NBA. Evidently, the C’s success this year is not because of the team’s defensive prowess.
With a lackluster defense, the offense has had to carry the brunt of the work in order to string together wins. Throughout the first half of the season, the Celtics are top 10 in points per game. The interesting part about their offensive success is the team’s ability to shoot from three. Per game, the Celtics average more three-point field goals than the Golden State Warriors, which alone speaks volumes. Although the Celtics attempt, on average, the fourth most three-pointers a game, the team hits approximately 37% of those shots. This sort of astounding offense does not appear out of thin air; in actuality, much of this success comes from the man running the point.
IT is having nothing short of a historic season so far. Through 43 games so far, IT is averaging 28.7 points per game and he only trails Westbrook in that category. In the last 50 years, only John Havlicek (29.1) and Larry Bird (29.0) have scored more per game through the first half of the season. Although Thomas is best known for his seemingly impossible field goals on the drive, Thomas has made 115 three-pointers this year, more than players such as Damian Lillard, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, and much of the NBA. Although Thomas is scoring like crazy, it is not due to an increased output in shots taken. This season, Thomas is also setting a career high in field goal percentage (46%) and free throw percentage (91%). Due to that, Thomas ranks eighth in player efficiency rating above the likes of LeBron James, Steph Curry, and DeMarcus Cousins.
What I find the most interesting aspect of Thomas’s game so far this season is his ability to be clutch. Right now, Thomas stands atop the NBA in fourth quarter scoring (10.1) which included a Celtics franchise record of 29 points in the final frame in December against the Miami Heat. Additionally, Thomas has scored at least 15 points in eight games this season; the next closest is Westbrook with four games. In regards to fourth quarter scoring in the last 20 years, Thomas ranks fourth. IT’s inundation of scoring in the fourth has earned him the title “King in the Fourth” to Celtics (and Game of Thrones) fans.
Long story short, this season is more than special for Isaiah Thomas, the Celtics, and NBA fans in general. For a man that is 5’9”, he is standing tall among superstars in the NBA. I urge everyone to witness the history that is unfolding in Boston because if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it. In my opinion, I would place Thomas in fourth in the MVP race behind Harden, Westbrook, and Durant. Long live the King in the Fourth!
Photo Credit via @Celtics twitter