May 20, 2017: Thomas ruled out of playoffs with hip injury
After playing the day after his sister’s death and then through dental surgery earlier in the playoffs for the Celtics, Thomas has to be shut down due to a hip injury.
June 26, 2017: Thomas finishes fifth in MVP voting
Thomas is recognised for a season in which he averaged 28.9 points, 5.9 assists and 46.3 per cent shooting to lead the Celtics to the Eastern Conference Finals. It’s a remarkable achievement for a player who stands under six feet and was drafted with the last pick in 2011.
August 22, 2017: Thomas is traded to the Cavaliers for Irving
Boston send Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and Brooklyn’s 2018 first-round pick to Cleveland for Kyrie Irving. Thomas’ concerning physical, which reveals how serious his hip injury is, delays the trade before Boston throw in a second-round pick to complete it.
January 2, 2018: Thomas make his debut with the Cavaliers
Thomas finally returns to the court following months of recovery and looks good while scoring 17 points on 6-of-12 shooting in a win over the Portland Trail Blazers.
February 8, 2018: Thomas is traded to the Lakers
After struggling to find his rhythm and role with the Cavaliers, Thomas is moved to Los Angeles, where he comes off the bench to average 15.6 points on 38.3 per cent shooting.
March 28, 2018: Thomas undergoes hip surgery
Thomas has arthroscopic surgery on his right hip to clean up inflammatory debris from the injury suffered the previous year. The procedure ends his season after 32 games played between the Cavaliers and Lakers, with a four-month recovery time expected.
July 13, 2018: Thomas agrees to a one-year deal with Denver
The Denver Nuggets finally take a chance on Thomas with a one-year, $2 million deal after no other teams jump at the opportunity to sign the former All-Star in free agency. Thomas joins his former coach in Sacramento, Mike Malone, and a team with playoff aspirations.
Isaiah Thomas has a new home where he can prove himself all over again.
The former All-Star guard will join his fourth team in two years after agreeing to a one-year, $2 million deal with the Denver Nuggets, according to ESPN.
The move caps an turbulent 12 months for the 29-year-old, who settled for the veteran’s minimum with Denver after last summer declaring himself a max contract player and saying the Boston Celtics would have to “bring the Brinks truck out” to re-sign him.
Now, Thomas will attempt to rebuild his value to capture an elusive payday in free agency next summer.
In the Nuggets, Thomas joins a young team poised and talented enough to make a playoff run. He’ll also reunite with head coach Mike Malone, who coached Thomas when he was on the Sacramento Kings in 2013-14.
Thomas is expected to come off the bench, but play significant minutes, as he did in the second half of last season as a sixth man for the Los Angeles Lakers, and in 214-15 when he split time with the Phoenix Suns and Celtics.
It may not be a tailor-made role where Thomas can start, carry the scoring load and put up All-Star numbers, but that kind of opportunity was going to be difficult for him to come by this summer after his disappointing 2017-18 campaign.
You know Ima run it back up killa https://t.co/TkeKHidZf0— Isaiah Thomas (@isaiahthomas) July 13, 2018
He only appeared in 15 games for the Cavaliers and averaged 14.7 points on 36.1 per cent shooting before being traded to the Lakers, where he finished the year by averaging 15.6 points on 32.7 per cent shooting.
Thomas’ hip injury, which he suffered while he was in Boston, was part of the reason why the Celtics shipped him to Cleveland and why he struggled so much on the court at his next two stops. In March, he underwent hip surgery with the hope of putting the injury completely in the rear-view mirror, but it’s yet to be seen if Thomas can still be the player he once was.
If he can return to full health – a big ‘if’ considering the seriousness of hip injuries and the impact they can have on a 5-foot-9, undersized player – Thomas has the chance to write another chapter in his underdog story.
As someone who was taken with the last pick in the draft back in 2011 and then passed around the league before turning into an MVP candidate, Thomas has already proven he can blow away expectations.
If he’s still capable of being a star player in this league, Thomas has an opportunity – perhaps a final one – to show that.
Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma will undoubtedly be under the spotlight, but it may be Josh Hart – the least heralded member of the Lakers’ young core – who ends up being one of the most important role players on the team.
As someone who can shoot and defend multiple positions well, the second-year wing possess qualities that make him an ideal running partner next to James.
For all the talk of the Lakers moving away from the player archetype that the Cleveland Cavaliers focused on surrounding James with, 3-and-D types remain valuable, not only as LeBron teammates but in the league in general.
After being drafted 30th overall in last year’s draft and coming into the league with relatively low expectations, Hart showed his polish as a four-year player in college at Villanova. His averages of 7.9 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.3 assists didn’t jump off the page, but perhaps most encouraging, offensively speaking, was his 39.6 per cent shooting from deep on 3.1 attempts per game.
His ability to defend one through four with tenacity was equally impressive, and if summer league is any indication, Hart may be another level this coming season.
In two summer league games in Sacramento, Hart had 24 points on 7-of-19 shooting, including 4-of-9 from long range. Through three games in Las Vegas, he’s averaging 23.3 points on 48 per cent shooting and is 12-of-27 from 3.
In the Lakers’ most recent game, a 109-92 win over the New York Knicks, Hart also took on the challenge of defending Kevin Knox after the ninth overall draft pick started catching fire in the third quarter.
Knox is far from an established star scorer, but the fluid 6-foot-9 forward is the type of player Hart may be able to guard next season so James doesn’t have to over-extend himself on that end of the floor.
It also looks like Hart has improved as a ball-handler and scorer inside the arc, which should make him more of an all-around threat.
He’s not going to be the Robin to James’ Batman, but he could be an important piece to the puzzle.