Isaiah Thomas: The NBA’s Best 6th Man?


Isaiah Thomas is good at basketball, anyone with a relatively sane basketball mind knows this to be true. But just how good is Thomas? Some fans would argue that he’s an overrated role player while others venture to say he’s an elite scoring sixth man. I tend to believe the latter. Now before you stop reading this article because I said the word “elite” referring to Isaiah Thomas, let me explain.

Since being dealt to a struggling Boston Celtics team, the 5’9 point guard has been lighting up opposing defenses like it’s a hobby and leading the C’s to win after win, including five straight victories in March. While it’s not insane to claim that Thomas is a very good bench player, it would probably go against popular opinion to proclaim him as the best bench player in the NBA. But ask a few die-hard Celtics fans and you might find that I am not alone in this thinking.

Apr 4, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) gestures while watching game action against Toronto Raptors with team mates (from left) Jared Sullinger, Phil Pressley and Jonas Jerebko on the bench at Air Canada Centre. The Celtics won 117-116 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

It can be very difficult to gauge how good an individual player truly is. So first, let’s look at how Thomas has impacted his team’s play. Before February 19th, the day Boston received Thomas via trade, the Celtics had a 20-31 record and were considered among the bottom feeders of the league. Since acquiring Thomas, the Celtics have had a record of 14-11. While 14-11 isn’t a mind-blowing record, it’s an impressive increase compared the below .500 record of the Thomas-less Celtics, and the boost in the W column can be directly linked to Isaiah Thomas himself.

Isaiah is an explosive scoring guard that has very good shooting abilities and is able to knock it down from nearly everywhere on the court if given a good look. He also possesses the ability to attack the basket and craftily finish inside. Finishing inside is no major feat for an NBA point guard but what makes Thomas special is his ability to do it despite his petite 5’9 frame. He’s able to torture opposing defenses in a variety of ways and can heat up quickly off the bench giving Boston scoring off the bench that they desperately needed.

Apr 4, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) scores on a lay up in against Toronto Raptors in the second quarter of the Celtics 117-116 overtime win at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The Celtics were badly in need of a go-to scorer and someone who could provide steady scoring output each night and they found just that in Thomas, giving the team a much-needed boost. He is also a good leader on the court and in the locker room, which is another thing that the young Celtics team needed.

If the boost in Celtics win aren’t enough to sell you on Isaiah, let’s take a look at his stats. During his 2015 campaign, Thomas has scored 18.5 points per game. A 18 points per game scorer is considered standard for most starting scoring point guards, but Thomas has maintained this average while starting a total of ONE games the entire season.

To put things into perspective, his projected points per game per 36 minutes is a whopping 26 points. Let me remind you that league-leading superstar shooting guard James Harden averages 27 points per game, and advanced metrics state that Thomas would be averaging 26 if he played as many minutes as Harden. Wow. Call it what you want but I’ll just call it impressive. Scoring is not his only forte either, he also averages 5 assists and does a nice job dishing the ball to teammates. It’d be easy to argue that Thomas can truly do it all offensively.

Apr 2, 2015; Dallas, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) defends against the Dallas Mavericks during the second quarter at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

You’d be hard pressed to find another player in the league who does as much off the bench for his team as Isaiah Thomas does for the Celtics. Whether he’s shooting the lights out, attacking the basketball, feeding the ball to teammates, hitting clutch shots, or just dominating a defense, Isaiah Thomas is a great player off the bench and a tremendous talent. Name one player whose better off the bench than Thomas and I’ll give you five reasons why he’s not. As long as he’s around, the Celtics should continue to improve and win more and more games behind his offensive firepower. Go Celtics!

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