Can Isaiah Thomas Be A Perennial All-Star?

Apr 22, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) reacts with the crowd during the fourth quarter in game three of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. The Celtics defeated the Hawks 111-103. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 22, 2016; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) reacts with the crowd during the fourth quarter in game three of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. The Celtics defeated the Hawks 111-103. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports /

Does Isaiah Thomas have the tools necessary to become a yearly All-Star candidate?

When the Boston Celtics acquired point guard Isaiah Thomas in the eleventh hour of the 2014-15 NBA Trade Deadline, a substantial amount of excitement erupted throughout New England. However, this anticipation was directed to the notion that the team had just garnered a potential Sixth Man of the Year candidate, not someone who had the fortitude to become an All-Star nominee.

Now, 18 months later, Thomas is the apple of the Boston basketball fan’s eye. He has handed out ice cream at Quincy Market, frequented Niketown on Newbury St. in Back Bay, and hosted a camp for Boston-area youth basketball players all to massive fanfare. Heading into the 2016-17 season, Celtics’ supporters are expecting Thomas to continue to climb into rarified air in the NBA as he looks for his second consecutive nod to the All-Star squad.

Looking back to the beginning of last season, it would have been difficult to fathom him being in the position he is now, given that he began the year with the plan being that he would resume his duties as Boston’s first option off of the bench.

However, Thomas appeared in each of the team’s 82 games in 2015-16 and made a succinct impact on every single contest. He posted a career-best 22.2 points per game while racking up a stellar PER of 21.54, shooting personal-high of 16.9 shot attempts per game in the midst of improving his shooting percentage to 42.8 percent.

It would be tumultuous experience simply to imagine the position that the Celtics might have been in without the efforts of Thomas in leading them to the Eastern Conference’s fifth seed, as the five-year veteran proved himself to be Boston’s sole viable offensive option on many occasions down the stretch of the season.

With his breakout year coming on the heels of a troublesome half-season stint with the Phoenix Suns in which he posted just 15.2 points per outing in 25.7 minutes per game, the burdensome question of whether or not Thomas reached his ceiling must be asked. The fact of the matter is that Thomas has found his niche in Boston under head coach Brad Stevens, and with the materialization of a rejuvenated supporting cast, multiple All-Star appearances could be in his near future.

Essentially, the 5-9 scoring wizard has already established himself as a perennial All-Star candidate, even ruling out the acquisition of center Al Horford in free agency. His Offensive Box Plus-Minus rating of 5.0 ranked 10th in the NBA last season, showcasing his tremendous impact on the team on that end of the floor. The nine players preceding him on the list each made the All-Star Game roster in 2015-16 with the exception of the Portland Trail BlazersDamian Lillard, undoubtedly one of the most appalling snubs in NBA history.

Furthermore, Thomas’ 7.2 Offensive Win Shares ranked 11th in the NBA, and his total of 9.7 Win Shares finished as the 16th highest mark in the league, easily trumping fellow All-Star guards such as Jimmy Butler, John Wall and Dwyane Wade, while casting a cloak over Kyrie Irving‘s meager 5.0 Win Shares. The first-time All-Star ranked 19th in the league in Win Shares per 48 minutes (.177) as well as Value Over Replacement Player (3.3), proving even further the notion that Thomas is among the most impactful two dozen players in the NBA.

His usage percentage of 29.6 percent fell just below the figure set by 2014 NBA MVP Kevin Durant (30.6 percent) as Thomas was relied on to instigate the success of the Celtics offense on nearly every single possession last season. Expect that figure to remain hefty this season, with Thomas being aided by the acquisition of Horford.

Now, instead of having being abandoned on an island expected to head-fake or hesitate his way to the rim for a score in the fourth quarter, the picture that we all witnessed on far too many occasions towards the conclusion of last season, the minuscule playmaker will have All-Star caliber assistance.

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Much of this help will come in the form of pick-and-rolls, an area in which Thomas excels in. Last season, many of Thomas’ pick-and-roll opportunities came with since-departed center Jared Sullinger as the man setting the screen. Far too often, Sullinger would opt to pop out to the three-point arc or the mid-range for a jumper rather than roll to the basket. While this may have led to an open look, the fact of the matter was that the defense was leaving Sullinger wide open on the perimeter for good reason.

With Horford setting the screens this season, Thomas will have a roll man that defenses must respect both when spotting up for an outside jumper or rolling to the post to become a threat down low. This will provide even more opportunities for Thomas to attack the basket as he does so aggressively, finishing fourth in the NBA with 474 free throws made in 2015-16.

Due to the mere presence of Horford in screen-and-roll situations, Thomas will see only one defender come out to apply pressure on him after utilizing the screen. This will increase his ability to break out his patented step-back midrange jumper on a plethora of occasions in which he was limited to ridding himself of the ball last season.

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Thomas has already established the foundation necessary to become a contender for an All-Star nod year in and year out, and his incredibly high usage within the Celtics offense is proof. Now, with Horford in tow, expect him to take the next step into becoming All-Star starter material.