Making the case for an Isaiah Thomas return to the Boston Celtics

BOSTON, MA - MAY 19: Isaiah Thomas
BOSTON, MA - MAY 19: Isaiah Thomas /

As Isaiah Thomas returns to the TD Garden as an upcoming free agent, it makes you wonder what a reunion with the Boston Celtics would look like.

Isaiah Thomas hasn’t been the same since he was traded from the Boston Celtics to the Cavaliers in a package for Kyrie Irving.

He severely injured his hip during his last season with the Celtics and opted against surgery before his first campaign with the Cavaliers. It turned out to be the wrong decision, as Thomas was not himself physically, and the trainwreck that was the Cavs before last year’s trade deadline was unjustly blamed mostly on him.

He was then shipped off to the Lakers, where he only played in 17 games before getting shut down for hip surgery. After signing a one-year deal with the Nuggets, Thomas took his time getting back and now finds himself out of the rotation. It’s hard to blame anyone in this situation, because the Nuggets don’t have time to let Thomas get back to full strength as they’repursuing the top seed in the Western Conference playoffs.

If the Nuggets decide to let Thomas sign elsewhere this summer, could a reunion with the Celtics be in the cards?

Former Boston Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas pumps up the crowd.
After a nightmare season, former Boston Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas is going to bounce back in a big way. (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images) /

It’s likely the Celtics will have a need at backup point guard this summer. Terry Rozier is a restricted free agent and could very well sign an offer sheet with a point guard-needy team where Danny Ainge doesn’t see a reason to match. Brad Wanamaker is also a free agent and could sign elsewhere for a bigger role. If Thomas is looking to for a one-year “prove it” deal, the Celtics could have a decent sized role for him to fill.

Now imagine this: Kyrie Irving starts and comes out of the game either towards the end of the first quarter or the start of the second. Brad Stevens sends in Thomas, a player he knows exactly how to deploy in order to keep the offense clicking while Irving rests.

Thomas needs the ball in his hands to maximize his potential, so using him as an Irving-stopgap on offense could be a win-win for the Celtics and Thomas. We all know Thomas’ defense is an issue. He isn’t a good defender, he isn’t versatile and it’s more than likely he never becomes anything more than mediocre on that side of the floor. However, the Celtics are equipped to mask Thomas’ shortcomings on defense with the number of switchy wings they’ve acquired since he was traded away.

If Stevens can deploy Thomas on offense effectively while mitigating his defensive issues, the upside for the Celtics could be much higher than what it would be with any other veteran point guard set to hit the free agent market.

My main concern would be the locker room dynamic. Every Celtics fan knows how special a player Thomas is and the heart he plays the game with, but the situation in Boston could be awkward. The last time Thomas played for the Celtics, he was the leader. The unquestioned Alpha.

With Irving in that role now, would Thomas be okay taking a back seat? What if things get tenuous like they did this season? Would the dynamic get worse in difficult times? It could go either way, but it’s a considerable risk to take with a backup point guard signing.

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This is all hypothetical and may as well not happen, but a reunion with Thomas would be an interesting chapter in both the Celtics’ rebuild as well as Thomas’ career. One thing is for certain though, and you’ll see it Monday night when the Nuggets visit the Celtics. Boston loves Isaiah, and Isaiah loves Boston. If it’s the best decision for both sides, a Thomas-Celtics reunion would be welcomed with opened arms.