On Tuesday, Isaiah Thomas made his debut as a Cleveland Cavalier scoring 17 points in just 19 minutes on the court. He looked every bit as impressive as Cavs fans expected him to be, shooting an impressive 50% from the field after not being on the court for seven months. When hearing reports in the offseason that IT would not be the same player when he returned, he appeared to fit right in stride with the Cavaliers offense. If last night’s performance was any indication about how Isaiah will perform this season, he certainly will help the Cavs as they make another title run come June.
While Isaiah played well last night, he will not be playing in the Cavs game against the Celtics Wednesday night. The team made the decision to hold him out of back to back games as he just came back from a major hip surgery and hasn’t really found his rhythm yet. In fact, according to IT himself:
“My hip is better, but I have no rhythm. I have no feel for the game right now. I’ve been out for so long it feels like I lost my powers. Even when we’re out there scrimmaging, I can move around and do what I want, but I just don’t have my powers yet.”
If Thomas really wasn’t fully back last night, the already explosive Cavs offense will be even more potent. As we all know by now, former Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving is having a great first season as a Boston Celtic, but let us compare how the Cavaliers season might be different if Irving was never traded to the Celtics. Kyrie is currently averaging 24.8 points per game, which is slightly less then he averaged last year as a Cavalier, assuming IT is going to put up similar numbers to last year, he will average more points than Kyrie.
The problem that has been on most Cavaliers’ minds about IT is his defense, before the injury, Isaiah was a somewhat subpar defender because he is undersized at the point guard position. The biggest question will be how the surgery affects his defensive ability in a negative way. Well, Kyrie is one of the best finishers in the league around the rim, so he must have the edge in free throws, right? Wrong. Kyrie, this year, is averaging 4.5 free throws attempted this year. Isaiah, last season, attempted 8.5 free throws per game, so he is much better at getting to the rim and drawing fouls.
This is an important statistic to note because playoff games sometimes come down to one or two clutch free throws at the end of a close game. Thomas, much like Irving, has the reputation of being a fourth quarter closer, but only one of the two was in the MVP conversation last season and that was IT. While it would be interesting to see Kyrie and Isaiah go head to head Wednesday night, but fans will just have to wait until the next time the two teams play to see the much-anticipated matchup.