When the Los Angeles Lakers traded for Isaiah Thomas at the trade deadline in February, there were a ton of questions about which I.T. the Lakers were getting.
Were they going to get “Mr. Fourth Quarter” or were they going to get the Isaiah Thomas that, through 15 games with the Cleveland Cavaliers, shot 36 percent from the field and noticeably made his team worse when he was on the floor? Now 13 games into his career with the purple and gold, we can say with confidence that the answer to that question is, simply put, yes.
While Thomas isn’t back to being the MVP candidate he was last season yet, he’s the closest he’s been to his former self in months. Since arriving in Los Angeles, Thomas is averaging 16.5 points 5.4 assists and 2.2 rebounds in 26.2 minutes off the bench.
He played a huge part in the Lakers’ win over the Nuggets on Tuesday, scoring 12 of his 23 points in the fourth quarter. Thomas said as long as he’s on the floor in late-game situations, he’s going to produce.
“If I play in the fourth quarter, I’m going to do the things I use to do,” Thomas said. “[Luke Walton] is giving me the opportunities to play and make plays, the easy part is going out there and doing it.”
With several of the Lakers’ go-to guys in crunch time sidelined, namely Brandon Ingram, Thomas has provided a big boost to L.A.’s often stagnant offense. Thomas has already had four games with at least 20 points and five assists with the Lakers, something only Ingram has done on more occasions (6).
“Each and every day, each and every game I’m feeling better,” Thomas said. “It’s going in the right direction, positive steps, and I’m feeling more like myself.”
While Thomas continues to work his way back to full strength, he’ll remain a great locker room presence for the Lakers’ young roster, even if his guidance is a little more on the aggressive side sometimes.
“He yells at me a lot,” Kuzma said, via Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times. “He’s just a veteran. A guy you can count on. He’s been through the wars. Been through the playoffs. He knows what it takes to win or whatnot. He’s just a great resource to have out there. He helps all the young guys out for sure.”
“Everything that we’re yelling at the players from the bench about,” Walton added, “he’s actually on the court telling them the same things as far as getting them to the right spots.”
Thomas will be an unrestricted free agent this summer and his value is arguably the toughest to gauge of all the players set to hit the open market. He’s a big name with a proven track record, but coming off of a hip injury that kept him sidelined for nearly an entire year, teams might be hesitant to offer him big money, especially knowing the history of how smaller guys in the league age.
But if Thomas continues to trend upward, he could sniff a short-term, big money contract from a team desperate for scoring off the bench. Depending on how this summer pans out, that team could be the Lakers.
All quotes were transcribed via Spectrum SportsNet.