For the first time this season, Isaiah Thomas played basketball for the Cleveland Cavaliers. After a long recovery from an injury, Thomas made his much anticipated return against the Portland Trail Blazers, and he looked good. Thomas didn’t start the game, and he may not start for the next little while, but what we saw from him indicates his days coming off the bench will be limited.
Thomas played just 19 minutes in his first game back. In 19 minutes, Isaiah Thomas scored 17 points on 6-12 (50%) shooting. To go along with his 19 points, Thomas added 3 assists on the night. Thomas will likely have to work up to playing full starter minutes, as we can already tell by him not playing in their second game of back to backs tomorrow night. He played just over half the minutes he’ll probably play when he fully returns, but his body of work against the Blazers tells us that we’ll still see the Isaiah Thomas who led the Celtics last year.
If you look at his numbers from last season and compare them to this game, you can see the pre-injury Isaiah Thomas is still in there.
2016-17 Isaiah Thomas Stat Line
33.8 minutes, 28.9 points, 46.3% FG, 37.9% 3PT, 2.7 rebounds, 5.9 assists, and 0.9 steals
Isaiah Thomas Against the Blazers
19 minutes, 17 points, 50% FG, 37.5% 3PT, 0 rebounds, 3 assists, and 0 steals
Based on the numbers Thomas put up in his very first game back from injury with limited playing time, I can see Thomas getting back to averaging close to his numbers last year with the Celtics. Although Thomas will still be a big part of this offense, it’s obvious he won’t have as big of role now that he’s on the same team as LeBron James, Kevin Love, Dwayne Wade, and others.
It will take some time for Thomas to fully return, so having those players around him while he makes this transition will benefit him greatly. It will allow Thomas time to find his place in the Cavs line up. As he plays more, he’ll gain a greater feel for his teammates, who will also gain a greater feel for his playing style.
Isaiah Thomas fits nicely into this offense. It gives the Cavs another threat the opposing defense has to pay attention to, which only helps LeBron, Love, Wade, and just about everyone on the Cavaliers. While limited on defense, his ability to score or pass at any given time will make him a key to the Cavs success.
When it’s time for Thomas to make his full return, I expect his numbers to look something like the numbers below.
30-33 minutes, 20-24 points, 45-48% FG, 37-38% 3PT, 2 rebounds, 5-6 assists, 0.5 steals
On this Cavaliers team where Thomas will have a decreased but still very important role, this would be exactly what the Cavaliers need. Add another 20 point scorer to LeBron’s 20+ and Kevin Love’s 20+. That’s a tough offense to beat. Add another 5+ assist guy. Right now the Cavaliers are getting 90% of their assists from LeBron James, 5% from Dwayne Wade, and then 5% from everyone else (not actual percentages).
As the return of Isaiah Thomas continues to build, the Cavaliers will only get better. This team is deep, and they’re getting deeper. The Eastern Conference better watch out when Thomas fully returns. The moment this Cavaliers team has been waiting for has finally arrived.