The Greivis Vasquez experiment is over. It went the way of the Aaron Brooks and Tyreke Evans experiments in Sacramento. Isaiah Thomas has once again come out victorious in his never-ending battle to prove that he is, as his numbers show, a frontline starting NBA point guard.
Vasquez is gone and with no true backup ready to play major minutes, coach Michael Malone has handed his team over to Thomas, and the former Washington Husky couldn’t be happier.
“I’ve been ready for this moment since I came into this league,” Thomas said following Sunday’s win over the Houston Rockets. “That’s what I work so hard for in the summers. I want to be (one of those) guards that I see on each and every team playing 40 minutes a night.”
In his first four games as a starter this season, Thomas is averaging a robust 23 points and 7.3 assists per game. He is shooting 52.5 percent from the field and 50 percent from behind that arc in nearly 40 minutes a night.
Scoring comes easy for the 5-foot-9 dynamo, but if he wants to prove that he is more than just a change of pace guard off the bench, he has to do more. Putting up empty points on a sub-.500 team won’t prove that Thomas is legit. Leading a team to wins and making those around him better will.
“It’s a real challenge for him,” Malone said. “Because he’s a scorer, who’s looking to be a playmaker. We talked about, you have have to find the balance. Early in the game, I told him, ‘You have to get Rudy (Gay) going, you have to get DeMarcus (Cousins) going, get Ben (McLemore) a couple of easy looks.’”
This isn’t the first time the Kings have handed the reigns over to Thomas. In fact, he has now started 103 games in his three seasons in the league. What’s different this time around is that Thomas has taken a tremendous leap in production and efficiency this season.
Ranked third among NBA point guards in PER (Player Efficiency Rating) behind Chris Paul and Stephen Curry, Thomas is dying to show that he is a premier player in the league.
“He’s been terrific,” Malone said. “Whether he’s a starter or he’s coming off the bench for us, the whole year, I love who he is. I love his mentality and I’m going to help him the best I can as he navigates that scorer’s mentality with now being a starting point guard where he has to be more of a playmaker at times.”
For the player who lives by the motto“stay paranoid,” don’t expect Thomas to let off the throttle. He has been waiting for the league to overlook his lack of height and focus on his production on the floor since he was selected with the final pick in the 2011 NBA Draft.
Thomas is a restricted free agent at the end of the season, but he is playing for more than just a paycheck. He is trying to convince the naysayers that he is every bit as good as his advanced statistics say he is through 22 games this season. Money will come for the 24-year-old point guard, but what he is really searching for is validation.
Just getting to the NBA has never been enough for Thomas. He is on a mission to prove that he belongs amongst the league’s elite and now he will get his chance to do so.