Boston Celtics player report card 2016-17: Isaiah Thomas

May 2, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas (4) reacts after scoring 53 points in defeating the Washington Wizards in game two of the second round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
May 2, 2017; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas (4) reacts after scoring 53 points in defeating the Washington Wizards in game two of the second round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports /

Against all odds and in the face of personal tragedy, the King in the Fourth arose in the form of Isaiah Thomas to become a Boston Celtics legend.

The Boston Celtics have more legendary names associated with them than most teams in professional sports. It takes a truly special season for a 5’9″ player in his third year with the team to gain that legendary status, but that is just what Isaiah Thomas did this season.

Only three former last picks in the NBA Draft have accrued more than one Win Share over their careers: Semih Erden (1.8 Win Shares), Robert Sacre (2.4 Win Shares), and Thomas (45.4 Win Shares).

After flashes of potential in Sacramento in Phoenix, Thomas finally found a home in Boston and put in name among the top point guards in basketball.

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Thomas ranked third in the NBA in points per game with 28.9, only behind perennial Western Conference All-Stars and likely top two Most Valuable Player finishers Russell Westbrook and James Harden.

He ranked second in free throw percentage at 90.9%, seventh in Player Efficiency Rating at 26.5, second in Offensive Win Shares at 20.9, and ninth in total Win Shares at 12.6. Thomas finished third in points scored at 2199 and fifth in three pointers made with 245.

Mr. Fourth quarter

Thanks to his late game heroics, Thomas added “King in the Fourth” as a secondary nickname to “The Little Guy”. For most of the season, Thomas led the NBA in fourth quarter scoring for most of the season, topping out at 10.1 points per game in the fourth, but he finished in second to Westbrook with 9.8 points.

Thomas made his second All-Star team this season, led his team to 53 wins and the top seed in the Eastern Conference, and was named to the All-NBA second team. It was the first time in his career that he made an All-NBA team.

Though he certainly will not win, Thomas earned at least a few MVP votes for his incredible season. He performed at a high level all season, but the highest points include a career high (at the time) 52 points against Miami on December 20th that included a Celtics-record 29 points in the fourth quarter, a streak of 43 straight games with 20 or more points to break John Havlicek’s team record, and an NBA playoff high 53 points in a Game 3 overtime win against the Washington Wizards on his sister Chyna’s birthday.

The dominant season ended on a low note for Thomas, but he showed what he was made of both as a basketball player and as a human during a difficult stretch. Right before the playoffs began, Thomas’ sister was killed in a car accident at only 22 years old. He came out strong and fought through the adversity to eventually lead his team to the Eastern Conference Finals against Cleveland.

In addition to all this, Thomas had six hours dental surgery after losing a tooth in the second round and suffered a nagging hip injury that he played through until he simply could not any longer. Despite missing the final three games of the Celtics season, Thomas ensured that his name would never be forgotten by Celtics fans.

Boston Celtics
May 7, 2017; Washington, DC, USA; Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas (4) shoots a layup as Washington Wizards guard John Wall (2) defends during the second quarter in game four of the second round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports /

The Good

Thomas seemed to score with ease all season long, whether it be through lay-ups, three pointers, or free throws. He shot 46.3% overall, 37.9% from three and, as mentioned earlier, 90.9% from the free throw line.

Thomas proved he had a knack for the big shot, hitting a game winner in the regular season against Atlanta and taking over the final few minutes countless times, but he also displayed excellent court vision and knowledge of when to pass up a shot. He averaged 5.9 assists per game; only Harden, Westbrook, and LeBron James averaged more assists among players in the top ten for points per game.

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One of the most impressive and underrated parts of Thomas’ game was his ability to get to the free throw line. He averaged 8.5 free throws attempts per game, 649 attempts in total (fifth most in the league). Thomas got 39 And-Ones and three four point plays this season and converted 83.3% of his extra free throws.

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The Bad

At his height, defense will always be a little more difficult for Thomas. Many players can just shoot over him, though Thomas did prove to be strong in the post due to his low center of gravity. He was still a +245 overall on the season, but that is boosted by his incredible scoring numbers.

The  Boston Celtics three most used lineups that featured Thomas were all in the negative, allowing opponents to score 1.6, 1.3, and 1.7 more points than they did. Thomas was clearly able to balance it out and still brought the team to over 50 wins, but defense will always be a weakness for him.

Rebounding was another issue for Thomas, but only because more and more point guards are adding rebounding to their game. He averaged 2.7 a game, which is fine for his height, but the Celtics were a weak rebounding team all season and he did not help the cause.

Final Grade

Thomas deserves no less than an A+ for the way he scored and led the Celtics farther than many expected them to get.

Trade rumors will likely be whispered all season, especially with Thomas being due for a big contract at the end of next season, but as of now, Isaiah will still be leading the team next season. Depending on what the team does in free agency and the draft, Thomas may not be asked to score as much as he did this season.

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Luckily, he has made it known that when needed, he can score with the best of them and add to his growing Celtics legend.