Isaiah Thomas stands at just 5’ 9”. He is the shortest player in the league, yet is making a habit of standing tall when the Celtics needs him the most.
Players with Thomas’s frame rarely make the NBA, let alone compete at the All-Star level that Thomas is producing on a nightly basis.
With the city of Boston behind him, Thomas is terrorising defences with his deadly speed, incredible passing ability and his uncanny talent of finding the bottom of the net.
Thomas seems completely unfazed by his stature, regularly taking the ball headfirst into the paint and challenging the leagues tall timber with an array of acrobatic layups.
When he’s not streaming towards the basket, Thomas is using his handle to create separation from defenders and free himself for the shot.
Leave your opponent to collapse on the Celtics point guard and Thomas will find the open shooter through the hoard of defenders, regardless of the degree of difficulty on the pass.
Thomas’s scoring prowess defies conventional basketball logic and simply needs to be seen to be believed.
As we approach the All-Star break, Thomas is averaging 29.7 points and 6.4 assists per game. The only man to average more points than Thomas this season is Russell Westbrook.
On top of his incredible averages, Thomas is having a career season in terms of efficiency. He is shooting an impressive 39% from beyond the arc and 47% from the field. All while having the fifth-highest usage percentage in the league.
Yet despite these incredible statistics, Thomas’s most impressive attribute this season has been his performances in the final twelve minutes of tight games.
His ability to perform time and time again in crunch-time has helped carry Boston to the second-best record in the Eastern Conference.
There’s a reason why Thomas has been dubbed the ‘King of the Fourth’. He leads the NBA in fourth quarter production, averaging an incredible 10.3 points per fourth quarter.
When the score is within five points during the final five minutes, Thomas is averaging 5.2 points during that period, second only to Russell Westbrook.
When the lights get brighter and the crowd gets louder, Thomas’s efficiency rises in correlation with his scoring output. In the final 12 minutes the season, he is shooting 49.5% from the field and 47% from beyond the arc. Both of which are significant spikes from his averages over 48 minutes.
These numbers are not just impressive in relation to the current season, they hold their own on a historic level.
In the last twenty seasons since 1996-97, there have only been eleven seasons in which a player has averaged eight or more points in the final period. Thomas leads all comers with his 10.3 point average.
The opposition knows it’s coming, yet the script doesn’t change. Every fourth quarter Thomas brings the ball up and creates a quality look for Boston and as of half-way through the season, no-one can stop him.
He may be just 5’ 9”, but come the fourth quarter there’s no more daunting challenge than stopping Thomas from ripping the game away from you.
Despite his offensive fire-power, Thomas has some obvious deficiencies. While he has mastered the art of using his small stature on the offensive end, his defensive ability leaves a lot to be desired.
He simply doesn’t have the reach or height to defend the other elite point guards in the league and often ends up stuck on taller, more physical players who can bully him in the paint.
Thomas ranks 441st amongst all players in Defensive Real/Plus Minus (This statistic rates a player’s impact on the defensive end of the court per each 100 possessions played). For those who are not aware, there is no 442nd ranked player, Thomas is dead last.
The Celtics defence allows 12.8 more points per 100 possessions when Thomas is on the court. He is arguably the hardest player in the league to cover for on the defensive end and unfortunately for Thomas it’s not something he can easily change.
Despite his deficiencies, Thomas’s positive impact on the Celtics is undeniable. He is the face of the franchise, the player the whole team looks to when their backs are against the wall.
From the last pick in the 2011 Draft to the ‘King of the Fourth’, Thomas’s story of perseverance, determination and heart are as inspiring as they come.
Thomas is yet to finish writing his story, the twenty-seven year old still has plenty of big shots to hit in a city yearning to return to the top of the basketball mountain.
The NBA’s biggest and best stand in the way of the leagues smallest player and the ultimate success, but if Thomas has taught us anything so far it’s to never underestimate the little guy.