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2017-18 Cleveland Cavaliers Player Preview: Isaiah Thomas

Let’s preview the season for one of the newest and smallest Cavaliers, Isaiah Thomas.

NBA: Cleveland Cavaliers-Press Conference
Sep 7, 2017; Cleveland, OH, USA; New Cleveland Cavaliers player Isaiah Thomas talks to the media during a press conference at Cleveland Clinics Courts. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze
Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Death, taxes and waiting for Cavaliers’ point guards to play til December. It’s something that Clevelanders are getting used to with their basketball team.

In 2015, Kyrie Irving missed the first 24 games of the season and made his debut in late December. Now, the Cavaliers will be without Isaiah Thomas until 2018 most likely.

Thomas hasn’t played in a game since sitting out in the Eastern Conference Finals and hasn’t been doing any kind of basketball-related activity either.

Here’s what Thomas had to say at the Cavaliers’ media day regarding his hip injury and lack of physical activity:

Since the end of May I haven't done anything, so the focus now is getting the inflammation out of my hip and getting it back to where it was. Each day is better than the previous day. I"m able to get on the court and move around a little bit.

In terms of actual recovery, Thomas has been with the Cleveland training staff nearly six days a week trying to get his hip back to full shape. For a player of Thomas’ size and the way he plays, needing a healthy hip is critical.

The estimate is that the ex-Celtics’ guard will be back on the floor for Cleveland in January, but there’s no exact timetable and return date for him. Assuming Thomas makes it back completely healthy and to an All-Star level, let’s take a look at what to expect from him this season.

In 2016-17, Thomas had his best season as a professional, averaging 28.9 points, 5.9 assists on 46 percent shooting from the field and 39 percent from three-point range.

Primarily, the 5’9” guard was an isolation heavy player last season, scoring in that fashion nearly 56 percent of the time. Thomas also commonly weaves his way into the teeth of the defense and finishes around the rim.

The Cavaliers’ new point guard was great at absorbing contact around the rim and drawing foul calls. He averaged nine attempts at the charity stripe and connected on over 90 percent of those tries.

In spot up situations, Thomas shot around 40 percent, but it’ll be critical for him to improve on that number to provide maximum spacing around LeBron James.

His biggest question marks come on the defensive side of the ball. His size limitation makes him a huge liability in most matchups. Cleveland will have to play Thomas alongside one of Crowder, Smith or Shumpert, so they can have an on-ball defender and hide Thomas in a different matchup.

I think the starting lineup headed into the playoffs will feature Thomas, J.R. Smith, LeBron James, Jae Crowder and Kevin Love. While, Dwyane Wade, Kyle Korver, Tristan Thompson and Derrick Rose come off the bench. Expect Thomas to find time when LeBron’s not on the floor to help initiate the offense and create baskets for his teammates.

There are so many intangibles to Thomas’ game that I know Cavaliers’ fans are absolutely going to love. He’s fearless in late-game situations and might only be 5’9”, but plays with the heart of someone who’s 6’9”. He comes to Cleveland with a gigantic chip on his shoulder, after being traded away from Boston and being slandered on his way out.

All of those non-quantifiable attributes are going to be huge for a team that’s looking for motivation in the dog days of the regular season. The Cavaliers added a lot of new pieces this offseason, but I have no qualms in saying that Thomas will be the second-best Cavalier this upcoming season and is going to earn the respect and admiration of a lot of fans in the Northeast Ohio area.