Sports Illustrated is in the midst of their countdown of the top 100 players for the 2018 season in the NBA. Tristan Thompson was the first inclusion on the list at No. 52, Jae Crowder came in at 44, while Derrick Roseand J.R. Smith landed among the honorable mentions.
Next up on the list is Isaiah Thomas, who came in shortly after Crowder on the list at 40. Here’s what SI’s Ben Golliver had to say about the Cavs’ new point guard:
Even with a dream team of Hollywood writers and an unlimited production budget, it would be nearly impossible to put together a more compelling sports movie than Thomas’s 2016-17 season, which featured tragedy, triumph, tears, trash talk, rivalries, record-setting performances and injury adversity. As if a trip to the East finals, a fifth-placed MVP finish and an All-NBA selection weren’t enough, the offseason brought the most shocking plot twists of all: a blockbuster trade to Boston’s chief rival, Cleveland, and word that a lingering hip injury could sideline him for a substantial portion of the 2017-18 season.
If fully healthy, the 28-year-old Thomas (28.9 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 5.9 APG) would have placed in the top 30 of this list thanks to a potent offensive game that checks all the boxes. He’s a teacher’s pet when it comes to Synergy’s offensive scouting breakdowns, as he ranked “excellent” or “very good” in isolation, pick-and-rolls, transition, spot-ups, screens, and dribble hand-offs. In other words, put him on the court, give him the ball, and he will score it efficiently. Defense is a completely different story, of course, as Thomas’s diminutive stature made him the weakest link to play major minutes for a contender or pseudo-contender last year. He needs extra help, he needs to be hidden and he might get repeatedly picked on by the Warriors in a theoretical Finals match-up, but Thomas’s ability to generate quality team offense and his sheer entertainment value more than justify the trade-off.
It’s hard to get too upset about Thomas’ ranking when we don’t know how much of the season he is even going to play. He’s a tremendously talented player that has proven doubters wrong throughout his career. But when there’s a possibility he may not play until after the All-Star break, his value for the upcoming season is diminished.
If Thomas comes back before January, this ranking is going to look hilariously bad. But with so much uncertainty about when he will return and how much his game will be impacted by his injury, it’s hard to fault SI for hedging their bets.
It’s not like he’s in bad company either, as he comes in just behind DeMar DeRozan, Carmelo Anthony, Eric Bledsoe, and C.J. McCollum. Which is a reminder of just how deep the talent pool is in today’s NBA.