That’s who I felt like when I warned you about Isaiah Thomas.
I warned you on Facebook (“Does IT really need to return to UW next year? What does he gain by doing that?”), I warned you on Twitter (“What does IT gain by coming back? Already a proven scorer and won’t get the chance to flash the PG skills next year w/ Gaddy/Wroten.”), and I warned you in Episode XIX of the podcast most of you don’t listen to (beginning at the 33:45 mark, in case you’re interested).
Think of Isaiah as the ever-shrinking O-Zone layer. Think of me as Lisa. And consider yourselves to be the good people of Springfield.
If we’re not careful, the O-Zone layer will disappear! I told you. I tried to warn you. But none of you listened. And now, sadly, the O-Zone layer is gone.
A lot of people are pissed. They didn’t see this coming. But I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: you just never know what Isaiah is going to do. He’s a different breed. And as a result, he chose to forego his senior season and turn pro. Can’t say I blame him. He made the right call.
A week ago, I was hailed as a lunatic for stating that Isaiah had nothing to gain by coming back to Montlake. He needs to work on his game! He needs to improve his draft stock! He’s a guaranteed first-rounder if he comes back! What about the impending NBA lockout?! Everybody had their reasons for wanting I.T. back in purple-and-gold, but none of those reasons were very, shall we say, compelling.
Unless Isaiah has one last growth spurt in him, his stock would not have risen very much between now and one year from now. Outside of returning to school and having a Jimmer Fredette type year (unlikely, given the number of capable scorers on this Huskies’ ballclub), the 5’8″ combo guard would have faced the same scrutiny from NBA scouts in 2012 as he’s facing today. Too small, too one-dimensional, too questionable as a true point guard.
Those are the shortcomings plaguing the diminutive Tacoma native. And none of those shortcomings would have been addressed by playing one more season at Washington.
First of all, dude won’t grow anymore. I think he’s done now. So we can put that to rest.
Secondly, the singular dimension at play here is Thomas’s ability to score. He’s fantastic at putting the ball in the hoop. Outside of that, though, he’s little more than an average pro prospect. But wouldn’t you think that the scoring would be enough? I mean, isn’t scoring the game’s main objective? And what about the Adam Morrisons and J.J. Redicks of the world? Lottery picks who were drafted solely on their ability to score. If they can get paid to play basketball, certainly Isaiah can. So that one dimension, however lone it may be, is enough to make Young Zeke a first round selection, I’d wager.
Thirdly, there’s the whole point guard issue. And this is a pretty big issue.
You all remember Nate Robinson, right? Little guy, big ego, ridiculous hops? I’ll assume you do. Following his junior season at Washington, Robinson realized his true calling was in the professional ranks. So he, like Isaiah, gave up his final year of collegiate eligibility to enter the 2005 NBA Draft. He ultimately became the twenty-first overall pick by the Phoenix Suns. He then went on to win three NBA Slam Dunk trophies. And, to date, he has earned nearly $14 million while going to work over the past six years. Not bad.
When Nate Rob left Washington, he faced the same criticism that Isaiah now faces. With one major exception. While scouts are warming up to the idea of Thomas as a future NBA point guard, they were absolutely freezing on Robinson’s prospects at the same position back then.
You see, Nate never really ran the point in college. Sure, there were brief ball-handling stints, but for the most part Robinson could defer to the esteemed likes of Will Conroy, Brandon Roy, or Curtis Allen. He was free to roam without the ball and that’s where he excelled. Even as he’s carved out a decent career in the NBA, he’s still not really viewed as a true point guard. And that’s what separates Robinson from Thomas.
Isaiah will be a point guard in the NBA. It’s a given. He proved he could do it this year when Abdul Gaddy got hurt. He dropped dimes like a pay phone and handled like a middle man. He wasn’t just good at the one, he was great. And all that meant it was time to migrate to a bigger pond.
Had IT returned to Washington, he would have been relegated to the off-ball role for his senior season. With a healthy Gaddy and the arrival of 6’5″ freshman Tony Wroten, the point would have been well-manned for much of the year. And with all the scorers surrounding him — Terrence Ross, Scott Suggs, and C.J. Wilcox — there’s no guarantee that those points per game would have gone up.
So what was there to gain? Sure, everyone can use a little polish from time to time. But Isaiah is already the same age as most college seniors (he went to prep school for a year, remember). His clock was ticking and in professional athletics, age is everything.
You can’t blame him, Husky fans. He did what he needed to do. Be grateful for the past three seasons and tip your cap to a guy who flipped the switch when he needed to turn it on. He was as clutch as they come — cold-blooded, you might say — and only got better with each passing game.
Isaiah, we’ve had our differences, you and I. But I love you as a Husky, love your game, and wish you all the best in the league. Go represent.