I have always been a huge fan of sportsmen and women who simply look like they shouldn’t be playing elite level sport. Santi Cazorla looks like the chubby kid at school who spent his evenings playing final fantasy and drinking code red, yet he is one of the most talented midfielders in the Premier League. Man City centre back John Stones would look more at home on the catwalk in Milan draped in some ridiculous couture, I mean those cheekbones are legit. And then there is Sutton United’s reserve keeper Wayne Shaw who is just fat as fuck.
The same could be said about Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas who has been confounding his 5’ 9” frame to make it to his second straight All-Star game. The NBA is a league of giants and Thomas is not just small by NBA standards, he is small by normal life standards, and yet he has been making the big guys look foolish since he entered the league in 2011.
What is incredible about Thomas’ is that he is a scoring guard. There have been some great little guys who have played in the league such as Mugsy Bogues, Calvin Murphy and Damon Stoudamire but nobody has scored like Isaiah. He is averaging almost 30 PPG this season and in his last 5 games he has put up 38, 21, 37, 41 and 44 points. Those are seriously elite numbers.
The way in which Thomas scores is amazing for a player of his size. He is constantly attacking the basket driving past perimeter defenders and finishing through contact with guys over a foot taller than him. You would expect a small guard like Isaiah to make his living beyond the arc draining 3 pointers but the diminutive Celtics star has the complete offensive arsenal. He scores lay-ups, mid range pull ups, fade aways and is efficient from long range. On top of all this he get’s to the free throw line and is one of the leagues best free throw shooters.
Perhaps the most impressive facet of Thomas’ game this season has been his performance at clutch time. In close games during the 4th quarter he simply takes over. Against the Raptors last night Thomas scored 19 of his 44 points in the final period and against Detroit he poured in 25 in the 4th. The ability to put your team on your back at crunch time is a sign of true greatness and we are perhaps witnessing the greatest player under 6 foot tall to ever play in the NBA.
There are of course issues with Thomas’ defence, his small stature means he struggles to defend pick and rolls and he can be posted up by almost every point guard in the league. However, with elite defenders like Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder on the perimeter the Celtics can hide Thomas somewhat, much like the Warriors do with Steph Curry.
In all likelihood Isaiah will not be able to lead Boston past the Cavs. However, the second seed is well within their grasp and a trip to the conference finals beckons. Add to this that Thomas is one of the funnest players in the league to watch it’s not a bad time to be a Celtics fan.