It’s been a rollercoaster ride for Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics fans everywhere after they saw the biggest trade of the year between the two teams get delayed and then eventually finalized by the end of August. The management of both sides probably had a big sigh of relief because it would have been an awkward debacle to see the players they attempted to trade again. Kyrie Irving finally got his wish fulfilled, the Celtics unloaded an unhappy Crowder (he wasn’t too pleased when Boston cheered for Gordon Hayward in the regular season), and the Cavaliers are now equipped for a future without LeBron James.
But what about Isaiah Thomas?
You know, the 5’9” guard who defied all odds and registered the third highest scoring average last season; the last pick of the 2011 draft who surprised many when he transformed himself into the focal point of the Celtics’ offense; the two-time All-Star who even opted to continue playing in the playoffs even after his sister's tragic death; the man who led one of NBA’s storied franchises back to the Eastern Conference finals after the team failed to do so for the past four years.
Thomas is a legitimate star, yet he got ruthlessly traded without any prior notice from the team he once dedicated his career to. So, what does this move mean for 'IT'?
How severe is IT’s injury?
Thomas sustained a hip injury more than two months ago in a regular season game versus the Minnesota Timberwolves. He aggravated the injury in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals but continued to play through it. However, after he ran through Kevin Love’s screen in Game 2 of the conference finals against the Cavs, he was done.
Thomas suffered a right femoral-acetabular impingement with a labral tear and that cost him the rest of the playoffs according to the NBA. The injury is serious and threatens to derail Thomas' fledgling career. Thomas hasn’t even been given the green light to go running during his rehab process yet. If this goes on for any longer than it should, the guard might have to undergo surgery and recovery could take up to nine months. To make matters worse, there’s a small chance that the injury may reoccur in the future if the damage is severe.
To max or not to max?
The good news is 80% of athletes recover and return to their previous form after hip arthroscopy. However, there are no existing data for NBA athletes. Therefore, this injury will likely impact IT’s last contract year.
CBS Sports’ Kyle Boone says the 28-year-old could be on the sidelines until All-Star break based on The Athletic’s report. If that’s the case then Thomas is going to have a hard time convincing the Cavs or any other team for that matter into offering him a max contract. He could still get the money he deserves if he returns to his usual self in time for the postseason and if he helps the Cavs win a championship next year. It’s not actually hard to imagine the Cavs overpaying yet again - just ask J. R. Smith, Tristan Thompson, or Kevin Love.
It’s not personal, it’s business
Thomas was probably at home nursing his ailing hip when the news of his eventual departure from Boston came up. Sure, it was a heartless thing to do to someone who bled green for the past two years but the Celtics probably saved themselves from all the drama and an eventual meeting with the Washington alumni for a max contract.
Boston certainly owed a lot to Thomas after all the things he did to restore the Celtics’ franchise to what it is now. So, it’s not far-fetched to assume that he would have gotten a max or somewhere near that even if he couldn’t play the majority of this season.
Unfortunately, he’s now a Cavalier and Cleveland doesn’t owe him anything. It’s highly possible he could be on his way out as well if James bolts for a second time so the wine and gold could jumpstart their rebuild. Even if LeBron does decide to stay, anything short of a championship won’t yield any returns for any of the King’s men.
Shot at glory
Thomas’ best shot at getting a max contract is if he signs a one year deal after his contract expires because he has little to no leverage next offseason even if this season hasn’t even begun. This deal has put the point guard in a precarious position, one that doesn’t seem like it could swing in his favor. However, if there’s anything positive about this transaction, then that would be a shot at a ring and a chance to learn under the tutelage of the King.