Isaiah Thomas was sent to the Cleveland Cavaliers in a blockbuster deal that also saw Kyrie Irving get shipped to the Boston Celtics. Six months ago, a trade with that kind of star power attached to it would’ve garnered many questions about fit and style of play for the teams swapping All-Star point guards. But right now the main question for the Cavs remains the most relevant question coming out of the trade and will ultimately determine how successful it is for both sides. When will Isaiah Thomas return to the court?
The Cavs essentially played a game of online roulette with this deal. They had their backs against the wall once Kyrie Irving requested a trade out of town and decided to bet all of their money on the prospects of a 2018 first round Brooklyn Nets draft pick, young big man Ante Zizic and the health of Isaiah Thomas. The only guarantee is Jae Crowder, a defensive-minded wingman that can drain some open three’s while he plays on a relatively cheap contract. He’s the only dependable asset the Cavs acquired for their former franchise point guard.
Thomas’ injury presents a new type of risk for Cleveland. If the reports are accurate and IT will indeed miss time going into the 2018 NBA All-Star Game, then all of the load will be weighted on the shoulders of LeBron James. Kevin Love will help out a little bit but let’s not kid ourselves, this responsibility is on LeBron James. It’s a burden James is familiar with but something he hasn’t faced in nearly a decade. If Thomas does indeed stay sidelined for the first half of the season, his return will be even more critical and timely, so long as James can keep his team afloat in the Eastern Conference.
The Cavs shouldn’t be any worse than a fourth seed as we head into March but how they end will be vital. Thomas needs to come on and make a splash almost immediately so James can take a small break and prepare for the grind of the playoffs and what should be his eighth straight trip to the NBA Finals. Thomas showed last season that he can indeed lead a team to the top of the conference but will his health prevent him from doing that with the Cavs?
If this is indeed LeBron James’ final year in Cleveland, why not let him go out with the team on his shoulders? The Cavs lost Irving but now give LeBron what he wants. The keys to the castle. Thomas is a vital part of their success but if he does miss a large portion of the season, it’s a risk the Cavaliers need to take given their awkward situation with both Irving this summer and potentially LeBron James next summer.