Irrelevant? Not Isaiah Thomas.
The last selection in the NBA draft doesn’t get an official Mr. Irrelevant label like his NFL counterpart. So, since the final pick of the 2011 NBA draft is not irrelevant in a recognized capacity, a few official titles for Isaiah Thomas:
• NBA All-Star.
• The Eastern Conference’s leading scorer in 2016-’17.
• The NBA’s best player under 6-foot since Allen Iverson — and, since The Answer was officially listed at 6-foot (cue Martin Prince voice: Highly dubious!), Thomas may well be the best under-6′ pro ever.
That last bullet speaks volumes about Thomas’ evolution as a player, given he was arguably not even the best Washington Husky under 6-foot of the 21st century. A half-decade before Isaiah Thomas arrived on the scene, Nate Robinson averaged double-figures for three years and flourished as one of the Pac-10’s peskiest defensive presences.
Please do not misconstrue that as criticism of Thomas in his time as a Husky. He was terrific in his three years as a Dawg, averaging 15.5, 16.8 and 16.9 points per game. But he shot on the lower end of the 40s throughout his Washington tenure, and only began to develop as a facilitating passer in his final season.
Whether you fall on the side of IT or Nate-Rob as Washington’s premier, under-6′ talent, you have a worthy argument. Both electrified the West Coast college basketball scene in their own, different ways.
There’s no argument Thomas developed into the superior pro. He’s also elevating the bar for all small guards, scoring and dishing with equal proficiency.
Monday night’s Game 7 close-out of the Washington Wizards offers a fitting microcosm of Thomas’ game: 29 points and 12 assists, matched up against one of the best point guards in the NBA.
The Celtics advance to the Eastern Conference Finals to face the defending champion Cavaliers, a franchise with rookie Kay Felder on its docket.
Felder has not seen the floor in the Playoffs due to a leg injury, but the promising guard from Oakland University plays a style similar to Thomas that could earn him opportunities in the years to come despite going No. 54 in last summer’s draft.
The coming NBA draft may have another prospect in the Isaiah Thomas mold with Central Michigan’s Marcus Keene. The 5-foot-9 Keene led the NCAA in scoring in 2016-’17 at 29.99 points per game.
Thomas’ success just might open doors for players of this style — and they’ll all be chasing the standard he’s setting. Nothing irrelevant about that.