Few NBA players have dealt with the recent twists and turns that Isaiah Thomas has faced in the past three seasons. Thomas was traded from Boston to Cleveland in the summer of 2017, was traded again that season to the Lakers, discovered he had a serious hip injury, and was left to sign a minimum deal in Denver in the summer of 2018.
He signed with Washington before this season, was traded to the Clippers on Thursday and, reportedly, will be waived.
That’s six teams in 31 months. And assuming he latches on with a new team once his buyout from the Clippers goes through, Thomas will be at seven teams in that span.
Who will be seventh? Thomas has played well off the bench in Washington this year, averaging 12.2 points and shooting 41.3 percent from the 3-point line. There are teams in need of that kind of bench production.
He also drew praise from Wizards GM Tommy Shepard: “Isaiah was a pro’s pro from Day 1 when we brought him in. Every one of our rookies, every one of our young players had to see his love for the game and his work ethic every day, and he brought it every day. … We’re gonna miss that.”
Expect interest from the following:
Two years ago, when Thomas signed a veteran minimum in Denver, the Magic were among the teams that had been interested in him. Ultimately, he felt that Denver would give him a better opportunity to win and Thomas signed on with the Nuggets. Injuries and a crowded backcourt, though, limited Thomas to just 12 games. Now that Thomas is back on the market, a reunion with Orlando might prove to be of clearer benefit to both parties. Thomas would get ample minutes and scoring chances off the bench and the Magic badly need scoring help. While the Magic are hardly a championship threat at 22-29, Orlando is still firmly in the East playoff mix.
The Heat remade their roster on deadline day, dumping the contracts of James Johnson and Dion Waiters, and sending Justise Winslow to Memphis for Andre Iguodala, Jae Crowder and Solomon Hill. That beefs up a slim roster for the Heat, giving the team a trio of good defenders who are willing—if not always accurate—3-point shooters. But the Heat could use some backcourt insurance and though Thomas might not find mega-minutes in Miami, he would have a role on a team that has a fair shot at the conference finals.
Everyone in Boston would like to see this. Maybe Thomas would be amenable to it, too, though he still carries some bitterness over having been sent away by the Celtics following All-Star seasons in 2016 and 17. It would probably help Danny Ainge, too, allowing him to quell any notion that players ought to be bitter about his treatment of Thomas—an issue that was raised by Anthony Davis’ camp when it was rumored that the Celtics would like to pull a trade for Davis, who wanted to go to L.A. The one holdout against a Thomas signing would be Brad Wannamaker, the player most likely to be waived should Thomas be signed. Wannamaker has played well lately, though, and the Celtics don’t have much incentive to dump him for Thomas.
The Rockets have the roster room for Thomas as well as the need for backcourt depth. Having traded away Clint Capela with the commitment to playing P.J. Tucker at center—Tucker is 6-5, meaning the Rockets are playing small-ball all the way—adding a 5-9 guard only seems to make sense for Houston.