In today’s NBA where “small ball” is all the rage, just how “small” is big enough to be a great player? There isn’t quite a right answer as there are many teams who seem to find themselves lost in the shuffle between tradition and being unorthodox. This is no more indicative than in the fact that teams are now looking and searching for the “big” hybrid guard, who primarily acts as the ball handler, sort of like Russell Westbrook or D'Angelo Russell. Especially in light of the fact that these very same teams are looking for “3 and D”, “swingman”, general forward types who can man the 3, 4, and perhaps a little of the 5 if need be in this wide open era of basketball. The kicker to this part is the fact that these players are generally in between the heights of 6’6–6’9, which leads to another conundrum when considering the “Greek Freak” or Giannis Antetokounmpo, who probably grew an inch while I was writing this, who plays every positions and handles the ball the majority of the time. With this considered, it makes you wonder exactly what is the “ideal” size for any player, how big do you want certain positions to be, and what is too small for an NBA player? Well, the first two aren’t exactly questions that can be answered in today’s ever-evolving NBA but the last one is certainly being answered before our eyes.
Enter Isaiah Thomas.
Like everyone else his size with a hoop dream and NBA aspirations, Thomas was probably told how his dream wasn’t realistic throughout his entire life. He even continued to hear these things even after a very successful career at the University of Washington where he was an electrifying scorer and play-maker for his teammates. Despite his 5 foot 9 inch stature, sheer scoring, play-making, leadership abilities, and being named an all star in 2016, he still seems to find himself having to defend his NBA status or legitimize the things he has achieved. Although he continues to be Boston’s best player, there are still those that say Boston can’t win with him as the lead guy, but they are wrong (looking at you Sir Charles). This is Thomas’ definition of success, leading the Celtic’s to winning seasons and possible championships, but the pundits have doubted the success of the “little guys” for years.
These are probably the same sentiments that people had about Muggsy Bogues, who was one of the best defensive point guards of 1990’s and could distribute with the best of them. Perhaps people said these very same things about the great Avery Johnson who would go on to win a championship in San Antonio, while earning the nickname “Little General” from his peers. Undoubtedly this is what they told Spud Webb and the most of all know how that story ended.
Lastly, Calvin Murphy was a “small” guard, but he was able to lead his team to the finals, even though they would eventually lose to a stacked Boston Celtics team. Isaiah Thomas is better than them all, and the numbers prove it as none of them put up the numbers he has even if the sample sizes aren’t the same. Thomas has been consistent, since receiving consistent and starters levels minutes, consistently good to now consistently great, just ask Brad Stevens.
Not only is Thomas the greatest “short” player of all time, but the only one he compares to actually provides hope and and a glimpse of proof to the fact that Thomas can perhaps in fact be “the” or one of the “lead dogs” on a championship level team in Calvin Murphy. He continues to lead the Celtics to, what will end being, best records in the Eastern conference, regardless of whether the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers stand in their way or not. Thomas is averaging 28 points, 3 rebounds, and 6 assist on his way to what seems like yet another All-Star bid, and winning season for his squad. To all his critics out there, suck chalk, and let the rain from his jump shot wash it down. Keep banging Isaiah, keep banging.