As this season is winding down, with the Sacramento Kings only having 12 games left, many discussions are around NBA awards. This year hear has been a fun debate all season about the MVP between Kevin Durant and LeBron James. Furthermore, there are many other good races for the other awards, including the Most Improved Player.
There are many good choices for the award in both conferences, but Isaiah Thomas is getting a good look at winning the award. Thomas started the year as a backup point guard to Greivis Vasquez, this after averaging 13.9 points and four assists per game while starting 62 games. So it seemed that Thomas would not be getting a ton of minutes during the season because the Kings also had Jimmer Fredette and Ray McCallum on the roster. However, in December the Kings traded away Vasquez and it cemented Thomas in the starting lineup for the remainder of the season. Thomas has made the most of his time this season as he is averaging 20.7 points per game–that is almost seven whole points better than last year. In addition he has raised his assists from four to 6.4 per game. It seemed that Thomas was starting to slow down towards the end of the season, but in the last few games Thomas has stepped up big time. Against the Washington Wizards Thomas recorded his first career triple double with 24 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. Then he followed that up with 30 points on 9-of-13 shooting against the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday. So as far as the numbers go, Thomas has the numbers he needs for the Most Improved Player award.
Some of the other candidates for the award are Lance Stephenson, Goran Dragic, DeAndre Jordan, and many others. Now I believe the biggest difference between the other candidates and Thomas is what was expected of him at the beginning of the year. Again Thomas was expected to be coming off the bench and competing for minutes with Fredette. However, Thomas has exceeded everyone’s expectations and had a better year statistically than Mike Conley, Kyle Lowry, and Jeff Teague. Again with most of the other candidates, they were expected to start from the beginning and play a big part on their teams. Where Thomas was never thought of as the starting point guard as the season began, further evidence is that the Kings tried to trade him during the season believing he is not the long term answer for them. Needless to say this offseason will be interesting for two reasons for Thomas, one to see if he can win Sacramento’s first NBA award since Tyreke Evans won Rookie of the Year in 2010. Second, will Thomas be back with the Kings or will they let him walk to another team.
What is Coach Malone Doing?
On Sunday the Kings welcomed in the Milwaukee Bucks, who happen to have the worst record in the NBA. Sacramento did what they were supposed to do, which was beat the Bucks 124-107. They were able to jump on the Bucks early with a 39-16 lead in the first quarter and even had a 34-point lead heading into the fourth quarter. The weirdest part of this game was the fact that Rudy Gay played 41 minutes, and Thomas played 37. How on earth in a game where the Kings were up the whole game does these two starters play over 37 minutes? Furthermore, Travis Outlaw, who will not be part of the team next season, played more minutes than Ray McCallum and Royce White combined. This makes no sense when you have a team that is 20 games under .500, so why not play the younger players? The Kings should be playing McCallum and White, especially White, to see if they can contribute next season. However, Mike Malone is still playing Thomas, Gay and other well more than 35 minutes a game and it not developing the younger players. With only 12 games left in the season it would be wise to see who you have on your roster that can help this team improve next season. I believe the Kings should have been playing some of these younger guys earlier in the season, they have been out of the playoffs for a while and really just started playing McCallum. Furthermore, White has played a total of two minutes in two games. How are the Kings not playing White more to see if he can play in the NBA? It just does not make any sense.