Washington Wizards: Isaiah Thomas Share Mutual Opportunity

Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images
Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images /

The desires of Isaiah Thomas to return to his league-leading play and the Washington Wizards to reach playoff contention make for a win-win acquisition.

If you’ve followed Isaiah Thomas’ NBA career over the past four seasons, you know that it’s been a story with equal parts success and struggle. Thomas played a career-best season with the Boston Celtics in 2016-2017, scoring an average of 28.9 points per game while finishing fifth in the voting for MVP.

These marks that I.T. set over the course of his breakthrough year established him as the third overall scorer in the league during ’16-’17, with 2,199 points. Additionally, Thomas converted three-point shots at a 37.9 percent clip and made 90.9 percent of his free-throw attempts that season.

Unfortunately, I.T. suffered a hip injury that postseason during the Celtics’ Eastern Conference Finals matchup against the Cleveland Cavaliers. At the end of August 2017, the Celtics dealt him to the Cavaliers in exchange for point guard Kyrie Irving in a blockbuster trade.


After the Cavaliers traded Thomas in February 2018 to the Los Angeles Lakers and he spent one season with the Denver Nuggets, it’s safe to say that I.T. still seeks to return to the league-leading play and heroic playoff performances that he rose to just two seasons ago.

So when ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on July 1 that I.T. agreed to a one-year deal in free agency to join the Washington Wizards, a team that faced great adversity last season and missed the 2019 playoffs, it was clear that the acquisition was a win for both parties.

From the Wizards’ perspective, Thomas is a valuable player and leader in the locker room, who can immediately contribute to the team’s success. Washington’s starting All-Star point guard John Wall will reportedly return to play in at least five months after he ruptured his right Achilles tendon at home.

As an eight-season NBA veteran, two-time All-Star, and a ’16-’17 All-NBA second-team selection, I.T. is capable of being a starting guard for the Wizards or making big plays off of the bench.

He carried the Celtics during their 2017 playoff campaign, averaging 23.3 points and 6.7 assists a night over 15 games. Seven of those contests took place against the Washington Wizards, in a contentious second-round series.

It’s a bit ironic that a former nemesis of the Wiz is joining their squad. When The Boston Globe’s Gary Washburn asked him about this, I.T. said that it feels a bit weird for him to say he’s now a Wizard because of the intense rivalry between Boston and Washington for a few seasons:

Thomas also credited his friendship with Wall and Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal along with his respect for Coach Scott Brooks — for paving the way for small guards like himself — as reasons that brought him to D.C.

According to Alex Kennedy of HoopsHype, the Wizards have provided no guarantees that Thomas will play as a starter with Wall out. In an interview with Kennedy, I.T. said this when asked whether Washington assured him that he would be the team’s starting point guard:

"Nah, I don’t really care about that. If it’s about competition, then let the best man win. I will always win that battle. My biggest focus was opportunity and being able to showcase that I can still play at a high level. But, also, I can still bring something to a team and help them win games, which is the most important thing. [Washington] just made the most sense for me, so I took advantage of that."

The opportunity for Thomas to regain his standing in the league was also an essential aspect that supported to his decision to join the Wizards, according to The Athletic’s David Aldridge.

Joining the Wizards provides Thomas with exactly that: a chance to prove his leadership qualities and offensive prowess with a new team. Thomas signing with Washington provides a fresh start for him.

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As a passionate Wizards fan, I hope that I.T. will rise again to the high level of play he is capable of reaching. It’s always a slow grind to the top, after all.