Sacramento Kings: Isaiah Thomas Emerging As Impact Player

By Karim Akbar
Kelley L Cox – USA TODAY Sports

When the Sacramento Kings started the season, it was a given DeMarcus Cousins would deliver max stats to match his max contract, and he has. But two games into the season it’s the smallest player on the Kings roster that’s giving the team hopes of a successful season going forward.

“That Isaiah Thomas, he’s one of the premier guards in this league.” Chris Paul remarked post game.

That’s a pretty lofty claim from the All-Star, but definitely a truthful statement and Paul meant it. Through two games, it is Thomas who stands out as the player to watch.

In the Kings first game — a win over the Denver Nuggets — it was Cousins who led the way, but it is Thomas’ steady hand, deft shooting touch and frustratingly endless supply of quickness that’s got everyone raving. Standing 5-foot-9 on a good day, Thomas has quickly shown he has no fear and he proved that Friday night against the Los Angeles Clippers tonight.  Though Thomas’ solid game — 29 points, four assists, one steal — ended in a 110-101 loss, it’s clear Thomas has been the emotional lift this team needs after its extensive rebuild.

It was thought Greivis Vasquez would supplant Thomas as the starter, and that has been the case. Through these first two games, Vasquez has earned the start while Thomas provides the spark off the bench. But it is Thomas’ play that has either kept the Kings in games in the final stretch or the sole reason for a win. It’s a promising sign for the guard who started the bulk of the games last year. Friday night’s game proves that Thomas not only relishes in this role as a rotation player, but he’s thriving in it. Thomas was highly efficient Wednesday against the Nuggets with the minutes he played — 16 points on nine shots, 3-of-4 from behind the arc — and Thomas really shows no signs of stopping. Which is good because the Kings can use the extra effort from its bench.

Credit head coach Michael Malone for using Thomas as a solid positional player and not a starter. That’s no knock against the diminutive point guard. The stats show Vasquez is the better choice to run the offense with his passing while Thomas has shown his dominance against opposing benches. It’s also a death knell for Jimmer Fredette, who has all been lost in the backcourt shuffle.

Thomas will undoubtedly gain more minutes moving forward and that’s a good thing. He has shored up his role as a second impact player next to Cousins. The Kings get the Golden State Warriors next in yet another tough matchup to start the season. The young guard will likely take advantage of the Warriors small backcourt in that game, as well, and should give the Kings maximum effort every night.

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