Just a couple of years removed from an MVP-caliber season, Isaiah Thomas has been in a slump. Should the Minnesota Timberwolves give him a chance?
The Minnesota Timberwolves are fresh out of cap space. That’s why they could not make the necessary moves for D’Angelo Russell, Ricky Rubio or other players once free agency began. However, Isaiah Thomas is still on the market and would be a solid piece off the bench.
With a drama-free offseason, the Timberwolves must rely on a bounce back year from stars Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns (KAT) to climb the rankings in the Western Conference. Derrick Rose, one of the team’s most consistent players during the 2018-2019 campaign, is headed out the door and Minnesota needs to sure up their bench.
Just as Derrick Rose revitalized his career in Minnesota, the Timberwolves could strike gold in a similar situation with Isaiah Thomas. Thomas is two years removed from major knee surgery. The former second-round pick become a sort of a cult-hero during his tenure with the Boston Celtics.
During the 2016-17 season, Thomas finished fifth in the MVP voting after averaging 28.9 points per game to go along with 5.9 assists. He shot 46.3 percent from the field including 37.9 percent from long distance. Thomas was well on his way towards a maximum contract when he blew out his knee in the playoffs.
Since then, Thomas has been traded twice, first to the Cavs and then to the Lakers, before signing last season with the Denver Nuggets. He played in just 12 games shooting a career-low 34.3 percent from the field and did not play at all in the playoffs.
Thomas in Minnesota makes sense for multiple reasons. Unless the Timberwolves trade Jeff Teague or cut Gorgui Dieng, they are out of cap space and would go into the luxury tax by signing someone long-term (they pursued D’Angelo Russell through a sign-and-trade). Neither of the two are rotational players this year nor are they part of the team’s future.
A short-term stint with Thomas until the contracts of Teague (1 year) and Dieng (2 years) expire would give Minnesota a proven scorer off the bench without going into the luxury or committing to Thomas long-term. He won’t take away from the development of Wiggins and KAT and others including Josh Okogie, Jarrett Culver, and Robert Covington. He can provide mentorship for Okogie and Tyus Jones (if he were to re-sign). He also comes at a discount because teams may not be offering more than a year deal on the veteran’s minimum.
Rose, the youngest ever to win the MVP, missed nearly two consecutive seasons and hadn’t played more than 66 games since 2015-2016. Last year, he averaged 18.0 points per game while also shooting 37.0 percent from long range. Rose even had a 50-point outing during the season. He was one of the Timberwolves most consistent players, developed a consistent outside shot, He has parlayed his bounce back performance into a multi-year deal with the Detroit Pistons. If, and that’s a big if, Thomas can remain healthy, he could turn the upcoming season into a Derrick Rose-type scenario.
Thomas has always been a high-usage player, so he is best suited for the Timberwolves bench because they don’t have many playmakers on the second unit. He can open up shots for other players, run the offense as a floor general, and occasionally play with the starting unit.
While injured, Thomas did manage to average 15.2 points per game just two seasons ago. It’s not hard to imagine Thomas still has enough in the tank to give Minnesota 10 to 15 points per game in the upcoming season.