What IT's Return Means for the Cavs
The Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James are rolling. They are 18-1 in their last 19 games and James has been just as spectacular. On Sunday night, James became the second oldest player to record a triple-double in three straight games behind Jason Kidd.
Even on a bad night against the Washington Wizards in which he shot 8-for-23 and had six turnovers, James still managed to put up 20 points, 15 assists and 12 rebounds. When things aren’t going right for the Cavs they are still going right.
Kevin Love has also stepped into a new role as the starting center. Love is averaging the most points in his tenure with Cleveland at 19.5 per game, while shooting 40% from the three-point line, also his best as a Cav.
While all seems to be going good for the Cavaliers, they still have some help on the way. Isaiah Thomas, acquired this summer in a trade for Kyrie Irving, is targeting a return to NBA basketball in the first week of January. Thomas was sidelined for the beginning of the season with a hip injury. The hip injury started in a regular season game last season against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Thomas aggravated the injury again in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. Thomas missed time in the Conference Finals due to the injury. In fact, the Kyrie Irving and Isaiah Thomas trade was almost voided when Thomas’ physical made the Cavs think about reconsidering the deal. Isaiah Thomas’ injury is called a right femoral-acetabular impingement with labral tear.
Thomas will help the Cavaliers in many ways. First, he adds to the Cavs depth. With the shooting of J.R. Smith, the additional scoring of Jae Crowder, the backup presence of Derrick Rose (Rose was averaging 14.3 points in those seven games), the Cavaliers will be like a kid in a candy store with the return of Thomas.
Thomas’ knack of scoring is reminiscent of a former player that hit the game-winning shot for the Cavs in 2016 NBA Finals. Last season, Thomas led the Boston Celtics to a 53-29 record, good enough for the best record in the Eastern Conference.
He was third in the league in scoring with 28.9 points per game. In terms of efficiency, Thomas ranked 17th in the league with a Player Efficiency Rating of 24.7. When it comes to field goal percentage among guards who started 76 games or more, there are only eight players that shot better than his 46.3% from the field.
Thomas is looking like an amazing replacement for Kyrie Irving. The numbers from last year are comparable for the two players. Irving averaged 25.2 points, 5.8 assists, and 3.2 rebounds while Thomas finished with 28.9 points, 5.9 assists and 2.7 rebounds.
The Cavaliers, who are already streaking, will be able to go to another level when they get Thomas back. His role on the team when the playoffs come around will be crucial.
Last year Thomas was second in the league in clutch points with 5.1 per game behind Thunder guard Russell Westbrook. Thomas could potentially take some of the burden to create late in games off James.
Irving was only 15th in that category last year so the Cavaliers are going to benefit heavily in that category when Thomas comes back.
The greatness of James will most likely take the Cavs to the Finals for a fourth straight time but it will be the other players stepping up that will be what will result in a championship.
When ready, Thomas will be called on to do so.
Isaiah Thomas coming back to add his offensive dominance to the mix means the sky is the limit for the Cavaliers.
Stats and Info courtesy of Bball Reference, NBA.com, SBnation, Fansided,