The Celtics have won six straight playoff games since starting the postseason 0-2 and Isaiah Thomas has been phenomenal. He’s scored over 30 points in four of the eight playoff games, capped by a 53-point explosion Tuesday in an overtime win over Boston. He went LeBron in the 4th quarter and overtime, scoring 29 points.
On the #1 seed in the East, Thomas is by far the most popular player. They chant MVP at seemingly every home game. The diminutive star talks trash to opponents, and the fans love it. His jersey was the 14th best selling one this season.
Now comes to the hard part: What will Boston do with Thomas in the offseason? Everyone knows Stephen Curry has been the best bargain in the NBA the last few years, but Thomas is a close 2nd. He’s only making $6.5 million this year, and next year – in the final year of his Boston deal – he’s only making $6.2. million.
The former 2nd round pick is 28 years old, and due a huge payday. But what will Danny Ainge do? It’s complicated.
As great as Thomas is in the clutch, and as much as fans in Boston love him, there are four significant issues regarding his future:
1) Thomas is among the worst defenders in the NBA, ranking 467th out of 468 players this season in Real Plus-Minus.
There are great problems to have, of course. It’s much better to have options than to be the Knicks (locked into Carmelo’s contract), the Clippers (roster should be detonated), the Pacers (the Paul George situation), and so on.
But don’t think Isaiah Thomas’s agent isn’t expecting talks to heat up as soon as the playoffs are over. If you’re Thomas, you want a new contract this summer. You were 3rd in the league in scoring (28.9 ppg) and so far, this playoff run has only helped matters. If he wants to get paid this summer, he’s looking at a $145 million max deal; if he waits until next summer, it’s $179 million.
I still think it boils down to the Cavs series. These become DEFCON-1 problems if the Celtics beat the Cavs and reach the NBA Finals. You have to keep Thomas. What if they don’t? Two high picks. You need to add a star in free agency. And Thomas, a poor defensive player who is 5-foot-9, will be making $30+ million in his early 30s, with very likely, a fresh-out-of-college point guard fighting him for playing time.
Either way, it’s going to be a fascinating summer in Boston.