Throughout last night, there were several reports that the Cleveland Cavaliers had acquired Isaiah Thomas from the Boston Celtics. According to ESPN, “The Boston Celtics have acquired All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving from the Cleveland Cavaliers for point guard Isaiah Thomas, forward Jae Crowder, center Ante Zizic and Brooklyn’s 2018 unprotected first-round pick and a 2020 second-round pick”. Although Thomas joining the team seems like a move that would help them; reach the finals to beat the Warriors, that is not the case.
During the past seven seasons, teams who obtained the services of Lebron have incorporated an offensive system; that is meant to showcase his ability to pass the ball and get to the basket. As a result, he usually walks the ball up until the three-point line and evaluates how the defenders are positioned. For instance, if a defender is playing off of a three-point shooter, he is supposed to pass the ball to the wide open shooter. On the other hand, if all the defenders are staying close to their man he is expected to evaluate the size of his defender. If the defender is smaller than him, he should post up in the mid to low block and back him down until he can to a spot where he can shoot a jumper. But if his defender is the same size as him he should use his speed and strength to get around him to attack the basket. However, there will be some instances where the defense will collapse on him, and he should pass the ball to the perimeter for the wide open three. However, on occasion, the Cavaliers will break out some different sets within their playbook to prevent from becoming a predictable offense. For example, the team may have LeBron act like he is going to post up at the free throw line and have him pass the ball to a teammate doing a backdoor cut to the basket.
As a result of Lebron needing to use the entire floor to be effective, Isaiah Thomas will be forced to significantly change his skill set and solely become a spot up shooter. During Isaiah’s tenure with the Boston Celtics, he was able to display a diverse offensive attack. For example, Isaiah would bring the ball up to the three-point line and passes it into the mid to low block or to the player next to him. Once this happens, he stands behind the three-point line as a spot up shooter. Another example is when Isaiah would bring the ball up to the three-point line and then a big man would set a screen. Once the pick was set Isaiah would pay attention to his defender to determine the next course of action, for instance, if the defender went under the screen, Isaiah would go over it and take the wide-open shot. On the other hand, if the defender went over the screen, Isaiah would go over it as well and drive towards the basket where he would score or pass the ball to the player next to him or to the perimeter depending on whether he was double teamed or not.
However, the pick and roll aspect of Isaiah’s game will be taken away in Cleveland due to the playing style of Lebron. As a result, the acquisition of Isaiah Thomas is not going to change the outlook for next year as they will still reach the finals and will be the underdogs against the Warriors.