Initial thoughts on Isaiah Thomas, and his effect on the roster

We're two games into the Isaiah Thomas era. I thought it'd make sense to reach out to Eric Blaisdell, whose been hoping the Celtics land Thomas for a while, to get his initial impressions. Below is our email exchange

Matt Richissin

Eric, I know Isaiah Thomas was really a guy you were hoping the Celtics would land for a while now. What are your initial impressions 2 games in?

Eric Blaisdell

I couldn't be happier. In just two games you can already see what kind of impact a player like Thomas can bring. He's averaging 21 ppg right now for Boston. The dude can flat out score. I've also been impressed with his contributions on the glass and his passing. Thomas fills up stat sheets. Everyone has been begging for a "go-to scorer," well it looks like the Celtics just acquired one.

I do have concerns, though. Mainly that Thomas stated he wanted to start in Phoenix and that was one of the reasons he wanted out of there. He's not starting here, yet. Do you see him taking over Avery Bradley's starting spot? If so, what kind of reaction should we expect from Bradley? If not, does Thomas get fed up again and want out?

Matt Richissin

It's an excellent question, and one I've been spending some time thinking about myself. I think you've absolutely got to start him, and that's not to appease him, it's because at least at this point, he's clearly the best player on the team. So who do you move?

I think you have to keep Avery Bradley in the starting lineup. He's red hot right now, he plays best when he doesn't have to be the primary ball handler, and I worry a return to the bench would mess with his psyche. Not to play sports psychologist, but I've always thought that he can get in these mental funks that really seem to negatively impact his game (his shooting in particular).

So that leaves either Smart or Turner. Ideally, I'd love to see them ride with the three guard lineup. People will be quick to point out that he's undersized - which, is true - but it's not like Evan Turner's going to be any better defensively at the position.

That being said, I think we're much more likely to see your boy Smart return to the bench. Curious to hear what you think will happen, and how you think a move back to the bench might affect Smart's maturation.

Eric Blaisdell

Smart would likely take whatever role Boston gives him and he'd run with it. He would still get plenty of minutes so his development wouldn't be hindered. Smart's a team player. I wish the same could be said for Bradley. I could see him wilting away on the bench.

A three-guard lineup sounds intriguing and while Smart has the ability, I'd rather not force him to guard small forwards night in and night out. Bradley has to go to the bench at some point, whether he likes it or not. The skills Smart and Thomas bring to the table matchup so well together and Bradley would be perfect as a sixth man.

As you mentioned, Bradley's been going nuts lately with big games. Why now? Is it just another hot streak and he'll come back to earth? Has he finally taken that next step? Or does he see the Thomas trade as a threat for his starting job so he's busting his ass to stay a starter. I mean six steals Monday night? Where's that Bradley been hiding?

Matt Richissin

I've always liked Bradley, so I might not be the right guy for this but...

I think it's a little of column a and a little of column b. It's no doubt a bit of a hot streak. He can't maintain this level of play, he doesn't have the shot creation skills. But at the same time, I don't think he'll completely 'fall off.' The guy is a shooting guard. He's not a 1, he's not even a good secondary ball handler. He's a shooting guard.

I think the burden of being a playmaker wears on him on both ends. It was obvious last year. He was an average defender at best when he was forced into being this team's starting point guard, and that didn't improve until he was relieved from the role. I think now with Smart (and Thomas) he's cherishing the opportunity to play off the ball again, and getting to do the things he does well (shooting, cutting, using picks).

Back to Thomas though - One concern I've had is that he really seems to have a habit of dribbling himself into some truly horrid turnovers. How much of this do you think is growing pains, how much of it is just who he is, and is it a legit concern moving forward?

Eric Blaisdell

It's just a part of his game, albeit a frustrating one. He's going to commit his fair share of turnovers. That's the risk he brings, but the reward is so much better. I'm not at all concerned with that aspect of his game when he puts up 20 ppg. His shortcomings will also be masked a bit when this team acquires a shot blocker (fingers crossed for WCS).

Someone who's been left out of the Thomas conversation so far is James Young. What does the Thomas trade mean for him? Boston now has three starting-caliber guards on long-term deals. Is Young truly a small forward? If not, when and where does he play? If he's a guard, his development could be seriously impacted by Thomas.

Matt Richissin

Has to learn how to play the small forward position. Absolutely has to. And I'm not concerned about him being able to accomplish that, it's not like there's that many small forwards in the league that are really going to overpower him anyways. And for what it's worth, he's got the same wing span and weighs just as much as Tayshaun Prince.

I'm not too concerned about James Young right now. I think his minutes are a next year problem. He's just so completely lost out there defensively. He can't be relied on to play a lot of minutes consistently at this point. A summer should help him, and at that point you can probably look to cut bait with Turner whose on a reasonable deal.

Last two questions - How sold are you long-term on Isaiah Thomas, and do you think he's enough to lead this team to the playoffs this year?

Eric Blaisdell

Absolutely sold. Thomas is Ying to Smart's Yang. You'd be hard pressed to find a player that compliments Smart's abilities as well as Thomas does. This is the start of something beautiful. Time to get excited again.

As for the playoffs, the East is such a crapshoot I wouldn't be surprised if Boston made the playoffs or missed them. Thomas makes the team better and helps the playoff push, but no Sully is a major hit. If I had to guess, I'd say the team misses the playoffs and that's ok. We're in this for the long haul.