It's early, but the fit between Isaiah Thomas and Marcus Smart is working
When Isaiah Thomas was acquired at the trade deadline 10 days ago, the move was mostly met with excitement and optimism. The Celtics were adding a player who averaged 20 points per game last season for a pick that figures to be conveyed near the end of the first round in 2016 and Marcus Thornton, a move nearly any NBA general manager would make.
But there were questions about Thomas' fit with the Celtics. The Kings let him walk away for nothing in free agency last summer, and DeMarcus Cousins made it clear he liked the ball movement better with Thomas gone. Then the Suns, who signed Thomas to a very team-friendly contract, gave up on him after just 46 games. Even after trading Goran Dragic, who was miffed about his role with Thomas in town, Phoenix chose not to hang onto the fourth-year guard.
And the Celtics already have a point guard of the future in Marcus Smart. Would adding a ball-dominant veteran and taking the ball out of Smart's hands in his developmental years really be good for him?
So far, it's hard to find many legitimate complaints about the trade. Thomas has averaged 21.8 points and 5.8 assists in five games in green and was named the Eastern Conference Player of the Week. In that same span, Smart's minutes are up (24.7 before the trade, 30.4 since), as are his points, field goal attempts and free throw attempts.
And, even with Thomas sometimes pounding the ball offensively, Smart's usage rate is actually slightly higher in the past five games (16.4) than it was over the rest of February (16.1). Adding Thomas hasn't taken the ball out of his hands as much as originally anticipated.
Though nothing concrete has surfaced about Thomas being anything close to a locker room cancer, his previous teammates haven't blinked when he was shown the door. But there has been no friction between Thomas and the Boston holdovers so far, and the elder point guard seems to be taking Smart under his wing.
“I’m just showing (Smart) things that coaches and players showed me and helping him along the way. I’ve already started telling him some little pointers that I think can make the game easier for him, and I also can learn from him on the defensive end. I mean, he’s a great defensive player and I can ask him for tips on how he goes about being such a great defensive player. We can learn from each other. I think we complement each other too, because our games aren’t really alike outside of us both attacking. I think we fit together really well."
The sample size is simply too small at this point to tell whether this is simply a honeymoon period or the start of something exciting in Boston. The Celtics are 3-2 since acquiring Thomas and nearly knocked off the Warriors Sunday. Thomas' shooting has been erratic (36.9 percent overall, 32.5 from 3-point range) and teams will have time to adjust against the three-guard trio Thomas, Smart and Avery Bradley, just as they did in Phoenix.
But for the first 10 days, the ride has been an enjoyable one. If things continue on this trajectory, it appears Danny Ainge may have pulled off a deadline masterpiece.