Remember “Linsanity,” the wave of publicity that resulted from a few weeks of outstanding performances by the NBA’s Jeremy Lin? It was fun while it lasted, and justified up to a point. After all, Lin was a Harvard man of Chinese descent who had gone undrafted and then kicked around for a time before embarking on his streak of excellence for the New York Knicks.
Would Lin have been a sensation if he had been playing for the Sacramento Kings? Perhaps, but not to the same degree.
It happens that Sacramento has a player who, if he played in New York, might well be a sensation. That player is Isaiah Thomas. Not the Detroit Piston superstar of yesterday, but a guard out of the University of Washington playing in his third professional season.
In his last 10 games, Thomas has averaged 22.8 point on .506 percent shooting. He has also dished out an average of 7.4 assists. For the entire season, he’s averaging 20.6 points and 6.4 assists.
Not to dump on the admirable Jeremy Lin, but this season he’s averaging 12.5 points and 4.3 assists for Houston.
Thomas is far from the only hot young guard in the NBA, though. Why is he a candidate for Isaianity?
For two reasons. First, he stands only 5-9. This makes him, along with Nate Robinson (also from the University of Washington), the smallest player in the league. Robinson, who played in New York for the first half of his career, has received plenty of publicity through the years, and deservedly so. However, he has never averaged 20 points or 5 assists per game in the NBA.
To my knowledge, Calvin Murphy is the only NBA player 5-9 or shorter to have scored more than 20 points per game over the course of a season. Murphy did it once (in 1977-78).
Second, Thomas was the last player taken in the 2011 NBA draft. That’s not the same thing as being undrafted; nor is it the same as being “Mr. Irrelevant,” the title bestowed upon the last player taken in the much longer NFL draft.
But how many players taken with the last NBA draft pick (whether 5-9 or 6-9) have averaged 20 points per game in the NBA? I can’t think of any, not in recent years anyway. Indeed, I believe that Chandler Parsons (15.5 ppg) is the only other player taken in the second (and last) round of the 2011 draft who is averaging double figures. Parsons was selected 22 picks before Thomas.
Here is the list of the last player taken in the 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, and 2013 drafts: Semih Erden, Robert Dozier, Dwayne Collins, Robert Sacre, and Janis Timma. Only Erden and Sacre have played in the NBA. Erden averaged 3.8 points per game in two seasons. Sacre currently is averaging 4.4 points.
It’s Isaiane that outside of Sacramento and apart from close followers of the NBA, Isaiah (“Don’t Call Me Zeke”) Thomas seems to be generating only marginally more interest than Sacre.