With just under a third of the shortened 2011-12 NBA season remaining is it possible that the race for this year’s Rookie of the Year closer than it appears?
It should come to no surprise to any that Kyrie Irving and Ricky Rubio have been the names at the top of the list to claim the dubious honor. With Rubio out the rest of this season due to injury it is likely that Irving has the title on lock. However, there is one player that refuses to remove his name from the proverbial hat–Sacramento Kings rookie Isaiah Thomas.
Thomas was supposed to be this year’s Mr. Irrelevant. After many people had stopped watching back in June, Commissioner Stern took to the podium one last time, “The Sacramento Kings select Isaiah Thomas.” The name usually called in the 60th spot is usually not spoken again; after all he’s supposed to be irrelevant.
The mark of a strong candidate for ROY should be if a rookie makes his team better. Thomas has made the Kings better. Since becoming a starter on February 17th against Detroit, Thomas has shined. In his 18 games as a starter he averages 14.6 PPG, 3.2 RPG, and 5.0 APG. His size, officially listed as a 5’9″ 185 pound guard, is something teams are not used to. He is the Darren Sproles of the NBA. He is quick off the fast break and can go between defenders before they know he’s been there. For someone who hits the chest of most NBA players, Thomas can fly. He nearly achieved a triple-double in Cleveland on February 19th with 23-8-11. Rebounds for a 5’9″ player shouldn’t come easy, but Thomas jumps as if he has springs in his shoes. His stat sheet has no glaring holes. He does it all and can claim 7 blocked shots; most notably the one against Blazers’ guard Wesley Matthews on February 2nd at Power Balance Pavilion.
Currently Thomas is sitting on the second rung of NBA.com’s Rookie Ladder. This is where he will likely remain, but after being drafted dead last, second best doesn’t look half bad.