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April 1, 2011 at 11:52 AM

Making a case for and against Isaiah Thomas turing pro

The latest mock draft from Draft Express has Isaiah Thomas, the Washington junior who declared for early entry, being taken at No. 25 in the second round by the Los Angeles Lakers.
That’s encouraging news for Thomas, but the his fate will be decided by NBA front office executives.
I spoke with about a dozen NBA folks and opinions are mixed on the 5-foot-9 guard.
The guys associated with teams spoke on the condition of anonymity because they’re not authorized to comment on the record about draft prospects. The other guys agreed to give their opinions if they weren’t identified.
Here’s a sampling:
Eastern Conference scout who last saw Thomas at the Pac-10 tournament:
— It’s a wise move. Why not? That’s what that rule is there for.
— I’ve heard conflicting reports on if he’s going to come out or if he’s just testing the waters. If he’s testing the waters it’s a great move.
— The NBA is trying to have a big combine in April. That is tailor-made for him it it happens.
— This year when you rank everybody, it’s a top heavy draft with the bigs, but not with the guards.
— I’m sure (Thomas) looked at that McDoanld’s (All-America) game and saw that kid Michael Gilchrist knowing he’s a one-and-done guy.
— Thomas is a high-energy guy. He’s a third point guard candidate on a NBA team. There’s not a lot of guys that look like him. J.J. Barea comes to mind. Will Bynum. Guys like that. He’s a different player because of the height. He’s going to have to play PG.
— If there is a lock out, and he’s not drafted then he’s screwed. He’s going to have to go overseas. He may have to do that even if he’s taken in the second round.
— I don’t think his is a bad move. He’s not going to grow. The time in now. Draft doesn’t have a ton of guards.
— The best guards are Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker. I’m not a big Kemba guy, but he’s in there. After that it’s who has an appetite for what. But (Thomas) is not in that conversation yet. You have to throw Brandon Knight and Malcolm Lee and the kid from Michigan State (Kalin Lucas) because he’s taller and younger. It’s not fair, but that’s the way it is.
— My biggest advice to him would be whatever you do, own it. This is your decision no one else’s. Not your dad’s. Not your coach. So if works or doesn’t work own it.
— I’m sure he’s getting advice from (Nate) Robinson and that’s good and bad. The thing with Nate is 29 teams agreed this guy is not a first-rounder, but one guy loved him. He was Isiah (Thomas’) guy.
— The NCAA rules on workouts can be a bear. It’s my understanding that you go for a workout and miss a class, then you’d have to sit out a game next year (if you return to school). There’s also the issue of repaying teams for flying you out and things like that.
— He’ll need to have (Lorenzo) Romar help him with that process. For us, we don’t care. We have enough rules of our own that we can’t keep up with the NCAA rules.
— It would serve him well to have a workout over a weekend. Some type of five-on-five setting for three days. Maybe do it in the middle of the country to get as many people as possible to come out.
— In my mind, he’s a change-of-pace guy. He’s a third guard. Then once you’re with a team, you earn the trust of your coach and maybe you earn more minutes.

Veteran NBA writer based on the West Coast who saw Thomas last year in the NCAA tournament:
— People like his competitiveness and ability to score.
— He’s tough as nails.
— Good defender.
— Size is a concern.
— It helps him that a lot of people consider this a weak draft. The lockout will keep guys from coming out. You look at (Jared) Sullinger.
— I don’t know if there’s anything more he can do to improve his stock.
— He’s not going to grow any taller.
— He can shoot it and make big shots.
— He still has to prove he can run the point even more and at a NBA level.
Eastern Conference assistant:
— I was stunned. Initially I thought wow, what was he thinking?
— There’s a comparison to the kid at California last year (Jerome Randle) and he’s not playing in the NBA. Many people liked him more than they did Thomas.
— He’s got brass cojones.
— I’ve never been a fan of small guards. The best small guard playing in NBA came from UW, but he’s athletic as all get out.
— I don’t think Thomas has the jets that Aaron Brooks has. I think he’s quick, but not explosive. But Brooks snuck into the first round.
— I question Thomas’ shot selection at times. I question his decision making. The thing that makes him good makes him bad. He’s ot afraid of taking a bad shot, but maybe he should be.
Western Conference head coach who saw Thomas twice this season:
— He’s the toughest guy out there the games I saw. And that’s saying something for a guy his size. Because of where he played, he’ll be compared to Nate Robinson. He’s just as tough as Nate. Obviously they’re different in other ways.
— It’s hard to say how he projects on our level. There’s a lot that goes into it. Running the team this year helps. I know that’s what our people will look at. Not just with him, but with anybody. Can they run our sets.
— The NBA is a pick-n-roll league. Most teams have that play. If you’re a point guard, you need to be able to execute that play against the best athletes in the world.
— If he was my kid, I’d advise him to play four years of college. He’s in a great situation. He’s got everything he can want. A coach who loves him. He knows the system. He can grow in that system.
NBA agent based on the West Coast:
— He’s not even on the draft board.
— If he came back and the team won and he was Pac-10 Player of the Year, it would give him more to stand on.
— He did okay in the NCAA tournament, but not great. And that’s the stage that you need to shine in. If he had done what he did in the Pac-10 (Tournament) against North Carolina, then OK I get it. Big stage. Big shot. Everybody’s watching. But he just OK against Carolina and he couldn’t score inside. And that’s all you see in the NBA, big guys like Carolina’s.
— Unless he’s got somebody telling him different, unless some team is telling him he needs to do this, I don’t get it.
— If you’re testing the waters and leaving options open, then yes. Do it. But don’t go and close off all of your options.
Former NBA point guard:
— I wasn’t really surprised. I don’t know how much better he’ll get next year. Terrence Ross is coming back and C.J. Wilcox is coming back. I think they affected his decision. The scoring will probably be a little more balanced next year and the ball won’t be in his hands as much.
— I think he’ll drafted in the first round. I really do. I felt the same way about Nate Robinson.
— People in the Northwest get a little sheltered and you don’t see what’s all that’s out there. This kid is good. Really good.
— Over the next three months he’s going to have to go to these pre-draft camps and show people how strong he is. That’s the thing about Isaiah. He’s strong. He can get in the lane and get to the rim.
Earl Boykins is one of the smallest guys I played with and he was a scorer first then became a point guard. I think there’s a spot for Isaiah. It’s always tough when you got to matchup with a little guard.
— He’s been here for three years. There’s only so much you can do. Everybody is making a big deal about he’s got a chance to be the school’s all-time leading scorer. But when you come from the inner-city, for most kids your dream is to play in the NBA and take care of your family. It’s not about records.
— He went to prep school so maybe in his mind, this was his senior year.
— It’s a good thing that he’s playing against Jason Terry and Brandon Roy and guys like that. When you go up against the pro guys and goes and does his thing, it helps his confidence. Not that he needs any help there. But it tells him I know I can compete at this level. He’s talking to the real Isiah Thomas on the phone. He’s got Gary Payton wanting to help him. All of those things help.
— Maybe the time is right. I’d love to see him stay, but if you’re a fan of Isaiah Thomas, then this might be the best thing for him.
— In the NBA, he probably falls into the mix of those specialty guys. Fans love little guys because the average fan can relate to those guys. Fans go crazy for the little guy. A little guy is always a tough guy to play against because you never want to be schooled by a smaller guy.
Eastern Conference general manager:
— I’m not going to talk specifically about Thomas, but this is for anybody who might be a second-round guy and you’re an underclassmen thinking about the draft. This is what we know, 60 guys will be taken in the first two rounds. We don’t know who’s in or who’s out, but today it’s looking like not the strongest draft we’ve had in recent years. The threat of a work stoppage will keep 5-6 guys that normally would have come out in college. Plus there’s not many quality pure point guards not just in college, but in basketball. So if you’re looking at all of that, I can understand a kid saying I’m going to roll the dice this time and see what happens.

Comments | Topics: C.J. Wilcox, top 25


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