As soon as the Los Lakers shocked the NBA world Thursday morning by somehow shipping out Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. for Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye and the Cleveland Cavaliers’ first-round pick, thoughts immediately turned to how this might affect a team still trying to find its footing.
Thomas has undeniably struggled to recover from a hip injury while also figuring out how to play alongside LeBron James as a ball-dominant guard. It probably was never going to work, and that’s before we got to defensive issues.
So, the question is altogether fair to ask: If he couldn’t figure it out next to LeBron, how would things work on a much, much worse team?
Ramona Shelburn of ESPN offers this, as to what the Lakers expect to get from Thomas on the court, on top of the cap flexibility he’ll offer this summer.
Lakers intend to play IT “heavy minutes ” once he gets to town. Think he’ll thrive in their fast paced system. However no guarantee he starts.
— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) February 8, 2018
Ramona reiterated that point on ESPN’s The Jump. But that last part is by far the most important.
Thomas might expect to step into a starting spot given the success he had last year with the Boston Celtics, but his game simply isn’t there right now. The sooner he accepts that, the better his chances become at earning a respectable contract for next season and beyond.
In my opinion, he should assume a similar role Clarkson held before he was included in today’s trade, at least once Lonzo Ball comes back. Until then, sure, the Lakers could play him with starters to provide a little scoring punch, but when the team is fully healthy, his ideal role is that of a scorer off the bench.
This is certainly something to monitor, though this point needs to be hammered home: The two key assets the Lakers earned themselves today are cap space this and next summer and Cleveland’s first-round pick. Everything else was used to make the salaries work.