Sacramento Kings' backup point guard Isaiah Thomas was the last pick in the 2011 NBA draft. Being selected last in the draft will automatically get you coined as "Mr. Irrelevant." But Isaiah Thomas is proving to be anything but irrelevant.
The 5'9" former University of Washington star has made his impact felt from the get-go, proving himself as a rotation player from day one and only increasing his production as the season's gone on.
Thomas currently ranks 11th among rookies in scoring at 7.0 points per game. That's ahead of top 10 selections like Enes Kanter, Jan Vesely and Bismack Biyombo. Thomas also ranks fifth in assists per game for NBA rookies at 2.5.
That's not bad regardless of context. It's even more impressive when you consider that Thomas only averages 17.0 minutes per game, which comes in 15th for all rookies. So not only is Thomas proving to be a productive player, but he's also proving to be an efficient player.
Thomas also has a knack for performing in the fourth quarter, especially in the last five minutes of close games.
On Monday night, when the Kings were playing the Hornets in New Orleans, Thomas scored eight of his 17 points in the fourth quarter, including knocking down a huge three-pointer to give the Kings a 94-88 lead with a little more than two minutes to play.
And that's not just a one-time thing for Thomas. Over the course of the season, he's been a stalwart in clutch situations (clutch situations are characterized by fourth quarter or overtime, less than five minutes left in the game, neither team ahead by more than five points).
In clutch situations with Thomas on the floor, the Kings have compiled a 3-1 record and the team is plus-15 in scoring over their opposition.
Up to this point, Thomas has proven himself to be an above-average rookie. He's also proven himself to be an average NBA player as indicated by his 14.9 Player Efficiency Rating (the score is weighted so that 15.0 is league average).
Given Thomas' lack of size, his ceiling probably isn't as high as some other rookies. With Thomas, what you see is what you get. And what you get is a solid rotation player with an ability to elevate his game in clutch situations.
You can say that Thomas may never become a star in the NBA. You can say he will never become a consistent starter. But what you can't say is that Thomas is not worthy of a roster spot in the NBA. He's demonstrated that much already.
Now that's saying something, especially for Mr. Irrelevant.