NBA Rookie of the Year Report: Kings' Isaiah Thomas vs. Cavs' Kyrie Irving
Oh, how the pieces have fallen into place.
In my most recent article I proposed the question of whether Isaiah Thomas is the Sacramento Kings' Kyrie Irving. Coincidentally, the two rookies squared off Sunday night. Both men started, both men scored and both men came up big for their team. While Irving's late free throws sealed the game for the Cavaliers, the two men played at a level that beckons the question: is the last overall draft pick as good as the first overall draft pick?
For Cleveland Cavaliers fans, fear not; this is far from an attempt to devalue Kyrie Irving's play thus far. He has been the best player on a team that has no business posting anything less than 20 losses. He is the complete package, and along with Ricky Rubio, has done everything possible to solidify his status as a run away Rookie of the Year candidate. With that being said, it might be time to place Isaiah Thomas' name right there with him.
In the first ever game between the two rookies, Kyrie Irving did what you'd expect him to do. The first overall draft choice scored 23 points on 8-of 21 shooting, in addition to three rebounds, one assist and two blocks. He also hit two free throws with less than one second remaining to clinch it for the Cavaliers.
With all due respect to Kyrie Irving, it's hard to compare anything he did to what Isaiah Thomas was able to accomplish.
The last selection of the 2011 NBA Draft played like a man on a mission. In his second career start, Thomas posted a handful of career highs. First and foremost, Thomas played his first 40-minute game, manning the point for a career-high 43 minutes. He added on career highs of 23 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds. His one block and three three-pointers were just an added benefit.
Is Isaiah Thomas a Rookie of the Year Candidate?
The two rookies went at it all night, each carrying their teams on every possession. While the outcome can't be overlooked, it was the last overall draft pick who out-dueled the first overall draft choice.
Thomas had Irving on his heels all night long. The Cavaliers' point guard was frustrated, off balance and uneasy throughout the entirety of the evening. His four turnovers were a sign of such and his defense wasn't much better.
Highlighted by a Top 10-worthy deke and jump shot, Thomas never let Irving get into his comfort zone. Irving, normally a lockdown defender, couldn't contain the 5'9" Thomas. Isaiah, not Isiah, used an unstoppable combination of penetration and mid-range shooting, taking advantage of opportunities in transition and in the half court. While Tyreke Evans was the man who was tasked with covering Irving in the waning seconds of the game, it was Thomas who held Irving to 38 percent shooting from the field.
While one game may not be a big enough sample size for you, any Kings fan would know that this was a performance waiting to happen. Thomas has been the third-most efficient rookie point guard in the NBA, and despite sporadic playing time, he has been the best player on the Kings' roster. His effort is relentless on both ends of the court, and while Jeremy Lin may get the media attention, it's Isaiah Thomas who may very well be the biggest steal of all.
And just for the record, he outplayed Lin, too. So after upstaging both Jeremy Lin and Kyrie Irving there's only one question remaining... Are you watching yet?
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