Original Dream Team Fact: Isiah Thomas Did Not Belong
NBA TV premiered the long-anticipated Dream Team documentary on Wednesday night, and it was fantastic. If you like never-before-seen footage of Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley in their prime, well, then it's the movie for you.
Amid the buzz about the film, there was much talk about how Isiah Thomas wasn't on the team (via ESPN). The film made brief mention of the omission, with a clip of coach Chuck Daly awkwardly discussing how Thomas was left off the squad. As it's popularly understood, the Pistons legend was thought to be too divisive, as he was loathed by Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan, among other players.
This trope ignores something that has been forgotten over the years: Isiah Thomas wasn't good enough to be on the Dream Team. In 1992, Thomas was coming off a Marbury-esque season of 18.5 points on 16.2 shots, with 7.2 assists per game.
For all the mythology of what a "pure" point guard Zeke was, he also wasn't the most efficient player. Thomas averaged a meager .516 true shooting percentage over the course of his career. For comparison, Rajon Rondo has averaged a .513 TSP, while shooting far less often.
Thomas' average win shares per 48 minutes—a Basketball Reference statistic that measures a player's total efficiency—was .109. Magic Johnson, by comparison, averaged .225. It remains an open question as to how much of the Bad Boys' success was based on defense and rebounding, instead of Isiah's production.
In 1991-92, Zeke managed a .95 win-share mark, with a mere 16.0 PER. The Dream Team would have gotten worse had they subbed any player for Thomas, save for Christian Laettner. Not only that, but there were better point guards at the time. Tim Hardaway (.132) was coming off a better season, as was Mark Price (.205). Jeff Hornacek (.181) was preferable as a passing shooting guard.
For all the talk of how Isiah Thomas was frozen out of the team, few people ignore a more discomfiting fact: He wasn't good enough to make it.
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