Sacramento Kings: Isaiah Thomas Could Win the 2013 Most Improved Player Award

Jon WilsonContributor IIIAugust 1, 2012

MIAMI, FL - FEBRUARY 21:  Isaiah Thomas #22 of the Sacramento Kings looks on during a game against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena on February 21, 2012 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Isaiah Thomas was a pleasant surprise last season when he went from being the last pick in the 2011 NBA draft to being the Sacramento Kings' starting point guard. 

This season, Thomas could be a surprise yet again by taking home the NBA's Most Improved Player Award

The University of Washington product was the 60th pick in the 2011 draft and was the third draft pick for the Kings, behind guard Jimmer Fredette and forward Tyler Honeycutt

Fredette began the season ahead of Thomas in the guard rotation, but he saw his minutes decline when he struggled with ball control and creating his own shot. 

The Kings, in desperate need of a facilitating point guard with the ability to shoot—after trading away guard Beno Udrih and realizing that Tyreke Evans was not a great facilitator—were forced to gradually increase Thomas' minutes. He precipitated this move by continually showing he could run the offense and hit big shots, eventually earning the starting point guard role in the 29th game of the season.  

Thomas ended up averaging 11.5 points per game, 4.1 assists, 44.8 percent shooting, nearly 38 percent from downtown and 83 percent from the foul line last season.

Even though Thomas only started 37 of 66 games, he still ended up averaging 25.5 minutes per game. Getting big minutes for an entire 82-game season should give him plenty of opportunities to inflate his numbers.  

Though Thomas was the last pick in the draft, he ended up being exactly what the Kings needed. 

He played with a ton of heart, kept up with the league's best point guards, created shots for others and came up with big baskets seemingly every time the Kings needed one. 

With Thomas likely getting the nod to start at the point guard position this season, and having a full offseason this time around, he should be a strong candidate for the Most Improved Player Award.

Interestingly, newly acquired Aaron Brooks received the aforementioned award after the 2009-10 season in which he averaged 19.6 points per game and 5.3 assists while starting all 82 games for the Houston Rockets

In the year before—his second season—Brooks had eerily similar stats to Thomas' rookie season. Brooks averaged 11.2 points and three assists in 25 minutes per game, while only starting 35 of 82 games that year. 

If Thomas' increased playing time affects him like it did Brooks, he could be taking home some hardware at the end of the season. 

Perhaps Brooks will share some knowledge with Thomas of his experience winning the award. 

But heck, Thomas went from "Mr. Irrelevant" to starting NBA point guard in half of a shortened season with no training camp or summer league. He was also named Rookie of the Month twice last season.

Compared to that, winning the Most Improved Player Award seems easy.