Updates from Friday, July 11
Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reports the latest on Thomas:
Suns and Kings are finalizing a sign-and-trade deal on a four-year, $27M contract for Isaiah Thomas, league sources tell Yahoo Sports.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 11, 2014
CBS' Sports Ken Berger has more detail:
The Kings will get an approximately $7 million trade exception and the draft rights to Alex Oriakhi, league source says.— Ken Berger (@KBergCBS) July 11, 2014
The Suns front-loaded the offer sheet with a starting salary of $7.2 million for Thomas and it went down from there, source says.— Ken Berger (@KBergCBS) July 11, 2014
Updates from Thursday, July 10
Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski provides an update on Isaiah Thomas' search for a new team:
Restricted free agent guard Isaiah Thomas visiting Suns today, sources tell Yahoo. Suns looking to build on deep backcourt.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 10, 2014
Basketball Insiders' Alex Kennedy shows the display Phoenix put up for Thomas:
Updates from Monday, July 7
Sam Amick of USA Today reported on Detroit's interest in Isaiah Thomas:
The Pistons, I'm told, are not involved with free agent Isaiah Thomas. The former Kings PG had been connected to them previously.— Sam Amick (@sam_amick) July 7, 2014
Updates from Sunday, July 6
Jared Zwerling of Bleacher Report reported on the Pistons' interest in Isaiah Thomas:
Detroit's still in the mix for Isaiah Thomas. They were on to Thomas early in free agency & I'm hearing they would be open to a sign&trade.— Jared Zwerling (@JaredZwerling) July 6, 2014
Hearing Lakers are "real possibility" for Isaiah Thomas. Heat still pursuing, but LA has the $. Nothing happens 'til Melo & Bron make moves.— Jared Zwerling (@JaredZwerling) July 6, 2014
Updates from Thursday, July 3
Aaron Bruski of NBCSports.com has the latest outlook on Isaiah Thomas' odds of coming back to Sacramento:
This isn’t that surprising I’m sure, but the chances of Isaiah Thomas playing in SAC next year are close to zero— Aaron Bruski (@aaronbruski) July 3, 2014
Updates from Wednesday, July 2
Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports has the latest on one team looking to land Thomas:
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban called Kings free agent guard Isaiah Thomas today, a source said. The Pistons & Celtics also interested in Thomas— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) July 2, 2014
Updates from Tuesday, July 1
Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders has the latest on teams interested in Isaiah Thomas:
The Lakers, Celtics, Heat, Suns, Pistons, Mavericks and Warriors contacted restricted free agent Isaiah Thomas: http://t.co/KYSouD1HEi— Alex Kennedy (@AlexKennedyNBA) July 1, 2014
Isaiah Thomas' first foray into free agency had many expecting a major financial windfall for the second-round pick turned 20-point scorer.
Recent reports indicate that assumption may be wrong.
Sam Amick of USA Today recently spoke to a source who indicated Thomas' market value may be depressed due to his status as a restricted free agent. The source estimated that Thomas will receive offers in the range of $4 million and $6 million per season.
Aaron Bruski of ProBasketballTalk.com reports there is plenty of interest in Thomas around the league:
The Kings recently extended a qualifying offer to Thomas making him a restricted free agent, and league sources tell PBT that as many as five teams have expressed interest in making an offer to steal away the point guard.
The Pistons, Heat, Lakers, Mavs and Suns have all expressed interest, with the Pistons showing the most interest to date and numbers starting in the three-year, $24 million range. Talks with teams in playoff contention have started in the $6-7 million per-year range.
While that's a massive pay raise over the $884,293 he made in 2013-14, it's pittance compared to the salary level of most players with Thomas' statistical output. The diminutive guard averaged 20.3 points, 6.3 assists and 2.9 rebounds this past season, his first getting full-time starter minutes. Thomas' 20.5 player efficiency rating was fifth league-wide among point guards, per Basketball-Reference, and he's a relatively young free agent (25).
Thomas recently told Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders he feels he's established himself as one of the league's top guards:
I felt like if I was given an opportunity, I could be one of the top guards in the NBA. I’ve said that before and people kind of looked at me sideways. But I feel like it’s all about opportunity and taking advantage of what people give you. The Sacramento Kings and Mike Malone gave me an opportunity and I just ran with it and did the things that I know how to do.
Amick's source, however, highlights the tricky nature of restricted free agency. The Kings have the right to match any offer sheet signed by Thomas. Because of the NBA's moratorium on official transactions, no deal can technically be signed until July 10. That gives Sacramento until July 13 to decide whether or not whatever offer put on the table is worth matching.
With unrestricted free agents offering a far less onerous path, teams are often more cautious with their restricted free agent overtures. Thomas will be the third or fourth option down the line for a team with cap space, rather than possibly being first or second if he was unrestricted.
There is also the question of how much Thomas' size plays a factor. At 5'9", he's always going to be at a defensive disadvantage despite his strong build. The Kings ranked in the NBA's bottom 10 in defensive efficiency, and it's hard to tell whether Mike Malone can build an above-average defense with Thomas earning major minutes. The point guard position is too good across the league, and Thomas' size puts him at a disadvantage against every other position.
Still, if Amick's source proves correct, the Kings would be getting a steal with Thomas at the mid-level. A score-first point guard, the former Washington standout has an innate ability to finish through traffic. He made 62.4 percent of his shots inside the restricted area this past season, better than contemporaries Russell Westbrook, Kyrie Irving and Stephen Curry.
Factor in Thomas' career 36 percent shooting from three-point range—roughly league average—and he's a uniquely gifted player worthy of being an NBA starter. If his size and his restricted free agent status depress his market, the Kings may get a bargain. Jonathan Santiago of Cowbell Kingdom noted Sacramento has already been getting quite a value:
Isaiah Thomas has earned $1.2 mil in 3 seasons. Meanwhile, Gilbert Arenas, who has not played in the NBA since 2012, made $22.3 mil last yr.— Jonathan Santiago (@itsjonsantiago) June 25, 2014
Then again, maybe Thomas will be better off accepting Sacramento's qualifying offer. Although that would hurt his bank account in the short term, he could do free agency all over again next summer without the looming worry of a matched offer sheet. An extra season as a starter would also help Thomas prove his breakout 2013-14 campaign was not a fluke and flash much-needed improvement on the defensive end.
The Kings, already above the salary cap, would welcome the high production at a cheap cost. It's difficult to tell what will happen. In most cases, the allure of long-term security winds up trumping the possibility of delayed gratification.
With Thomas having to suffer through second-round money his first three seasons, he might be satisfied with grabbing his first multi-million dollar check. It just not might be as many millions as he initially hoped.
Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.