Report: Isaiah Thomas to Make Cavaliers Debut in Early January After Hip Injury

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 4:  Isaiah Thomas #3 of the Cleveland Cavaliers warms up before the game against the Chicago Bulls on December 4, 2017 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. 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. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Isaiah Thomas is hoping to make his 2017-18 debut during the first week of January, The Vertical's Shams Charania reported Sunday.

According to Charania, Thomas believes he could suit up for the Cavs right now but wants to be as cautious as possible as he recovers from his hip injury.

Should the two-time All-Star come back in early January, he could be available to play Jan. 3 on the road against his former team, the Boston Celtics.

On Monday, Thomas poked fun at the reports in a post on his Twitter account:

While the Cavs started slowly right out of the gate, they sit second in the Eastern Conference at 23-8, having won 18 of their last 19 games. Cleveland's hot streak has come while deploying Jose Calderon at starting point guard—a strategy that is less than optimal for an NBA title contender.

That's why Thomas could be such a difference-maker for the Cavaliers if he's able to return to his 2016-17 self. He averaged 28.9 points and 5.9 assists per game and shot 37.9 percent from three-point range last season.

Of course, it's not as simple as putting Thomas in the starting rotation and watching him put up the same kind of numbers.

According to Basketball Reference, he had a 34 percent usage rate in 2016-17, which won't be sustainable when he's sharing the ball with LeBron James. There will likely be some growing pains as head coach Tyronn Lue figures out how to maximize Thomas' offensive value.

There's also the little matter of Thomas' porous defense. The Celtics averaged nearly 10 fewer points per 100 possessions when he was off the floor last season, per NBA.com.

Still, the Cavs have little chance of beating the Golden State Warriors in an NBA Finals rematch without Thomas. They're still underdogs with him, but the 28-year-old gives Cleveland at least a puncher's chance of toppling the champions.

By coming back in early January, Thomas should have plenty of time to shake off any rust before the playoffs.

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