Isaiah Thomas Reportedly Plans to Sign 10-Day Contract with Pelicans

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistApril 2, 2021

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 30: Isaiah Thomas #4 of the Washington Wizards looks on in the second half against the Charlotte Hornets at Capital One Arena on January 30, 2020 in Washington, DC. 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 Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Veteran point guard Isaiah Thomas reportedly is joining the New Orleans Pelicans

Per ESPN's Andrew Lopez, Thomas is expected to sign a 10-day contract with the Pelicans on Saturday. 

The Los Angeles Clippers acquired Thomas just ahead of the 2020 NBA trade deadline, but the team waived him two days later. He had previously signed a one-year, $2.3 million deal with the Washington Wizards before the 2019-20 season.

The 32-year-old has experienced a precipitous fall after finishing fifth in the 2017 MVP voting. He played through a hip injury in the 2017 playoffs and has never been the same player since. After trying to let the injury heal on its own, he underwent surgery in March 2018.

gary washburn @GwashburnGlobe

Isaiah Thomas says he took the bullet for players playing injured that has helped create “load management” and encourages players to do whatever it takes to preserve their health. #Wizards #Celtics https://t.co/yGSKWQXWNp

Little changed following the procedure. He was limited to 12 games and played a total of 181 minutes with the Denver Nuggets in 2018-19.

He was afforded a larger role with the Wizards, who had to hit the reset button for 2019-20 with John Wall recovering from an Achilles injury. In 40 games with Washington, Thomas averaged 12.2 points and 3.7 assists while shooting 40.8 percent from the field and 41.3 percent from beyond the arc.

His best single-game effort came in the Wizards' 133-119 win over the Detroit Pistons on Dec. 16, when he finished with 23 points and six assists.

Even at his best, Thomas was a bad defender. He was such an electric scorer and playmaker that he remained a net positive on the floor nonetheless.

Now that his hip problems have sapped some of his explosion, he's no longer an elite offensive player. In turn, his lapses on defense become more glaring, and it gets harder to keep him in the game for extended stretches.

Although advanced metrics don't tell the full story of a player's contributions, it's hard to spin the fact that Thomas was 94th among 95 point guards in ESPN.com's defensive real plus-minus (minus-4.83). Opposing players have also shot 48.2 percent from the field and 38.6 percent from beyond the arc when matched up against him, according to NBA.com.

He still has value on offense, though, and joining a stronger supporting cast than the one he had in Washington might help compensate for and mitigate his poor defense.

Thomas' days as a starting point guard are almost certainly over. Perhaps his move to New Orleans can help him solidify his utility off the bench to chart a new path forward.

The Pelicans needed more depth in the backcourt after trading JJ Redick to the Dallas Mavericks prior to the trade deadline. They are also playing without Lonzo Ball due to a strained hip flexor.  

Thomas is a wild card at this point in his career, but it's a low-risk move for a franchise that is on the outside of the playoff picture with a 21-26 record.