Isaiah Thomas was recently a candidate to sign a max deal when he was on the Boston Celtics. How much will it take to sign him this summer?
According to Brian Windhorst, it’s incredibly improbable that Thomas receives a maximum contract. Instead, he suggests it’s far more likely that he signs a much smaller deal in the offseason (via ESPN):
“Real talk: this is Isaiah’s fifth team in seven years. He has just admitted he is only 75 percent. I don’t know if 100 percent happens this year or next year. Forget about max [deals] … Isaiah, right now, is fighting for mid-level exception.”
The MLE will be worth $8.8 million for a non-taxpayer and $5.4M for a taxpayer next offseason. The “room exception” will be worth $4.5M while the “bi-annual exception” is worth $3.4M.
Windhorst mentioned that for Thomas, it’s a bigger question of what his fit would be for a team to rebuild his career.
It’s unclear what role he will play for the Lakers but team executive Magic Johnson has maintained that rookie point guard Lonzo Ball will remain a starter once he returns from injury, though Thomas will get significant minutes.
Thomas was considered a poor fit for the locker room in Cleveland, who also struggled when he was on the court. Jonathan Tjarks wrote about why it’s unlikely his career will continue in Los Angeles (via The Ringer):
“He will have time to rebuild his value in Los Angeles over the next few months, but the Lakers don’t need an older point guard who wants a lot of money, dominates the ball, and has to be protected on defense. Thomas doesn’t fit with the young and versatile roster.”
But if the Lakers strike out on signing their coveted max players in 2018, they can potentially use Thomas as salary cap filler until the 2019 offseason.
He would have a much different situation in Los Angeles. This is a young a team without a primary scorer, which means Thomas could score in bunches without the pressure of winning a championship.
Avoiding the potential chemistry issues, it’s not unreasonable to imagine Ball and Thomas playing on the same team next season because the rookie is a strong defender but not much of a scorer. These are two areas where Thomas lacks much prowess, which means they’re surprisingly complementary assets.
It would be strange to have Thomas play shooting guard next to someone like Ball considering his size deficiency.
As such, any team that signs him (if it’s the Lakers or otherwise) would presumably want him as a bench scorer in the same category as someone like Jamal Crawford or Lou Williams.
Johnson mentioned that Thomas is coveted for the “scoring punch” they lost from Jordan Clarkson. If the market for Thomas is only an MLE, expect a team like Los Angeles to consider re-signing the point guard — unless they reach an agreement with LeBron James.
The Lakers are obviously interested in James, who has already played with Thomas. The experiment, though well-intended, didn’t exactly work out for Cleveland.