Mr. Irrelevant is more of a story than a player. He’s a novelty item, a person to be celebrated but ultimately forgotten. It’s an accepted reality of being the last pick, because that’s what history has taught us. In truth, nothing separates these men from the hoards of undrafted prospects that try to scrap and claw their way onto NBA rosters. It’s a battle royale, and being drafted last provides little to no guarantee that you won’t be kicked to the curb.
Dwayne Collins, Robert Dozier, Semih Erden, Milovan Rakovic, Will Blalock, Alex Acker, Rashad Wright, Andreas Glyniadakis, Corsley Edwards, and Bryan Bracey. Those are the past 10 players to earn the title Mr. Irrelevant. As you can probably tell, their NBA success was limited to non-existent. The past 20 years paints an even bleaker picture. Only 40% of Mr. Irrelevants even made an NBA roster, and only 20% played multiple seasons. The rest fell into basketball limbo, jumping back and forth from Europe to the D-League, clinging to the understandable hope that their dream will one day materialize. For most, it doesn’t. They retire from basketball at a young age, most likely unarmed with the tools to succeed in some other profession.
Well I’m here to tell you that we finally have the next Don Reid, the last significantly contributing Mr. Irrelevant (he played 8 NBA seasons) on our hands. And that man would be none other than recent Dime contributor Isaiah Thomas. Of course it may sound like we’re just pimping our own, but let me tell you why the Sacramento Kings may have just hit it big.
As the 5-9 focal point of his team’s otherwise lifeless offense, he was battered and beaten by everything and everyone, heading to the line six times per game. Instead of slithering in and out of defenders, he went through them with force and reckless abandon. But he came out the other side, averaging 16.8 points and 6.1 assists on his way to an All-Pac-10 first team selection and a Pac-10 Tournament title.
What the Kings saw was a chance for him to relax. Instead of slamming the gas pedal on every possession, Thomas will have the chance to pick his spots. If given the chance as the backup point guard, he won’t need to worry about consistently finishing near the rim due to the offensive firepower that will surround him. With Marcus Thornton, Omri Casspi, Tyreke Evans, and Jimmer Fredette ready and able to light it up from the outside, he’ll have options and openings that didn’t exist at Washington. He’s already proven in college that he can pass to lackluster teammates. Imagine the possibilities with quality sidekicks. Instead of throwing up ill-advised shots in the lane, he’ll be able to dish the ball with confidence. And when defenses choose not to sag off of Sacramento’s shooters, Isaiah will finish at the rim.
And then there’s his 35% clip from beyond the arc, a number that improved each year despite the growing accumulation of defenders swarming him. Given the time and space, expect that number to keep rising. Worried about defense? Don’t be. No one on Sacramento has true two-way capability, so Thomas’ deficiencies will be well hidden.
Isaiah represents the part of basketball I’ll never understand. Excel in your field, receive a promotion. That’s how the rest of the world works. But every year we see All-Americans consistently passed over in the NBA Draft, never given an adequate opportunity to prove their worth. So here’s to Isaiah Thomas receiving that chance. More importantly, here’s to him seizing the moment and leaving his mark on the NBA.
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