Isaiah Thomas showing major improvements for the Huskies

You probably heard about him coming out of high school. The kid named after an NBA Hall of Famer because his father lost a bet on an NBA Finals game. When the 5'9"ish Isaiah Thomas chose his hometown Washington Huskies, everybody on the planet figured he was the next Nate Robinson. It was too easy. Thomas was a blur with the ball in his hands at the prep level, and certain video evidence only fueled the fire when it came to his leaping ability.

From the moment he stepped on campus, he was a beautiful fit for Lorenzo Romar's breakneck pace of an offense. Everyone put him on their preseason watch lists for breakout players to watch, and promptly sat back with beer(s) in hand. But after two full seasons with the Huskies, Isaiah's progress report was a complete Jeykll and Hyde situation. Dangerous Scorer vs. Wildy Inconsistent Shooter. No Washington player has ever scored more than Thomas did in those first two years (1,134), but not too many of his peers shot a putrid 41.8% from the field as a freshman and 41.5% as a sophomore.

His effectiveness was becoming difficult to judge. And after watching Thomas for a good portion of those two clank-infested years, he was starting to look like a one trick pony. Exciting sure, but a serious lack of efficiency definitely made him a detriment on more nights than you'd ever hope for from a top scorer.

Heading into this season, Washington supporters had every last right to expect a much-improved Thomas in 2010-11. His shot selection needed a major tweaking, and his effortless handle needed to start creating buckets for his teammates too. And would you believe it, after 15 games we can honestly say that Thomas has started to figure things out. The numbers don't lie:

Tempo-Free (via KenPom) Offensive Rating % of Team's Shots Taken Effective FG% True Shooting %
2010-11 - Jr. 117.8 23.5 52.6 56.8
2009-10 - So. 107.7 26.9 48.8 54.0
2008-09 - Fr.
102.4 28.9 46.3 51.1

 

The statistical dagger is the percentage of shots Thomas is taking now (16.0 ppg) compared to his first year on campus (15.5 ppg). And when you accompany those junior numbers with his current 4.8 assist/game average and solid 2.12 assist/turnover ratio, it's pretty evident that this kid has improved a great deal by staying in school. Even in the short-term, as Abdul Gaddy season-ending injury adds pressure, Thomas has been a breakthrough with 26 assists and only six turnovers in his last three.

So let us echo what Washington's school paper, The Daily, said about giving Thomas the credit he deserves. The Huskies are the obvious class of the Pac-10 this year, and Thomas' name belongs on the marquee.

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