The Sacramento Kings franchise always seems to have some sort of problem. This past offseason, their franchise was threatened with a relocation to Seattle and every week it seems as if DeMarcus Cousins starts some sort of trouble. However, right now, the Kings have a problem that might benefit the franchise. The point guard battle between 5-9 Isaiah Thomas and 6-6 Greivis Vasquez is an intriguing problem to have. From first glance, one would believe that Vasquez would easily beat out Thomas for a starting NBA point guard position. He’s 6-6 and can see things on the court that Thomas will never be able to see at 5-9. Just being 5-9 puts Thomas at a distinct disadvantage in any position battle. So, how is it that Isaiah Thomas is making a strong case for being the starting point guard of the Sacramento Kings? Let’s see…
Both Vasquez and Thomas play the point guard position, but that does not define them. Both players have a completely different mindset when it comes to being a floor general. Greivis Vasquez is your traditional point guard, comparable to an Andre Miller style of play. Thomas has recognized this notion and had the following to say about the differences between the two:
“We’re not close to the same player. I mean he’s a bigger guard, slow-paced guard kind of like Andre Miller. He makes good plays, makes the right play most of the time, and he’s a guy that even if you pressure him, he’s not going to go faster than he usually does, he’s just going to do what he’s good at, and that’s controlling the offensive end … Me, I’m up and down, I’m 100 miles per hour.”
Isaiah Thomas, on the other hand, is an aggressive point guard that is a natural scorer but also has a unique skill-set to get into the lane, draw multiple defenders and be able to dish the ball to an open man. Vasquez can create scoring opportunities just from his floor vision and smart decision making, but Thomas has the ability to create havoc and use the attention drawn to him to find open shots on the perimeter. Look at this clip from a game the other night against the Clippers:
On the first play in the clip, Thomas has a matchup against the NBA’s best point guard, Chris Paul. Thomas identifies this matchup and uses a pick-and-roll to get the much larger, but slower Blake Griffin on him. Then, we see Thomas use his distinct speed advantage and dribbling ability to get past Griffin, slide through the lane and finish a layup among the trees. An NBA team has five players on the court, so look back at this play and notice that when Thomas slides into the lane, he draws the attention of every single player. Every pair of eyes on the Clippers are focused on Thomas. Even though he decided to finish the contested layup, he had a wide open Ben McLemore in the corner for three. Just this one play shows the type of explosiveness that Thomas possesses, but also the opportunities he can create as a point guard.
The second play in the clip is where the separation from Vasquez and Thomas is undeniable. With a traditional point guard like Vasquez, after a defensive rebound/blocked shot, he might pull it up and try to create offense in the half-court. As we see in this play, Thomas has a different mindset. As soon as Thomas sees the block, he starts sprinting towards midcourt waiting for the ball. When Thomas gets the ball he spins right past Chris Paul, not phased by him at all, forces three defenders to collapse on him and delivers a no-look dime to Jason Thompson in stride. These two explosive plays from Thomas show his explosiveness as a point guard and the opportunities he can create that a traditional, slower point guard can’t create.
Although the NBA season is only a few weeks young, Isaiah Thomas has been flat-out balling. Four games into the season, Thomas is averaging 20.8 points and 4.8 assists while playing 29.7 minutes per game. The player he’s trying to take the starting job from? Nine points and 3.8 assists. While those numbers show that Thomas is outperforming Vasquez on the court, let’s dig deeper into analytics and find the good stuff.