When Isaiah Thomas was selected by the Kings with the final pick in the 2011 NBA draft, little was expected of the diminutive guard from Washington.
Despite being 5-foot-9 on a good day, Thomas quickly became a key player for the Kings and a fan favorite. He started 37 of the 65 games in which he played as a rookie, averaging 11.5 points and 4.1 assists.
In his second and third seasons, the Kings brought in point guards expected to start over Thomas, and he beat out his competition – guys like Aaron Brooks and Toney Douglas in 2012-13 and Greivis Vasquez last season.
Thomas had his best season last year, averaging 20.3 points and 6.3 assists, yet he’s perceived by many as one of the reasons the Kings won just 28 games.
Clearly, the Kings’ bosses don’t see him as a starting point guard – they recently signed free-agent Darren Collison – preferring Thomas come off the bench as a sixth man.
And, just as clearly, Thomas thinks of himself as a starting point guard. That’s why the restricted free agent has been shopping for a new team, expecting a contract in the $8-million-per-season range, with rumors swirling about the Pistons, Lakers, Heat and others, though the Pistons now seem to be out of the picture.
It’s not that the Kings, who can match any offer, don’t like Thomas. They just don’t like him enough to pay that much to a player they consider a backup.
Most fans love Thomas because of his bravado, but the team won just 28 games in each of the past two seasons with him as the starter.