Three takeaways from Isaiah Thomas' 17-point debut for Cavaliers

It’s been a long wait, but Isaiah Thomas has finally made his debut with the Cavaliers. He played through a hip injury last season in Boston before being sidelined in the Eastern Conference finals. Despite that, Cleveland was OK trading their star point guard, Kyrie Irving, in exchange for Thomas over the summer.

With Thomas on the court everybody was finally able to see how he would fit in with his new team. With Irving thriving in Boston there was a higher expectation for Thomas to come in and raise the Cavs to a new level. Obviously that will take time, but the early returns from his first game back should have Cavs fans excited.

Thomas played limited minutes, but he finished his debut with Cleveland scoring 17 points in 18 minutes. He even threw out a few assists. It was a solid game and a close to perfect debut.

Thomas was already this good

It felt like there was no way Thomas could meet the mounting expectations for him in Cleveland with everything Irving was doing in Boston. He’s coming off a hip injury and playing on a new team. The expectation is he would have a slow start. Instead, he came out of the gates gunning like he hadn’t lost a single step.

He started off the game with eight points in six minutes. Call it a statement or just business as usual, but he did what was needed of him in limited minutes and at no point looked like his hip was holding him back. It’ll be a treat to see once Cleveland fully unleashes him.

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Thomas isn’t fitting in yet, but he’s getting there

The initial reaction to a game like Thomas just had is that he’s already fitting into the Cavaliers system perfectly. While he certainly played well, Thomas mainly did what he did through his own skills as opposed to being a part of the Cavaliers system. There was nothing that Thomas and the Cavaliers ran that was a product of the Cavs system, but rather what he’s naturally able to do as a gifted basketball player.

This is actually an encouraging sign, because it means that Thomas can improve even further from this point. Watch him know where to place himself for an open corner 3-pointer. 

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Thomas was just able to find ways to score points. He had multiple plays where he was able to just take his man off the dribble and get points. If he was able to do all this in his debut imagine what he’ll be doing when he knows what LeBron James is going to do before James even does it. He’s going to become an even more dangerous offensive weapon.

Thomas will be most effective when LeBron sits

There are multiple Cavaliers fans who will say that Cleveland’s true backup point guard this season has been Dwyane Wade. Cleveland has lacked creators from the guard position all season long and it’s placed a heavy load on players like LeBron and Wade to pick up the slack. Thomas will give them that guard creator Cleveland so desperately needs.

However, the true value Thomas is going to bring is not as a starter, but more in the minutes that James isn’t on the floor. LeBron is the only starter that Tyronn Lue consistently staggers with bench units. That’s why his minutes get so high. Wade will always be a secondary creator for Cleveland, but with a guy like Thomas James shouldn’t have to play quite as much. 

Those breather minutes will not only do great in keeping James on ready legs, but it will give Thomas a chance to create himself as a primary creator next to Dwyane Wade. They had an awesome connection during Thomas’s debut.

Thomas is going to sit out his homecoming in Boston due to rest on Wednesday, but the expectation is he’ll be back in the starting lineup by the weekend. Potentially in the Cavs Saturday matchup against the Magic. At that point the training wheels are off and Thomas will be playing his true role for the season. It will be interesting to see just how he fits there as opposed to coming off the bench in limited minutes.