The summer of 2014 brought high hopes for the Suns and their fans, coming off a surprisingly strong 2013-14 season, and possessing bushels of assets and cap space. A home run swing to sign LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony predictably failed before the Suns zeroed in on their more realistic target: the undervalued, undersized, but explosive PG Isaiah Thomas.
At first, it seemed to be an odd move that the Suns would add to their seemingly full stable of guards, unless the plan was to sign IT as a precursor to trading then-unsigned restricted free agent Eric Bledsoe. But Babby and McDonough had other ideas. Further bolstering a team strength was at the top of the list, while allowing Bledsoe to leave was never in the plans. They wanted all three of IT, Bledsoe and Goran Dragic on this season's roster.
"Isaiah is one of the most dynamic scorers and playmakers in the NBA," said General Manager Ryan McDonough in the official press release today. "I have always admired his competitive spirit and his love for the game. He will be a great fit for our up-tempo attack and he will help solidify what we believe is the best backcourt in the league."
Bledsoe and Dragic made a fantastic two man combo in the 2013-14 season, but things didn't go as smoothly when either or both of them went to the bench. While the Suns won around 2/3 of their games when both started, they were only 20-19 in the 39 games Bledsoe missed due to injury.
As backup, Ish Smith was a speedy, energetic player, but had plenty of holes in his game, and the Suns offense was far less effective with him on the floor (O-Rating of 104.6 with Smith on the floor, 110.8 with him on the bench).
For a team that relies heavily on guard play, depending upon Ish or a player of similar caliber wouldn't work if they hoped to take their next step forward. In IT, the Suns were able to improve an already strong backcourt by adding a 20PPG scorer. Making the deal even sweeter is his bargain contract, which averages less than $7M/year over four years.
Through 42 games, 34 of which IT has played, the Suns hold the same 24-18 record they did at this time last season. This is after some rough patches early in the season adjusting to the loss of Channing Frye, and working through regression from a couple of other stalwarts on last season's team.
IT's playing his usual game as a score-first PG, averaging 14.3 points and 3.7 assists in 25.1 minutes per game, while shooting his career average .574 TS%, and leading Suns rotation players (not including Brandan Wright due to tiny sample size) in:
- Player Efficiency Rating (tied with Bledsoe at 18.7),
- Win Shares/48 minutes (.149)
- Free Throw Rate (.444 FT attempts per FG attempt)