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TBT: The Phoenix Suns might have made a bigger mistake by not trading Isaiah Thomas at all

Could his hip problem have been inevitable?

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Los Angeles Lakers v Phoenix Suns Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Back at the 2015 NBA trade deadline virtually all the talk was about the series of trades that the Suns made where the biggest assets to move were Goran Dragic to the Heat, Isaiah Thomas to the Celtics and the LA Lakers 1st round draft pick that the Suns owned to Philadelphia in exchange for Brandon Knight, spare parts and future draft picks. In the minds of some fans, all the moves get tied together and they forget that the trade that sent Isaiah Thomas to Boston was a completely separate deal. The deal with Boston was very straightforward. The Celtics acquired Thomas in exchange for Marcus Thornton and the Cleveland Cavaliers' 2016 first-round draft pick (#28 which was traded to Sacramento as part of the deal that turned the Suns' 13th and 28th picks into the #8 pick they used to select Marquese Chriss).

IT finished the 2014-15 season second in the NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award voting and went on to become a 2 time All-Star in 2016 & 2017 for Boston. Considering what the Suns got in return for Thomas, those facts make the trade sound bad. And when you throw in how the separate but simultaneous trade for Brandon Knight has turned out, the IT trade looks really bad.

Even Ryan McDonough eventually admitted the trade was a mistake.

“I think in retrospect trading Isaiah Thomas when we did was a mistake,” he said of last season’s trade deadline deal with the Boston Celtics. “I think sometimes in the recruitment process things sound better in July (luring Thomas in free agency) than they do in November.

“He wanted more, he wanted a bigger role and I understand why: He’s a talented player,” McDonough added. “In retrospect, we should have carried him into the summer. If there’s one (decision) that stands out, if I could get a mulligan, that’d be it.”

How big of a mistake was it? If you look at what the Suns got in return, it was a bad deal for the Suns because McDonough very likely could have gotten more in return if he had waited until the offseason to trade him. During the interview, McDonough hinted that was the mistake rather than the decision to trade him. But what if McD had decided to not trade him at all?

There are some indications that the hip injury that sidelined IT near the end of the Celtic's playoff run last season and created complications in the trade that sent him to Cleveland in exchange for Kyrie Irving may be more serious than were believed. And there also may be complications to his recovery - which may have also contributed to it’s severity - that have been brewing for quite some time.

Back in May, ESPN's Chris Forsberg spoke with Thomas about his injury:

Thomas suggested that doctors told him his hip has been different all his life.

"Like I have an extra bone or something, like doctor talk," Thomas said. "I don't understand what they're saying."

In a recent article by Jason Lloyd in The Athletic, he reports that:

One source with direct knowledge of Thomas’ hip condition told The Athletic last week that he is dealing with more than just a tear. Some of those secondary issues in the hip he has played with for years now, such as a loss of cartilage and some arthritis, are complicating his healing process.

“No one has any idea how quickly this will heal or if it even will heal at all,” the source said. “It’s hard to predict.”

And Tom Haberstroh of ESPN recently wrote:

The Celtics were either not aware of or had not disclosed Thomas' injury for months, fired the team's trainer, and then traded Thomas.

What is certain, though, is that torn hip labrums are at times imperceptible, often hideable, easily misdiagnosed and often overlooked -- and have shortened careers, or claimed them.

All that makes me wonder not only if some sort of hip problem was inevitable for IT but what might have happened if the Suns hadn't traded him at all. This coming season is Isaiah Thomas' last on the modest contract that he originally signed with the Suns and he's already said that he expects a big payday at the end of it. That will very likely happen if he can come back 100% from the injury but, if he can't, not only will that big payday probably not happen but his value in the league could drop significantly.

The timing of the trade was bad but if the Suns hadn't traded him at all, the Suns could now be in the same situation that the Cavs are in with one of their best players missing the start of the season while they hope that he will fully recover. Or even worse, if the problem was inevitable and perhaps becomes chronic, it might have happened after the Suns had given him the big payday that he is expecting.

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