The time has come. According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, Isaiah Thomas is set to make his debut with the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday when the team takes on the Sacramento Kings.
This will be the first time he has taken the floor since March 22, 2018.
Thomas only appeared in 32 games last season - 15 games for the Cleveland Cavaliers and 17 games for the Los Angeles Lakers. The last pick of the 2011 NBA Draft averaged 15.2 points and 4.8 assists per game on 37.3 percent shooting from the field and 29.3 percent from 3-point range for the season, battling through a lingering hip injury that dates back to his time with the Boston Celtics.
Now that the #SLOWGrind, as Thomas has called it through his social media accounts, has come to a close as he's almost ready to suit up again, what does he bring to the Nuggets?
Attitude and a veteran presence
Thomas always plays with a chip on his shoulder, everyone knows that. At the very least, he'll bring an attitude and toughness to the Nuggets every time he steps on the floor.
But even more important than the competitive edge Thomas will bring to the team is his veteran presence and leadership.
The Nuggets roster has an average age of 24.3 years old - one of the youngest in the NBA. Of the 15 players on the roster, only three players aside from I.T. have any playoff experience.
Thomas was the leader and captain of three Celtics teams that qualified for the playoffs and was the lifeblood of the 2017 team that reached the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Nuggets are currently in second place in the Western Conference and look poised to make a run this postseason. Adding a player like Thomas to the rotation can only help in shaping a young core of players who have little-to-no experience in games of that magnitude.
A prolific scorer and closer
The Thomas we saw last season was certainly not the one that averaged 28.9 points per game during the 2016-17 season. It was clear he returned sooner than he should have, and his numbers were a direct correlation to that.
In a best-case scenario, the Nuggets get a fully healthy and ready Thomas - a player that finished third in the league in scoring while still dishing out just under 6.0 assists per game.
Only 1 good season tho lol https://t.co/BFtGL96E7Z- Isaiah Thomas (@isaiahthomas) January 7, 2019
He'll provide additional bench scoring to a second unit that ranks just outside the top-10 in the league this season with 38.8 bench points per game. He's another player that defensive units will be forced to key-in on solely off of his reputation to get hot fast.
This isn't to say that the Nuggets will be getting the same player that earned All-NBA Second Team honours two years back. But if Thomas can return to the efficient scorer he was during that season - just with less volume - Denver's low-risk, high-reward signing will pay off big time.
He could also provide them with another closer alongside the likes of Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray.
Known as "The King of the Fourth" during his breakout season in Boston, Thomas averaged 9.8 points in the fourth quarter - the most in the league aside from that season's Most Valuable Player, Russell Westbrook (10.0 points).
In the playoffs that year, not one player averaged more than Thomas' 7.7 points per game in the clutch - the last five minutes of a five-point game - and he did so shooting 57.1 percent from the field and 40.0 percent from 3-point range.
An injury might change the way you play, but that won't change Thomas' mindset as a player who does not shy away from the big moment.
His fit in the lineup
The Nuggets have had the most games missed to injury out of any team in the league.
According to BSN Denver's Harrison Wind, four players on the team (Malik Beasley, Juancho Hernangomez, Torrey Craig and Monte Morris) have already eclipsed their career-high in minutes this season.
Thomas should provide a blow for starting guards Jamal Murray and Will Barton but also reserves like Beasley and Morris who have carried a ton of weight in the first half of this season due to all the injuries.
Both Morris and Beasley have been great for Denver so far, which could actually be helpful for Thomas in the long run because he won't have as much pressure to carry the second unit.
He'll have his opportunities to play point guard and run the show alongside Beasley, but will also likely see a chance to play as a straight-up scorer at the two-guard alongside Morris.
Thomas' return could be one of the more intriguing storylines for the second half of the season because if it works out in the Nuggets' favour, it could be the home run swing they need to take that next step as a contender in the West.
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