It took Isaiah Thomas several weeks to find a home for the 2018-19 season, but he landed in the best situation possible to prove himself before he hits free agency again next offseason.
Free agent guard Isaiah Thomas has agreed to a one-year deal with the Denver Nuggets, league sources tell ESPN. Thomas will reunite with Michael Malone, who coached him with the Kings.- Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 13, 2018
While he's unlikely to start for the Denver Nuggets, Thomas will have an opportunity to run the show as the sixth man on one of the best offensive teams in the NBA. Back when Thomas was an MVP candidate in Boston, he ranked in the 94.1 percentile in pick-and-roll scoring and led the NBA in points scored off of handoffs. It bodes well for his fit with Mason Plumlee, Denver's backup center who is only two years removed from being among the league leaders in assists for his position.
The two should form a natural one-two punch off the bench, with Plumlee setting screens for the two-time All-Star in pick-and-rolls and feeding him on handoffs and cuts, much like Al Horford did when Thomas was on the Celtics.
It'll help having Trey Lyles on the court. The No. 12 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, Lyles established himself as a legitimate threat from 3-point range last season in making 39.4 percent of his catch-and-shoot attempts from distance.
With Lyles spacing the floor as a power forward - as well as some combination of Will Barton, Gary Harris, Malik Beasley and Jamal Murray in the backcourt - Thomas should have all the room he needs to be a more efficient scorer than he was in 2017-18, when he averaged 15.2 points per game on 37.3 percent shooting from the field.
Those skills will give Nuggets head coach Mike Malone the option of playing Thomas with the starters. The offense won't run through him like it did when he was the No. 1 option on the Celtics, but Thomas will be able to play off of the best passing big man in the league in Nikola Jokic as a cutter and space the floor for Harris, Murray and Paul Millsap as a shooter.
As much as he struggled last season, Thomas made 41.2 percent of his catch-and-shoot opportunities from 3-point range in 2016-17. Those shots made up a sizeable chunk of his field goal attempts on the season, too, with him taking as many catch-and-shoot 3s as Tobias Harris, Kyle Korver, Nick Young and CJ McCollum to name a few.
That version of him with Harris, Murray, Millsap and Jokic will be tough for any team to slow down, especially in Denver's altitude.
Thomas won't give the Nuggets anything on the other end of the floor, which isn't ideal considering Denver was already one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA without him. A lineup built around Thomas, Murray and Jokic packs a huge punch offensively, but they'll struggle to keep opponents from scoring.
Even so, there's little risk involved for the Nuggets overall. The pressure is instead on Thomas, as he'll be looking to increase his value following a lost season with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Lakers. If he bounces back after having surgery on the hip that sidelined him for the 2017 Eastern Conference Finals and the first 36 games of last season, a team that just missed the playoffs will have acquired a Sixth Man of the Year candidate on a one-year, $2 million contract. If he doesn't, they can waive the 29-year-old or let him walk in free agency for nothing.
Plus, it was as good as it was going to get for a Nuggets team that lacked depth in the backcourt heading into free agency.
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