This season didn't go as planned for Isaiah Thomas. After being included in the blockbuster deal that landed Kyrie Irving in Boston in the offseason, the two-time All-Star lasted only 15 games in Cleveland before being sent to Los Angeles at the trade deadline. Thomas looked more like his 2016-17 self in his 17 games with the Lakers, but his season was cut short once again with a hip injury on which he has since undergone a "minimally invasive procedure."
Now a free agent, concerns over his hip stand between Thomas and a long-term contract. He will nonetheless have several options this offseason if he's willing to prove himself on a short-term deal.
From the Spurs to the 76ers, let's look at which teams Thomas should consider in free agency...
San Antonio Spurs
Dejounte Murray is the point guard of the future in San Antonio, but the franchise could use some scoring in the backcourt while he develops into Tony Parker's successor. According to NBA.com, the Spurs' guards combined for 46.9 points per game in 2017-18, putting them behind all but four teams in scoring from the lead position.
Even though Thomas would likely come off the bench in San Antonio, he proved during his time with the Lakers that he's still more than capable of putting up big numbers in limited minutes. He scored 20 or more points in six of the 17 games he played in Los Angeles, his best performance coming on April 1 when he scored an efficient 29 points in 29 minutes off the bench against a Heat team in the middle of a playoff push.
Overall, the Lakers' offense improved by 4.2 points per 100 possessions when Thomas was on the court this season. The flip side is their defense got 5.1 points per 100 possessions worse - giving Thomas a net rating of only 0.2 - but the Spurs have the system and players in place on that end of the floor to hide him in ways few other teams can. With his score-first mentality off the bench in Gregg Popovich's system, Thomas might be able to recapture some of his Celtics magic.
It helps that Thomas is a dynamic pick-and-roll scorer who would fit in well with LaMarcus Aldridge, the Spurs' leading scorer this season. How he'd fit in with Kawhi Leonard (if he's still in San Antonio) is a more complicated question, though Thomas' ability to play off-ball gives them potential.
New York Knicks
One of the four teams that finished behind the Spurs in guard scoring this season was the Knicks.
In desperate need of a floor general, the Knicks pulled off two moves at the midpoint of the season. The first was calling up Trey Burke from their G League affiliate at the turn of the New Year. The second was flipping Doug McDermott and a second-round draft pick into Emmanual Mudiay in a three-team trade involving the Mavericks and Nuggets a month later.
While they both had their moments in the second half of the season - Burke more often than Mudiay - the Knicks need all the scoring they can get from their primary ball handlers next season while Kristaps Porzingis continues to rehab from a torn ACL, especially if they are intent on turning Frank Ntilikina into a shooting guard. They'd also have the option of making Thomas the starter if they signed him, as Mudiay is currently the only point guard from the 2017-18 roster still under contract next season.
Thomas could bring some star power to a Knicks team that has been missing it since the days of Carmelo Anthony, even if it's only on a short deal.
The 76ers need a secondary playmaker next to Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. They drafted Markelle Fultz with that in mind, but it remains to be seen if he can live up to being the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft.
If Fultz isn't quite ready to contribute to a contender next season and the 76ers are unable to sign a big free agent such as LeBron James or Paul George this offseason, Philadelphia could address their biggest need in the same way they did with J.J. Redick - a sizeable one-year deal that doesn't hurt their chances of signing another star in the future.
Thomas has the tools to fit in well with Simmons and Embiid. He's one of the best pick-and-roll scorers in the league when he's at full strength, and he's more than capable of playing off the ball as a spot-up shooter. The combination would allow him to act as the primary ball handler when Simmons isn't on the floor and take some of the playmaking burden off the Rookie of the Year's shoulders when they're on the floor together as a secondary ball handler.
Like the Spurs, the 76ers also have an elite defense in place that could cover for Thomas' greatest weakness.
Los Angeles Lakers
This option probably hinges on what James and George do. If both of them decide to join the Lakers, there's no way to know what Los Angeles might look like next season because of the deals the team could make to build a championship contender. If they both decide to go elsewhere (together or separately), the Lakers could bring back the same team as last season, Thomas included.
For Thomas, re-signing with the Lakers would give him an opportunity to prove himself in a big market in the hopes of signing a more lucrative contract as a free agent next offseason. (Los Angeles took a similar gamble in signing Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to a one-year deal worth $17.8 million last offseason.) For the Lakers - a team ranked 22nd in offensive efficiency this season - re-signing Thomas would give them a much-needed scoring punch off the bench.
Keeping Thomas around for another season wouldn't jeopardize the Lakers' future, either. He's already proven he can complement their young core of Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Julius Randle, and they'll have enough cap space to sign an All-Star free agent next offseason if they strike out this offseason.
The Celtics, because Thomas didn't say no: Thomas might be more focused on playing for his next contract than an NBA title at this stage of his career, but he did his best Kevin Garnett impression when asked on Twitter if he'd consider a return to Boston this offseason.
Anything can happen https://t.co/jeDPJpZ4PV- Isaiah Thomas (@isaiahthomas) March 19, 2018
The Pacers, because Indiana could do with another go-to scorer: Thomas would be a great fit in Nate McMillan's push-the-pace system, too.
The Pelicans, because New Orleans is in need of a point guard: They have Jrue Holiday under contract until 2021-22, but Rajon Rondo is a free agent this offseason, and they're lacking playmakers in the backcourt.
Plus, reuniting Thomas and DeMarcus Cousins would be a lot of fun.
Let's do it lol https://t.co/2j3ns7oXmZ- Isaiah Thomas (@isaiahthomas) June 4, 2018
FREE AGENCY FITS: LeBron James | Paul George | DeMarcus Cousins