Sixth Man of the First Trimester

December, 23, 2013
12/23/13
5:21
PM ET
Isaiah ThomasKelley L Cox/USA TODAY SportsHey may be starting in Sacramento now, but we're saluting Isaiah Thomas' work in a sixth-man role.

Sixth Man of the First Trimester: Isaiah Thomas, Kings


You almost certainly won’t see our First Trimester sixth man mentioned again in this race for the rest of the season, because it's highly unlikely he'll be eligible for consideration by the time our Trimester 2 awards come out.

Which is why we had to recognize Thomas here when we still had the chance.

He's a starter now in Sacramento, elevated to the first five in the wake of the Rudy Gay deal that routed Greivis Vasquez to Toronto, but he might well have forced his way into the Kings' starting lineup eventually anyway given the ridiculously gaudy numbers he’s racking up for a former No. 60 overall pick.

As we always seem to say when trying to make a selection in this category, there's no shortage of quality options this season. Judging by the fast progress he’s making as the heir to James Harden's old job, OKC’s Reggie Jackson could be the new favorite for the award now that Thomas’ new gig is taking him out of contention. The Clippers’ Jamal Crawford, Houston’s Jeremy Lin and Portland’s Mo Williams are three more lead guards that come to mind on the names-to-watch list ... as well as a certain Argentinean from the Sixth Man Pantheon. Manu Ginobili doesn’t even play 25 minutes a game anymore, but he’s been looking positively Manu-esque lately.

(OK, OK: I suppose Nick Young has earned a mention here for giving the Lakers more than we ever expected ... and it’s presumably smart to give Cleveland’s Dion Waiters a shot to shoot himself into the race.)

For now, though, let’s properly honor Thomas while he still meets sixth-man eligibility standards, which demand that a player must come off the bench in at least one more game than his total number of starts.

He’s ultimately going to have to be a better distributor as a starter, since the demands of the job are different, but Thomas’ stat line is incredibly eye-catching. On top of the 18.8 points per game, .405 shooting from 3-point range and 22.2 PER, Thomas ranks No. 7 in the league in fourth-quarter scoring with an average of 6.8 points ... narrowly ahead James Harden, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. (It certainly doesn’t hurt that he’s a lefty, either.)

For all the missteps from the Kings throughout the final years of the Maloofs' reign -- chief among them keeping Geoff Petrie in charge of the front office for way longer than they should have -- that regime didn’t get the props it deserved for snagging Thomas with the final pick of the 2011 draft. Pretty much an entire league, by that point, had clearly deemed him too small or shot-minded to ever make it as an NBA point guard.

So pretty much an entire league missed.

Check out more First Trimester Awards »

Marc Stein | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com
• Senior NBA writer for ESPN.com
• Began covering the NBA in 1993-94
• Also covered soccer, tennis and the Olympics

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