Despite measuring up at a diminutive 5-feet, 9-inches, Boston Celtics point guard isaiah thomas is an offensive powerhouse. Averaging 28.9 points and 5.9 assists per game during the regular season, Thomas has continued his stellar play on the offensive end of the court into the playoffs, posting 23.0 points and 5.7 dimes in their opening round six-game series against the Chicago Bulls.

Leading his team to a current 2-2 tie in the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Washington Wizards, Thomas is averaging 29.5 points and 5.5 assists in the series and dropped jaws with a dominant 53-point performance in Game 2.

Pretty nice time for a career-high scoring game, right? And he’s done all of this in the face of adversity, attempting to cope with the tragic loss of his younger sister Chyna who passed away as a result of a motor vehicle accident right before the playoffs began.

He's currently a bargain

According to Spotrac, Thomas played at what amounts to an incredible bargain for the Celtics this season, making $6,587,132. Next season, in the final year of his four-year, $27,000,002 contract that he signed before the 2014-2015 season with the Sacramento Kings, the point guard is slated to make $6,261,395.

Therefore, he can become a highly-coveted unrestricted free agent after next season and will likely demand a max contract in today’s inflated market.

USA Today Sports’ Sam Amick reported that the max deal with Boston could be as high as five years and $179 million, which includes a $40.8 million salary for the final season of the deal.

Max deal mistake

The Celtics would be foolish to offer Isaiah a maximum deal. First, at the start of the new contract, Thomas will be 30 years old.

Paying a 5-foot, 9-inch point guard $40.8 million of guaranteed money in his mid-30s doesn’t seem like a sound strategy. Danny Ainge already overpaid Al Horford with a four-year, $113,326,228 million deal before this season and he will command nearly $30 million in cap space over the next three seasons.

Even though the salary cap will continue to increase to all-time highs, filling up a large percentage of it with two undeserving near-max players is the wrong move.

On the surface, it may seem ludicrous suggesting that the Celtics should get rid of a player who trailed just Russell Westbrook and James Harden in scoring during the regular season and who has been a leader for his teammates throughout his time in Boston, but from a basketball perspective, the loss of Thomas might not be as damaging as you might think.

While the team’s offense ran through him and was much more efficient when he was on the court for that reason, the Celtics were a much better defensive team without him on the court.

Recognized as perhaps the worst defender in the entire NBA based mainly on his lack of size, Boston was nine points better defensively whenever Thomas was out of the game. Without him, their 99.7 defensive rating would have been the best in the entire NBA. In their opening round series, Thomas told reporters that he essentially doesn’t care about his defensive play. “They say I’m the worst defender in the league. I’m fine with being the worst defender,” he said.

Major mismatch

While the Eastern Conference doesn’t boast the opposing point guard depth that the Western Conference does with Westbrook, Harden, Steph Curry and others, Cleveland CavaliersKyrie Irving is a huge mismatch for Thomas.

Since the Cavs aren’t going anywhere and will contend until LeBron James retires, Ainge has to build this team to contend with them. Sticking elite defender Avery Bradley is always an option, but Irving averaged 25.5 points and 6.0 assists per game against Thomas and Boston in the regular season, shooting 52.8 percent from the field in the four games. That’s not a coincidence. Thomas has to guard someone when he’s on the court, and whoever that is will have a gigantic advantage on the offensive end.

The Celtics have options

Since Boston holds the Brooklyn Nets’ first-round pick in the upcoming NBA Draft, which might very well end up being the No. 1 overall pick if the ping pong balls work in their favor, they will have the opportunity to select an elite talent like Markelle Fultz, who projects to be a perennial All-Star with his advanced skill-set that will fill the stat sheet on a nightly basis.

He’s also 6-feet, 4-inches with a 6-foot, 9-inch wingspan. From a size and ability perspective, he has the potential to be a great defender at the NBA level who could guard multiple positions. Offensively, he shot 41.3 percent from three and averaged 23.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.9 assists for the University of Washington in his one-and-done freshman season. In an odd twist, could we see one former Husky take the reigns from another former Husky?

Major liability

While he can fill up the scoring column and is one of the best fourth quarter performers in the entire NBA, the Celtics defense was lackluster all season, especially due to his presence. In addition, the Wizards showed exactly how to limit Thomas on the offensive end in their Game 3 blowout win.

Thomas went 3-of-8 from the field for just 13 points with four assists and a couple turnovers in 29 minutes on the court. Washington double and triple-teamed him on a ton of possessions, which essentially made him useless on both sides of the court.

Since the Celtics have relied on Thomas to shoulder the bulk of the offensive load all season long, they had no idea who to turn to. The result was an embarrassing 116-89 loss. Looking forward to this summer, the Celtics have been rumored to be in the mix to land current Utah Jazz All-Star forward Gordon Hayward, who Brad Stevens coached in college at Butler University.

A trade is possible

If they happen to sign Hayward and draft Fultz, they would be able to trade Thomas in or before his contract year for what would amount to a king’s ransom.

A starting five of Fultz, Bradley, Hayward, Jae Crowder and Al Horford with Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier returning as key reserves would still make up one of the best rosters in the East. Considering the fact that draft-and-stash prospects Guerschon Yabusele and Ante Zizic have also expressed a desire to be in Boston next season, the second unit could also be pretty special.

Both Yabusele and Zizic were 2016 first-round picks with impressive international experience. Therefore, one (or both) of them might very well develop into a starter at the NBA level. That’s not even counting the compensation that they’d receive for trading Thomas. Packaging Thomas with Crowder, who would likely also be attractive to potential suitors, the Celtics would probably be able to land an elite power forward if the numbers work, which would help shape out an even-better starting five.

Not only do the Celtics own Brooklyn’s top pick in 2017, but they also have three additional 2017 second round picks, Brooklyn’s 2018 first-round pick, the Los Angeles Clippers’ 2019 first-round pick, the Memphis Grizzlies’ 2019 first-round pick and an additional second-round pick in 2019 and 2020 in addition to their own picks in 2018 and beyond.

Considering all of those draft assets, it would be easy for Ainge to include a few of them in a star-for-star deal involving Thomas this summer. Targeting a power forward or someone like Jimmy Butler who can match up with LeBron would make a lot of sense. A trade of Thomas, a key free agent signing and landing the best player in the NBA Draft can solve that issue this summer if Ainge pulls the right strings.

If not, it’ll essentially mean watching the Cavs in the winner’s circle year-after-year. If next year’s team isn’t built to match up directly with Cleveland, what’s the point of even stepping on the court?

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