The quest for the 2016-2017 NBA MVP seems to be a two-man race between Russell Westbrook and James Harden.
Westbrook, who leads the league in scoring and is averaging a triple double, is well on his way to his first MVP award after the departure of teammate Kevin Durant.
Harden, a former teammate of Westbrook and Durant for the Oklahoma City Thunder, is putting up incredible numbers as well and is a candidate for the prize.
However, 5-foot-9 Isaiah Thomas, known as “The King in the Fourth,” is surprising the NBA with his superb level of play this season and may get a few MVP votes.
Thomas leads the charge for the Boston Celtics, which is now in second place in the Eastern Conference standings behind the Cleveland Cavaliers. He is second in the league in scoring with 29.8 ppg behind Westbrook, and you have to give Thomas credit for doing it on an exceptional team this year.
Coming out of three successful years playing at Washington, Thomas was not highly looked at by NBA scouts. He was the last pick in the 2011 NBA Draft and was selected by the Sacramento Kings. Thomas was traded to the Celtics midway through the 2014-2015 after playing briefly with the Phoenix Suns. Since then, his stats and skill on the court have risen dramatically.
With the quickness and vision Thomas has, he might be mistaken as the son of former Detroit Pistons hall of famer Isiah Thomas, as there is a spelling difference in their first names to take note of. There is no relation between the two, but Isaiah Thomas was named after the Piston great.
What makes Thomas elite? It goes back to his nickname “The King in the Fourth,” which is derived from the television series “Game of Thrones.” Thomas plays his best basketball in the fourth quarter when it counts the most.
According to an article by ESPN staff writer Peter Forsberg published on Jan. 17, Thomas averages 10.1 ppg in the fourth quarter. During the past 15 games before Jan. 17, Thomas averaged a mind-blowing 13.6 ppg.
In six games in February so far, Thomas is averaging 33.2 ppg, so he continues to pile up big numbers. The Celtics have won five of its six games this month and nine of the past 10 games.
“I’ve always wanted that moment,” Thomas said in an interview to ESPN. “Growing up, always seeing the best players take over in those moments, whether it be Kobe [Bryant], Allen Iverson, [Michael] Jordan, and they just treated it like it was just another possession, another game. That’s how I feel.”
That is the kind of attitude that has made the Celtics potential contenders this season to dethrone the Cavaliers as Eastern Conference champions.
Thomas’ ability to drive past defenders to the hoop so easily is reminiscent of former point guard Allen Iverson.
He is a lefty, so defenders have to adjust shifting their foot position.
Thomas is a clear catalyst for the Celtics moving forward, as the team has gotten better since his arrival two years ago. I would not be surprised if he took MVP honors in 2018.