The deal that sent Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. to the Cleveland Cavaliers seemingly netted the Los Angeles Lakers cap space and a draft pick, but the final two months of the season could prove important for Isaiah Thomas and the team.
Thomas, who struggled offensively and defensively with Cleveland following a return from a hip injury, enjoyed great success in his Lakers’ debut. The diminutive point guard erupted for 22 points on just 12 shots, and he dished out six assists. It was his most productive game of the season.
For the Lakers, the benefits of the trade are well defined. They now have an opportunity to get an extended look at Thomas, who could prove to be a valuable sixth man for the team, a role he previously thrived in prior to joining the Boston Celtics.
"It kind of reminds me of the same situation when I got traded to Boston,” Thomas told reporters following his first game with the Lakers. “It was a young team that was thinking rebuild, but we had some different thoughts than that, and we made a push to the playoffs. That is my job: to come to this team and bring that spirit, that fire, that killer's mentality and just understand that we can take advantage of this opportunity that we have [the rest of] the season. It's about winning, and it is about winning right now."
The Lakers should see the best version of Thomas, providing he is healthy. Playing for a contract and coming off a significant injury, the guard will try to prove that he is still the same player who brought success to the Celtics.
Even when Lonzo Ball returns, Thomas could continue serving as the first man off Luke Walton’s bench. Providing Thomas continues to play well, he could always look at re-upping with the Lakers, especially on a one-year prove-it deal. Lakers shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope employed that strategy after not receiving the offers he wants on the open market.
In the meantime, team president Magic Johnson also said he wants Thomas to serve as a mentor for Ball. For more Lakers news and tickets to select home games, keep it here on AXS.com.