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WALTHAM, Mass. – Isaiah Thomas had one of the greatest individual seasons in Celtics history during the 2016-17 campaign, and now he’s being rewarded for it. Boston’s two-time All-Star point guard on Thursday was named to the All-NBA Second Team, marking the first All-NBA nod of his career.
“It’s a blessing,” Thomas said Thursday afternoon, moments after hearing the news. “It’s a blessing from God and from the Celtics for giving me the opportunity to be myself.
“And my teammates,” he added. “It’s not just something for me; it’s for this team. They allow me to be who I am, and they like me for who I am, so that says a lot about this team, this organization.”
Thomas did not earn any First-Team votes, but he garnered 71 Second-Team votes and 23 Third-Team votes for a total of 236 voting points. He finished fourth in voting among guards behind James Harden (500 voting points), Russell Westbrook (498 voting points) and Stephen Curry (290 voting points). IT cleared the Third-Team voting by a large margin as the next-highest vote receiver at the guard position was John Wall, who received 125 voting points.
The First Team is comprised of Harden (the only unanimous vote-getter), Westbrook, LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard and Anthony Davis.
Joining Thomas on the Second-Team is Curry, Rudy Gobert, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kevin Durant.
The Third Team is made up of Wall, Draymond Green, Jimmy Butler, DeMar DeRozan and DeAndre Jordan.
With his selection, Thomas becomes the first Celtic to earn an All-NBA nod since Rajon Rondo was named to the All-NBA Third team following the 2011-12 season. The last Celtic to earn Second Team or higher was Paul Pierce, who was named to the All-NBA Second Team after the 2008-09 season.
Thomas finished as the third-leading scorer in the NBA with an average of 28.9 points per game. His scoring rate was the second highest in franchise history, trailing only Larry Bird’s 1987-88 mark of 29.9 PPG.
IT also set a team record with 245 3-point makes from beyond the arc, and established a franchise mark by scoring 20 or more points in 43 consecutive contests.
In terms of individual highs, Thomas set new personal marks in field goal percentage (46.3 percent), 3-point percentage (37.9 percent) and free-throw percentage (90.9 percent).
“It’s a tremendous accomplishment,” coach Brad Stevens said of Thomas’ honor. “And it’s certainly well deserved.”
Thomas, a six-year veteran, saw his numbers spike significantly when he was traded from Phoenix to Boston two seasons ago. He has since blossomed from a sixth man role into the face of a contending franchise.
Stevens believes the key to Thomas’ rapid development has been placing him among players who complement his skill set.
“I think that it’s so much at this level about finding the right guys for the right groups and he fits perfectly with our guys,” Stevens said Thursday afternoon following a film session at the team’s training facility. “They need what he does well, he needs what they do well, but he’s put in a lot of work. I mean he’s as consistent and as hard of a worker as I’ve ever been around.”
The fact that Thomas was the last pick in the 2011 NBA Draft is evidence of the hard work he has put in. Teams passed on him 59 times during that draft, and he has since proven the doubters wrong by growing into one of the most successful members of the 2011 draft class.
“I always knew I could do what I’m doing right now, but now it’s just proving to other people,” said Thomas. “I mean, it says a lot, but I want to be so much better. I’ve got so much room for improvement in so may areas. That (honor) was definitely a goal of mine and we got it.”
Thomas indicated, however, that the individual recognition is the last thing on his mind at the moment.
“Now it’s onto bigger and better things,” he added, dismissing any further talk of his accolade.
Thomas’ current focus lies solely on the Cleveland Cavaliers and figuring out how he can help his Celtics bounce back from a 1-0 deficit in the Eastern Conference Finals. Once that’s over, then he can fully appreciate and bask in the glory of his well-deserved individual accomplishment.