9. Isaiah Thomas and the Celtics
At this point, Thomas has to be considered an MVP favorite with the likes of James Harden and Russell Westbrook. That’s how good the former second-round pick has been for Boston this season. The stats surely tell us a story here. Thomas is averaging 29.9 points while shooting at a tremendous 47 percent clip from the field. More than that, he’s been the best crunch-time player in the NBA this season.
Isaiah Thomas: 25th time with 10 points in the 4th quarter this season, breaking a tie with Russell Westbrook for most in the NBA
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 16, 2017
This has Boston with a 37-20 record heading into the season’s unofficial second half. Heck, the Celtics are just three games behind Cleveland for the top spot. As Thomas continues to grow, the rest of Boston’s lineup has followed suit. Big-time free-agent signing Al Horford continues to play stellar all-around basketball. He’s averaging 14.6 points to go with an otherworldly 4.9 assists from the center position.
In addition to this, both Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart continue to improve in the backcourt. It’s actually at the point right now where Bradley has been bandied about in trade rumors due to the emergence of Smart.
That’s where it gets incredibly interesting for Boston. As mentioned before, it has a ton of assets to move for a potential star. As trade rumors linking the C’s to Jimmy Butler continue to heat up, one has to wonder whether Danny Ainge and Co. will pull off that major deal to close the gap between themselves and Cleveland back east. One then has to wonder whether adding someone of Butler’s ilk would make Boston the favorites in the Eastern Conference. That’s how much this squad has improved in 2016-17.