The Isaiah Thomas to Orlando rumors had certainly died down, but now they are officially dead.
According to Woj, the free agent point guard has signed with the Denver Nuggets...
Free agent guard Isaiah Thomas has agreed to a one-year deal with the Denver Nuggets, league sources tell ESPN. Thomas will reunite with Michael Malone, who coached him with the Kings.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 13, 2018
What’s more surprising than the fact that Thomas signed elsewhere is how little he signed for. Woj reports that Thomas, who just about a calendar year ago would have been considered for a max contract, signed a one-year deal for the veteran’s minimum of $2 million.
That begs the question, if IT was available at that price, why didn’t Orlando make more of an effort to sign him? With the Magic in need of a proven point guard and scorer, and with Thomas seeking a team that can offer a role that satisfies his high-volume shooting needs, they seemed a perfect marriage on a short-term basis. But...
I'm told that once it was Veteran Minimum contracts to choose from, Isaiah Thomas wanted a place where he could play a key role AND be on a winning team. Denver affords him that opportunity better than any other suitor could have.— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) July 13, 2018
Perhaps if the Magic were willing to give Thomas a few extra million of the mid-level exception that they still have available, he would have been more than willing to play on a rebuilding team rather than a playoff team.
Thomas, recovering from hip surgery, will now be coming off the bench for a Nuggets’ team who’s ceiling is probably the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.
While Denver is no doubt a good fit for the 29-year-old, it seems like a starting role on an Orlando team that has the pieces in place to start making a climb in weakened Eastern Conference would have been more attractive for a guy looking to earn a multi-year deal when he re-enters free agency next summer.
And for Orlando, one year of IT on a prove-it contract would have filled a void (Augustin-Grant-Briscoe?), generated some excitement (second lowest local TV ratings last season, though Mo Bamba will help that) and maybe would have elevated the Magic into playoff contention (if Thomas proved to be anywhere near as healthy and productive as he was in 2016-2017 when he averaged 28.9 points per game and finished fifth in MVP voting) . When news first broke of talks between Orlando and IT, we listed the pros and cons of Thomas potentially signing with the Magic, and the pros certainly seemed to outweigh the cons.
Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel recently reported that the Magic and Thomas never got to the negotiation stage, despite previous reports by other outlets that they did.
The Orlando Magic and Isaiah Thomas never were negotiating a possible contract. Is it correct to say the Magic explored the possibility of signing Thomas? Yes. But there were no negotiations. The addition of Jerian Grant indicates Orlando had decided not to ultimately pursue IT.— Josh Robbins (@JoshuaBRobbins) July 8, 2018
But the question, based on the low-risk high-reward circumstances surrounding Thomas, is why?
Did Thomas’ hip (or lack of wingspan) scare the Magic away? Did Jeff Weltman and John Hammond feel that Thomas would inhibit the development of the core players on the team? Did the Magic not want to sacrifice their lottery chances or rush their rebuild for one year of IT?
All legitimate questions and concerns. But we may never know the true reasons as to why Isaiah Thomas to Orlando never happened.