Isaiah Thomas: The Eastern Conference's best guard?
Isaiah Thomas has enjoyed a rapid rise to the top. | USA TODAY Sports

Isaiah Thomas: The Eastern Conference's best guard?

After propelling his side up to second place in the east, can the Boston Celtics man be considered the best guard in the conference?

chris-hughes
Chris Hughes

The debate as to whom the best guard is the Western Conference is fairly straight forward. You seemingly either side with Russell WestbrookStephen Curry or James Harden.

But in the East, it's much more of a gray area. Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers is the All-Star game's starting point guard, but there's more than enough of a case for the Washington WizardsJohn Wall.

And that's before you even look to the north, with the Toronto Raptors' duo of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, who have combined for 51 of their team's 109.2-point average.

But hidden among them, quite literally, is Isaiah Thomas. The Boston Celtics man is averaging nearly 30 points per game for the season and is boasting some incredible stats for the calendar year.

The guard has averaged 36.2 points from his last five outings alone, despite standing at just five-foot-nine.

With numbers like those, it's hard to ignore Thomas from contention, and he may just be the best guard in Eastern Conference.

Humble Beginnings 

Isaiah Thomas played for the Sacramento Kings and the Phoenix Suns before heading east. | USA TODAY Sports

What makes the guard's rise to the top even more impressive was where he debuted in the league.

Unlike Wall and Irving, who were both the first picks of their respective drafts, the 'little man' was in fact that final pick of the 2011 draft, having been selected at the end of the second round by the Sacramento Kings.

Thomas spent three years with the Western-Conference side, peaking with a season average of 20.3 points per game in his third and final season.

Despite this, he was never a guaranteed starter, with his best run in the team being a total of 62 starts from 79 appearances during the 2012/13 campaign.

Thomas was then traded to the Phoenix Suns in 2014, and despite an average of 25 minutes per game, started on just on occasion.

The guard was therefore traded to the Celtics before season's end and became their starter the following year.

The rest, as they say, has been history.

Mr. Fourth Quarter

Thomas has now scored double figures in 100 straight games. | USA TODAY Sports

Thomas' performances this season understandably haven't gone unnoticed. In fact, his efforts have given him a new nickname: Mr. Fourth Quarter.

The guard is well on his way to achieving the best fourth-quarter points average in over 20 years, having scored around 11 points in the final 12 minutes of the game alone.

Against the Raptors on Wednesday Thomas scored 19 of his 44 points in the final quarter, and last night against the Los Angeles Lakers he entered the fourth with 21 points. He finished the game with 38.

His run of form means that he is officially the league's second-highest average scorer, with his 29.9 sitting just behind Westbrook's 30.8.

It does however mean he is the highest scorer in the whole of the Eastern Conference, giving him a player efficiency rating of 27.89.

The Difference Maker

What puts Thomas above the other guards competing for the title of the Eastern Conference's best is his conversion rate.

Since the turn of the year, the Celtics guard is boasting a shooting percentage in excess 50-40-90. 

Meanwhile, Irving, who is averaging fewer assists per game than Isaiah, has converted around 35 percent of his shots from deep since the start of 2017.

John Wall's shot stats make for an even worse read, as despite his side's impressive run of form he is averaging less than a 30-percent conversion for the calendar year. The Wizards guard's main savior is his far superior assist average.

If Thomas can keep up this average for the rest of the campaign, then he will officially have the most 20-point-average seasons of any player in the league who is registered as six foot or less. The previous record holder was Calvin Murphy, who is tied with Thomas with two.

Boston now boasts a record of 32-18 as a result of his efforts, having won six on the bounce and seven of their last ten.

The Celtics' next game is tomorrow against the Los Angeles Clippers. Tip-off is early, at 2:00 p.m. E.T.

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