Isaiah Thomas carried the Washington Huskies throughout the 2010-11 season, but when he declared for the 2011 NBA Draft, it caught many by surprise. There's no question Thomas has game and his evolution this past season, when he took over the point guard role following Abdul Gaddy's season-ending injury, was impressive. It was enough to convince Thomas he'd hit his ceiling at the college level and there was little left to do at Washington. But his place in the NBA Draft still remained in flux.
In the aftermath of Thomas' decision to enter the draft, analysts opined he was a mid-second round prospect and could jump a bit higher, but a first round grade seemed out of the question. So it comes as a surprise to see Thomas in the first round of Tom Ziller's 2011 NBA mock draft, though his reasoning makes a whole lot of sense.
30. Chicago Bulls: Isaiah Thomas, PG, Washington
Isaiah Thomas deserves a shot in the first round; he can outplay a handful of NBA point guards, and a year from now he could seriously be putting in good minutes for a playoff team. He has all the skills. Size matters, but haven't we learned you can't discount a player solely because of their height?
The biggest knock on Thomas has little to do with the skills he possesses. Ahead of his junior season, it was clear Thomas would need to shift away from a shooting guard role and into the point guard role to succeed in the NBA. He made the transition and thrived by adding a passing dimension that had been missing in his skill-set.
Thomas isn't getting any taller and his stature will determine where he's picked in the 2011 NBA Draft. Yet Thomas was almost unstoppable in the Pac-10 as he regularly shredded players with a significant height advantage this past season. Add in defense that was better than you'd expect, and it's tough to see why Thomas wouldn't get a chance in the NBA. He's a superb player, and teams that pass on him because of his height may come to regret it a year or two down the line.
We'll be tracking Thomas and Washington State's Klay Thompson ahead of the draft to see where they fit and where the various projections have them coming off the board. Stay with our 2011 NBA mock draft StoryStream for the latest on the draft as more becomes available. For more on Thompson and the Cougars, head over to SB Nation's CougCenter. To check in with Thomas and the Huskies, visit UW Dawg Pound.