When the Kings signed Isaiah Thomas after selecting him with the 60th and final pick in the 2011 draft, the team inked the point guard to a unique three-year contract. Per Mark Deeks of Sham Sports, the second and third years of the deal were fully unguaranteed, but could become guaranteed if Thomas met certain criteria.
Thomas' 2012/13 contract became guaranteed when, in his rookie season, he appeared in at least 50 games, averaging 15+ minutes in the 50 contests in which he played the most. Thomas needed to meet those same criteria this season in order to guaranteed his 2013/14 salary, and did so earlier this month. Thomas has now appeared in 56 games in '12/13, averaging 25.5 minutes per contest.
The 24-year-old isn't exactly set for a big payday next season, as he's in line to earn the minimum $884,293. But that's one more guaranteed contract to add to the Kings' books as the team approaches an uncertain offseason, with the franchise expected to change hands. Sacramento now has nine players on guaranteed deals for 2013/14, with Aaron Brooks potentially becoming the tenth if he exercises his $3.4MM player option.
The latest news and notes from around the NBA on Saturday evening:
With offseason signee Aaron Brooks firmly entrenched as the starting point guard for the Kings, coach Keith Smart has been going back and forth between second-year men Jimmer Fredette and Isaiah Thomas as the backup at that position. The time share has frustrated Thomas, who finished his surprising rookie campaign as the starter and started the first eight games of this season as well, and he's expressed a desire for a better idea of when he'll be playing, as Matt Kawahara of the Sacramento Bee details.
"Wouldn't you?" Thomas replied when asked whether he'd like more clarity on his role. "I would. But I mean, that's coach's decision, and I'm a team guy, so I just go with whatever he chooses. I mean, I'll always know I'm going to stay ready, no matter what."
Thomas said he doesn't understand why Smart decided to split his minutes with Fredette, but Smart said he's doing so in part because he feels both players need to play in order to improve. While Thomas, the last pick in the 2011 draft, assumed a prominent role last year, 10th overall pick Fredette saw fewer than 20 minutes a game as a reserve.
Appearances and minutes are especially important to Thomas, given the stipulations in his contract. His minimum-salary deal for next year will be non-guaranteed if he doesn't average 15 or more minutes per game in the 50 contests in which he plays the most minutes this season, according to ShamSports. Failure to appear in at least 50 games is another trigger that would make the contract non-guaranteed next season.
Thomas might actually want to root for less playing time to make his deal non-guaranteed and prompt the Kings to waive him in the offseason, when he could bank on his performance from 2011/12 to find a deal for better than the minimum. That would be shortsighted, though, since he'd be in line for a much more lucrative contract in the summer of 2014 if he can improve upon last year's performance.
The Bulls are doing battle with the Thunder today in another possible Finals match-up. Chicago is once again without their best player, Derrick Rose. In an Insider piece on ESPN.com, Basketball-Reference's Neil Paine explains that despite the team experiencing recent success without Rose, they have no chance at winning a title if he doesn't play.