On Saturday, December 3rd, I got the privilege to go to the Wells Fargo Center and watch 5’9″ Isaiah Thomas of the Boston Celtics torch taller opponents Sergio Rodriguez and TJ McConnell of the Philadelphia 76ers for 37 points. Rodriguez and McConnell should most definitely not be first-choice point guards in the NBA, and they probably should not even be second-choices. It got me thinking. Short point guards have done well in college, but other than Isaiah Thomas, the success doesn’t really translate to the pros.
I then thought about former University of Kentucky star Tyler Ulis. He was scrappy, could get inside with ease, could shoot, and played on both sides of the ball with the confidence of a 7-foot player. Even though the Sixers did not have their best shot-blocker in Joel Embiid, Thomas’ performance made me want someone who could actually defend his position, and I believe that Ulis could do just that, especially for the Sixers.
Sure, Philly is probably trying to “Falter for Fultz” or “Take a Fall for Lonzo Ball” for the upcoming draft, but that does not mean the team has to have unwatchable guard play every single night. They have not had a solid point guard since the days of Michael Carter-Williams, and the only reason he could be considered “solid” is because he was the only one allowed to shoot as many times as he wanted because he was the only semi-decent player in Philadelphia in his rookie year.
This brings me back to Ulis. He has a more well-rounded style of play than Isaiah Thomas, who can score whenever and wherever he wants. Ulis’ hustle and courage would be great for any guard-less team across the league, such as Philly, the Brooklyn Nets, the Milwaukee Bucks, or the Sacramento Kings. Instead, the former UK player is stuck behind Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight in Phoenix, averaging 3.8 points and 1.8 assists while playing just over 11 minutes per game. He shoots 83% from the free throw line and 39.5% from three-point range, which are strong percentages that could help many teams toward the bottom of the NBA’s current hierarchy.
With his toughness and other strong intangibles, Ulis could remind some fans of Muggsy Bogues, a man who, despite his small stature, never backed down from any matchup and never feared anyone on the hardwood. His willingness to fight and his determination are better than that of almost any point guard in the league right now, and if he keeps his attitude up, the skills will come. He just needs to go to a place where he can get the playing time.