From the moment that Isaiah Thomas decided to leave the University of Washington and declare for the 2011 NBA Draft, the odds were stacked against him. Despite a great career with the Huskies, where he was 2x first-team All-Pac-10 (2010, 2011) and averaged 16.8 points and 6.1 assists per game on 45% from the field and 35% from beyond the arc. Thomas was still slotted as a mid-to-late 2nd round pick in that year's draft.
The majority of that doubt was due to Thomas being a slender 5'10 PG that struggled on defense and being a consistent outside threat. Those issues pushed Thomas to become the Mr. Irrelevent of the 2011 NBA Draft, as the Sacramento Kings took him with the 60th pick.
From the moment that he put on a Kings jersey, he immediately made the rest of the NBA pay for not picking him. In his three seasons with the Kings, Thomas used his quickness and fantastic basketball IQ to average 15.3 points and 4.8 assists on 45% from the field and 36% from beyond the arc. Thomas was able to use that great play to get a solid contract, as the Suns signed him to a four-year, $27 million deal in the summer of 2014.
Despite that solid contract, Thomas never really felt wanted with Phoenix as he was pegged 3rd on the depth chart behind Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic. Six months after that signing, the Suns traded Thomas to the Boston Celtics for Marcus Thornton and a future 1st round pick. Thomas immediately flourished under Brad Stevens and the Celtics as he went from the 3rd weapon on a struggling squad to the go-to threat on a playoff bound team. Since arriving, Thomas has pushed the Celtics into becoming one of the top up-and-coming teams in the East while establishing himself as one of the better guards in the NBA. In 2015-16, Thomas 22.2 points and 6.2 assists which led him into his first All-Star game appearance.
A draft prospect that is looking to follow in the foot steps of Isaiah Thomas is former Oakland stud Kay Felder. Like Thomas, Felder stands as an undersized 5'10 point guard that was overlooked by many major programs due to that small frame. However, Felder immediately made those college teams pay for overlooking him, as he was solid from the moment that he stepped on the court at Oakland. In that freshman season, Felder averaged 9.8 points and 6.5 assists per game, which led him to be the Horizon league Freshman Of The Year.
Felder made steady improvements over the next two seasons until he just blew up as a junior. In that season, Felder averaged 24.4 points, 9.3 assists and 2.0 steals per game on 44% from the field and 36% from beyond the arc. That assault didn't just come against Horizon League teams, as some of his best games came against high-major competition. Against Dejounte Murray and the Washington Huskies, Felder had a career-high 38 points and 9 assists on 14 for 27 from the field. Alongside that, Felder put up 37 points and 9 assists against Michigan State along with a 30 point performance against Virginia.
Those consistent performances were able to happen due to Felder being a guard that can just contribute in a variety of different areas: cutting, facilitating, spot-up and off-the-dribble shooting. Despite standing 5'9, Felder was a terrific cutter as he has tight handles, great quickness and is very explosive. He can blow past any defender with a quick first step or lull them to sleep with his ability to quickly change speeds. Following that, Felder's not afraid to cut in traffic as he use his muscular frame and solid hops to hang in the area as he tries to put in the shot attempt. That aggressive approach also led to him consistently making the free-throw line. In his junior year, Felder had 8.8 free-throw attempts per 40 minutes, where he shot 85%.
That ability to work off the dribble also helped him out as a facilitator. As he didn't have the size to see over the court like other point guards, Felder needed to do a lot of his facilitating through drive-and-dishes. As evident in the clip below, Felder was really solid in that area as he always showed a high level of poise in his cuts. That poise is shown in Felder having a 2.70 Ast/To ratio, which was a better average than fellow draft-eligible point guards Demetrius Jackson, Kris Dunn and Gary Payton Jr.
As a shooter, Felder was mainly comfortable working off-the-dribble. There, he was able to use his quickness and great handles to create separation from the defender. His go-to move is a step-back jumper, which he basically mastered over the course of his time with Oakland.
As a perimeter shooter, Felder made some steady improvements over his Oakland career to the point where he shot 36% as a junior. That same off-the-dribble mindset is evident through his work as a perimeter weapon, as he does a nice job of creating enough separation to launch a jumper over the opposition. While there are concerns about his shot selection, they should go away as he won't be a focal point in the NBA like he was with Oakland.
Over the course of his time with Oakland, Felder has continued to show that he can be the best player on the court no matter if he's playing UW-Milwaukee or Michigan State. While some teams are going to have concern about how effective he'll be as a 5'10 guard, it'll be just another one of the many challenges that he's faced over his career. Because like we've seen with Isiah Thomas, sometimes the size of someone's heart is more important than how tall he stands.