It was the blockbuster move of the NBA Offseason. One of the top, young point guards in the league, going to a conference rival for their face of the franchise and possibly the 1st overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. Obviously, it wasn’t a shock being that Irving requested a trade from the Cavaliers back in late July, but to see the trade come together as fast as it did yesterday, and with a fierce conference rival, stopped the sports world in its tracks. What did we think about it? Read below to find out.
A trade that both teams had to make, but makes both teams worse.
Almost a month ago to the day, the NBA world was in shock when it came out the Kyrie Irving had requested a trade from the Cleveland Cavaliers. Since then it has been rampant speculation or whether the Cavaliers would comply with his request and if so where he would be sent. After the signing of former MVP Derrick Rose it was clear the Cavaliers were prepared to move on from Kyrie, and today they sent the former number one overall pick to Boston in Exchange for Isiah Thomas two other players and a number one pick in 2018. The Celtics won this trade, they obtained the best point guard in the east, and more importantly the severely weakened the Cavaliers, their biggest competition. Both teams will experience slightly worse seasons than last year.
From the Celtics perspective: After the signing of free agent Gordon Hayward this past offseason for roughly 30 million a year, the Celtics were beginning to get short on cash. To give themselves a bit of cap room they dealt shooting guard avery bradley to the Pistons. This still didn’t solve the problem that the expiring contract of Isiah Thomas caused. With the enormous contract of Horford and Hayward there is no way the Celtics could add another max contract next year and they didn’t want to simply lose the all star point guard. Lucky for the Celtics they have tremendous resources in terms of draft picks and quality rookies. Feeling confident in Jason Tatum the Celtics opted to trade away their final Nets pick that they acquired many years ago.
With Kyrie replacing Isaiah at point the celtics have a greatly improved defender and slightly better offensive threat leading their team, unfortunately Smart at shooting guard is a big downgrade defensively from Avery Bradley. With Jae Crowder gone the Celtics youth will get thrown onto the court for minutes whether they are ready or not. Most important for the Celtics Kyrie will likely resign after his contract ends in a couple years, if they can somehow manage to deal away the horrible Horford contract.
From the Cavaliers perspective: Faced with trading one of the league’s best players in a time where most teams willing to spend big had already dealt away most major assets, the Cavaliers were desperate for any deal that allowed them to perform well next year and prepared them for the future. The trade completed allows the Cavaliers to most likely return to yet another Eastern Conference Championship while preparing the inevitable departure of LeBron James.
The Cavaliers regular season will be filled with a constantly shifting lineup, with the players frantically trying to figure out how to play together. Aside from the chemistry issues the addition of Isaiah causes the Cavaliers now have a log jam at SF and a stacked bench filled with players that want a lot more minutes that they are going to get. This trade also causes a big defensive liability at point, Rose might have to play the last few minutes of games to avoid major defensive issues. This roster reminds me a lot of the Heat from LeBron’s first season after he left Cleveland, in that they will be sheer talent alone make the NBA finals but will fail to topple the Warriors.
The Cleveland Cavaliers front office should be pretty happy welcoming Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and Brooklyn’s unprotected 2018 1st round pick, considering what they had to work with. With Kyrie’s trade request back on July 31st, the Cavs lost all their leverage in trade negotiations when the trade request went public. The 25-year-old out of Duke still has his best years ahead of him, and is already a four-time NBA all-star and NBA champion. While the Cavaliers are now without much defence at all in the back court, they at least managed to get a star in return for Irving, in Isaiah Thomas. While Thomas is a few years older, and is one of the worst defensive players in the league, Thomas led the Celtics to over 50 wins last season, and was absolutely money in the 4th quarter all season long. With the acquisition of a lock down guard before the playoffs roll around, the Cavaliers will be just as strong, if not stronger than they were last year with Irving.
On the Celtics side of things, Danny Ainge knew to pull the trigger once he realized he could upgrade the point guard position, and get younger at the same time. While I personally believe the Celtics still gave up too much for Irving with how much leverage they had on Cleveland, the Celtics’ depth allowed them to overpay a little for Uncle Drew. With the departure of Avery Bradley as well, there’s a bit of a hole as to who will join Irving in the back court. Marcus Smart seems to be the front runner, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Celtics try and move Jaylen Brown over to try and fill the spot, considering the log jam the Celtics currently have at small forward with Gordon Hayward, Brown and Jayson Tatum.
The only thing with this trade is, in one summer, the Cavaliers could lose pretty much everything they got in this trade. With Isaiah Thomas only under contract for next season, and rumors of LeBron already planning to leave the Cavaliers after this season, whose to say that Thomas won’t follow suit? I have a gut feeling that Thomas will enter free agency, like LeBron in 2018, and the Cavs will enter full-on rebuild mode. So, the 2018 Brooklyn pick is a wonderful asset for Irving, but Thomas almost feels like a rental at this point. Ante Zizic is an interesting pick up for the Cavaliers as well. The Croatian 7-footer is an enticing prospect, who brings back some of the old-school big man traits that could help the Cavaliers down the road when they’re ready to contend one day. Crowder is signed through 2020, so he’ll be in Cleveland no matter what happens next offseason.
So, in closing, I truly believe the Cleveland Cavaliers won this trade, considering what they have to work with, and the fact they probably snagged the top pick in next year’s NBA Draft, or at least a top-3 pick. Isaiah Thomas will help the Cavaliers win now, and the Brooklyn pick will help rebuild the team in the future. The additions of Zizic and Crowder are just bonuses. The Boston Celtics didn’t do too bad either, but were lucky they had lots of talent ready in the wings. Personally, I felt the Celtics gave up too much in this deal, but having Kyrie Irving leading the way isn’t so bad either.
So Cleveland wins the trade… For now.