Let’s take a look at the Cavs-Celtics swap implications, right now and moving forward.
Though we all knew it was inevitable, it is still shocking now that Kyrie Irving is a Boston Celtic. The Cavaliers shipped the disgruntled guard to Boston in exchange for fellow all-star point guard Isaiah Thomas, forward Jae Crowder, center Ante Zizic and Brooklyn’s 2018 unprotected first-round pick. A trade of this magnitude obviously affects both teams and several individual legacies. Let’s jump in and examine exactly how it does, for now and in the future.
This trade immediately accomplishes the feat of alleviating pressure and tension within the Cleveland organization. There’s absolutely no way Irving could coexist with Lebron James and the rest of his teammates moving forward. There was already noticeable tension before Irving’s trade request went public. It takes a special mentality for a player of Kyrie’s pedigree to accept second-fiddle status to a player — and personality — like James’ over the long haul. It obviously wore on Irving, and James as days and seasons passed.
What the trade also does is calms a Cavs’ fan base that has been traumatized by LeBron leaving before and now faced with losing another superstar. Cleveland was able to, arguably, get the better of a trade at a time they had very little leverage. On paper, the Cavs actually got better. Boston appears to have gotten better as well, if you’re looking at sheer talent level.
As for how this trade affects the 2017-18 season, it doesn’t take much digging to figure it out on the surface. Boston knew they weren’t going to overtake Cleveland in the East with Isaiah Thomas as its lead dog. While the numbers show a very similar player to Irving, Thomas just doesn’t have the sheer physical gifts that Irving possesses. Kyrie gives the Celtics a legit superstar. Whether he can be the lead dog of a championship caliber team remains to be seen. What we do know is he’ll get his wish to be the man this upcoming season.
For Cleveland, it gives them a player in Thomas who is a fighter. His passion and scrappiness are contagious. For as much talent as Irving possesses, he was never the heart-and-soul of the Cavs. Thomas can be that and allow James to be the leader and best player. Irving’s high-maintenance qualities often seemed to drain LeBron. As for Crowder, he’s one of the league’s most underrated players. He will elevate Cleveland’s ability and versatility on defense with his length and athleticism. He’s exactly what Cleveland needs to help its chances against a player like Kevin Durant, as beating Golden State will be the ultimate mission. Crowder is the type of player that covers many cracks on both ends of the floor.
Years To Come
For Boston, the swap allows a bit more stability moving forward. Just a bit, however. Thomas has one year remaining on his deal and is looking for max money. Irving, on the other hand, has three more years left, although he can opt out after two seasons. Also, by getting rid of one of its high draft picks, Boston commits to a focus of winning now as opposed to rebuilding…you can’t do both simultaneously. If they’d kept the Brooklyn pick, they’d have a logjam of young talent that would be difficult to get on the floor. They already have Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Two more high prospects and they run the risk of becoming the Sixers.
As for the Cavs, adding that Brooklyn pick is huge. It’s more than anyone could have imagined them getting in return for Irving. To be in a position to grab Marvin Bagley or Michael Porter Jr in the 2018 NBA Draft. This accomplishes two things at once. It adds a future building-block that may entice LeBron to stay beyond this season. It also ensures that they aren’t left with a bare cupboard if James does decide to leave. Bagley has been compared to a young Chris Bosh, while Porter is likened to Kevin Durant. Not bad future return at a time when most thought the Cavs would have to settle.
Kudos to both Celtics GM Danny Ainge and rookie Cavs GM Koby Altman, for getting — and releiving — pieces they both needed to be successful in the near and distant future.