Well, Kyrie Irving got what he asked for. The Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics trade sent shockwaves throughout the NBA. The Cavaliers traded Irving to the Celtics while the Cavaliers received Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, and the Brooklyn Nets 2018 pick. Looking at it from both sides, the case can be made both teams will benefit from this trade in the long haul.
Breaking Down the Kyrie Irving Trade
Irving Gets What He is Looking For
When the trade request from Irving became public in July, it became known he was looking for stability. He wanted to play for an organization that had a stable front office with a long-term plan. That was clear when he gave a list of teams he wanted to be traded to, which had the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat on it. Both franchises have stability with the coach and the front office. With LeBron James possibly leaving the Cavaliers next summer, it is possible Irving was trying to get out of Cleveland before James.
Irving is 25 and has barely hit his prime. We have not seen the best from him yet, even with all of his great games in the NBA Finals. Although the Celtics were not on his list of teams, it was reported he is thrilled to be joining the team. While it was also reported he will not commit to teams long term, there is a chance Boston is able to re-sign him. Irving will not be a free agent until 2019, so that is not a concern for now.
Irving’s Fit With the Celtics
Thomas and Irving are almost the same player when looking at their stats. The only real advantage Thomas had last season was scoring, which was mainly because of their different roles. To some degree, the Celtics are the same team before and after this trade. Luckily Irving is taller than Thomas, which makes a difference on the defensive end.
On the offensive end, the Celtics are getting one of the most exciting scorers in the league. Irving can score on nearly anybody, whether it is shooting over them or finishing at the rim. But he looks to do more of his scoring in isolation, which could change in Boston. Brad Stevens could do a better job of using Irving than Tyronn Lue did. Stevens will look to use Irving more with off-ball movement and coming off screens, which he did with Thomas. That will make the offense flow better and be less predictable. It is important to remember Gordon Hayward is now on the Celtics. Him and Irving will have to find chemistry as the top options on the team. With the trade being done before training camp, that will give them time to work things out.
What Thomas and Crowder Bring to the Cavaliers
Like Irving, Thomas is one of the most exciting scorers in the league. He may be 5’9”, but he can score and finish on anybody. On the offensive end, the Cavaliers should not skip a beat. Thomas is also a willing passer at times, which will help the offense. With James still the top option on the team, life could become easier for Thomas. He will not have to carry the load for 48 minutes. Thomas works well off-ball and coming off screens, which James will like to see. The defensive end is where there could be issues, though. As mentioned earlier, Thomas is only 5’9”. The Cavaliers are not one of the better defensive teams, and he will likely not help that. It is nearly impossible to hide Thomas on the defensive end. Fortunately, the Cavaliers were able to get Crowder in the trade as well.
Crowder is the kind of player the Cavaliers have needed. Whether he comes off the bench or starts, he is going to be consistent. That has been one of the biggest issues with the role players for the Cavaliers. He shot 39.8 percent from three last season, so the offensive fit will be fine.
The Cavaliers will feel Crowder’s presence on the defensive end. He is tough and one of the better perimeter defenders in the league. James will no longer have to defend the best player on the other team. Crowder can take some of that off of him. He is also one of the better contracts, so the luxury tax will not take a major hit. Crowder will make $6.7 million this season and not be a free agent until 2020.
Preparing for Possible Life After LeBron
One could make the case that the biggest piece the Cavaliers are receiving is the Nets pick in 2018. With the Nets still in re-building mode, it is possibly going to be a top-five pick in next year’s draft. This is expected to be a top-heavy draft class with players such as Michael Porter Jr., Marvin Bagley and Mohamed Bamba. With James being a free agent and rumors surfacing of him leaving the Cavaliers next summer, the team can now prepare for losing him. They can find their next cornerstone player in the draft. No team can really bounce back from losing James, but it is a start.
The Cavaliers can also use the pick during the season. They can dangle the pick around and use it in a trade to acquire another star player. If the Cavaliers want to keep James past next season, that might be a step in keeping him. At the end of the day, they are looking to compete with the Golden State Warriors. They have to get as much star power as possible.
The Business Side of the NBA
With trades like this, it gives a harsh reality of the business side of the NBA. Thomas has meant a lot to the Celtics fan-base over the past three seasons. He was a big reason the Celtics were able to land Hayward and Al Horford in free agency. Thomas just led them to the top seed in the Eastern Conference. With this trade, it became clear the Celtics were concerned with Thomas’s hip injury that made him miss the majority of the Eastern Conference Finals.
Thomas is going to be a free agent next summer and is looking for the super-max contract. It has also become clear they were not locked in on paying him big money. The majority of teams would not want to give a super-max to a point guard who is 5’9”. It makes sense why they turned their direction to Irving. He is younger and still has room to improve. It makes sense to commit to Irving over Thomas for the long haul.
Going Forward for the Celtics and Cavaliers
Overall, both teams were able to take positives away from this trade. The Celtics have their point guard for the future. The Cavaliers were able to build in order to win now and prepare for the future. These are still the top two teams in the Eastern Conference. It is strange to see them work out a trade like this. Also, do not forget these teams play each other on opening night. As if we needed more drama to go along with this.
Embed from Getty Images