And it happened. The biggest trade of the year is complete, and Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving is on the move. The All-Star will be playing for the Boston Celtics in 2017, with the Cavaliers acquiring Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, and the Brooklyn Nets unprotected 2018 first-round draft pick, which will likely end up in the top three again this season.
Wow. Okay, let’s take a second to digest all that and recap the events that led to this trade. So, Irving wanted to get out of the shadow of LeBron James and requested to be moved to one of five teams, none of which were the Boston Celtics. Those five teams, however, couldn’t meet the king’s ransom the Cavs wanted for their superstar guard.
The Celtics, on the other hand, had the resources and draft picks to make the deal happen. It is still interesting, though, that the Cavs were willing to move Irving to the team they faced in the Eastern Conference Finals this past season. The Celtics are, more or less, their only competition for the Eastern Conference crown, and LeBron has a decade-long rivalry with Boston.
Still, the Cavs did receive quite a bit in return for Irving, including the coveted Nets pick (Boston’s last one). They also received Isaiah Thomas, who is one of the more polarizing players in the NBA. Some say that Thomas is truly a superstar and the only difference between he and Irving is six inches. Others, however, argue that Thomas is nothing but a volume shooter who managed to work his way to the top of a Celtics team desperate for a leader.
We will find out soon as Thomas takes his spot next to LeBron.
Crowder is a strong defensive forward who should mesh very well with James while the two are on the court at the same. He is not, however, an answer for Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors. And, right now, that’s all the Cavs should care about is finding an answer.
For the Celtics, the advantage is clear. While they moved some of their trading assets such as Crowder and the Nets pick, Irving is an immediate upgrade over Thomas. Kyrie is three years younger, half a foot taller, has arguably a higher upside, doesn’t have a torn labrum, and is under contract for a few more seasons. No longer will the Celtics have to deal with the looming “is Thomas worth a max contract?” question.
So, does Irving make the Celtics a championship contender? Well, it’s still up in the air. It’s not clear how much of a downgrade (or possibly an upgrade) Thomas will be for the Cavs, so it’s impossible to say for sure that the Celtics will even have the chance to test their stuff against the Warriors. They still need to make it past the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals to make it there.
And while the Celtics will still be a good team this season, there are a lot of variables. Gordon Hayward is new to the system. Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Kelly Olynyk, and Marcus Morris are all gone. Jayson Tatum, the third overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, is still completely unproven. The team will look completely different this season, and while head coach Brad Stevens has the ability to keep everything running smoothly, it’s unsure how much the changes will impact the wins and losses.
While both teams made moves to improve their chances against the Warriors, neither team seems to have really done much about it. Durant still looms over both their heads, and with the possibility of LeBron James leaving after this season, it’ll be an interesting season in the East.