Whiplash! The Danny Ainge that has been so hesitant to pull any trigger to add value to his Boston Celtics – except the obvious Gordon Hayward move that everyone knew about for months – caused shockwaves with this Kyrie trade today.
What happened in the trade:
Boston receives Kyrie Irving
Cleveland receives Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and a 2018 unprotected first round draft pick
Barring anything unforeseeable, the Cavs and Celtics rosters echoed a rematch for the 2018 Eastern Conference Finals. No other team on paper or on hardwood seemed to stand a chance in their conference.
Now it becomes even more set in stone.
A healthy Isaiah Thomas replenishes the offense that leaves with Kyrie even more than the Suns trade that would have brought Eric Bledsoe over. IT averaged 29 points a game last year and the same assists per game as Kyrie at six. He adds no defensive value but you can’t expect a guy at 5’9” to excel in that part of his game in the NBA. And Kyrie was no defender in the least anyway. This is why it was paramount that the Cavs increase their defensive ability as well in the deal. They were wise to place Jae Crowder in this trade who is a great two-way player with a fantastic contract. And they nabbed Ante Zizic, a young 7-foot rim protector who was drafted number 23 overall in 2016.
The 2018 lottery pick is a huge cash in it of itself for future investment.
Let’s continue the dialogue on the Cavs-Celtics matchup and hopefully the Cavs in the Finals after that. It will be must-watch TV when it’s LeBron vs. Kyrie. Uncle Drew is a huge pick up for the Celtics no doubt. But like I said earlier, the Cavs immediately supplemented similar scoring by acquiring Thomas. So by only acquiring Irving, the Celtics still don’t match up with the Cavs on a talent level. A starting five of IT4, JR Smith, LeBron, Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson still seems more talented than Kyrie, Jaylen Brown/Marcus Smart, Gordon Hayward, Marcus Morris and Al Horford. It also inherently improves the depth and skill of the Cavs’ bench where Derrick Rose, Shump, Kyle Korver and now Jae Crowder and others ride. Let’s also imagine that the Cavs acquire Dwayne Wade from his buy out, which is the latest rumor (that could be an extremely potent offensive team).
The Eastern Conference is still in large part owned by the Cavs and Celtics parties with no other teams able to place their levels of basketball talent on the court. But let’s say that the Celtics are still unable to hang with the Cavs due to these reasons. The West has improved, but no team stands a chance against the bloated Warriors right now. So I’m actually most pleased about the Jae Crowder pick up. Sure, IT can’t play defense, but nobody has perfected the craft of stopping a Steph Curry three – he’s going to get his, it’s just how it is. I am so much more enthused thinking about Crowder and LeBron as the main defenders on Durant than trying to stick an exhausted LeBron and old Richard Jefferson on him.
While ultimately, I would not have cast my vote for the Cavs to make a Kyrie trade in their conference, I believe they still reign in the East and will make it back to the NBA Finals with LeBron once more. Be on the lookout for the Cavs acquiring Dwayne Wade. The franchise saved $29.1 million in tax, knocking it down to $49.3 million instead of the previous $78.4 million by dealing Kyrie. We will know the Cavs will stay atop the conference and have an edge on Boston if they get to play D-Wade, LeBron, IT, K-Love and company this year as well as own a lottery pick in their back pocket.
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