Big Byron Breakdown: Reflecting on Kyrie Irving's Trade to the Boston Celtics
An already crazy offseason got even crazier on Tuesday night as the Cleveland Cavaliers traded want-away point guard Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics in exchange for a package that included All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas. Not only do these two teams play each other on the opening night of the season, but they are also the consensus choices to clinch the top two seedings in the Eastern Conference.
Paul George, Jimmy Butler and Paul Millsap have all jumped on the train to the Western Conference so far during this offseason and although this hasn’t changed the top 2 teams in the Eastern Conference, it may have just shifted the power within it.
LeBron James’ new right-hand man is 5-foot-9 Isaiah Thomas. LBJ may not have wanted to see Irving go, but in the end, Cleveland got a good package for arguably the best closer in the NBA. Good package or not, it seems that Cleveland are looking to prepare for life after the best run in their franchises history; Lebron looks all but set to follow Kyrie out of the door next year, and the management in ‘The Land’ did well to secure an unrestricted first round pick from Celtic via the Brooklyn Nets.
Although former league MVP Derrick Rose, Isaiah Thomas, two-way wing Jae Crowder, the young Ante Zizic and the coveted Brooklyn Nets’ first-round pick in the 2018 draft belong to Cleveland after the Irving deal, it doesn’t feel like enough to guarantee them a seat atop the Eastern Conference ladder, let alone win a seven game series against two time conquerors, the Golden State Warriors.
As for Boston, aside from parting with the draft pick (a decision that I’m sure wasn’t taken lightly), they’ve had a near dream summer as they secured the man they wanted in the draft, persuaded former Utah Jazz free agent Gordon Hayward to join the green and added a prolific scorer in Irving. Looking like the best team in the Eastern Conference isn’t exactly an accomplishment worth writing home about, but back-to-back 1-seeds and an NBA Finals berth isn’t out of the question for Boston, which is no mean feat.
Signing the players was the good part, but when you give up a coveted draft pick like the Brooklyn Nets pick of next year, your All-Star point guard from last season, a big man who may or may not be a legit NBA player down the line AND a proven wing like Jae Crowder, that seems like a lot to get a point guard who has similar defensive inefficiencies as the guard you just traded away.
If the prospects don’t blossom as planned and Irving’s past injury troubles flare up again along with his glaring defensive problems, this trade could be looked down upon by a lot of fans in green.
Koby Altman of the Cavs may have secured himself NBA’s Executive of the Year with this trade; after all the talk of the past few weeks, Kyrie’s position in Cleveland was unattainable and the board knew he simply had to go. From there it was a case of finding the right deal for him, and nothing less – they executed that to perfection. It doesn’t look strong right now. Isaiah Thomas is coming off a serious hip issue. Ante Zizic may or may not be a good player. Jae Crowder can be a liability offensively, but give it time and I think this will be looked on as a masterstroke – if Lebron stays, brilliant. If Lebron goes, then they’re in a perfect position to rebuild.
To play Devils advocate here, the Cavaliers do still have Lebron for another year, and despite the trade, the Celtics still don’t have anyone as good as James, or capable of stopping him. So it seems strange that they traded the pieces that Ainge had been stockpiling for so long. The Celtics are now stacked offensively, but have lost their best two defensive components in one summer with Avery Bradley joining the Pistons, and with Crowder now joining the Cavs.
In conclusion, Ainge does seem to know what he’s doing, and I’m not sure he’s done yet. Defense now seems like such a glaring liability that it would be impossible to ignore. Both teams got the best deal they possibly could here and I’m sure both camps are smiling. When it matters though, I’m going with the Celtics to make it work and get the payoff they so desperately are after; Boston will go tooth and nail with the Cavs in next season’s playoffs and Kyrie will do what he does best – close the show.