Trading Places

Well, yet again, this NBA off season takes a wild turn as the Cavaliers grant the wishes of Kyrie Irving by trading him to their inter-conference rival, the Boston Celtics. It is rare in any sport, especially with trades of this magnitude, that a franchise trading away a superstar player receives equal compensation. In most situations as such, the team trading away the superstar will look to collect a stockpile of young prospects, as well as some future draft picks from the team they are dealing with. However, the team acquiring the best player usually gets the better deal. It is RARE, that the team trading away the superstar gets: A) a replacement at the same position who by the numbers, may have possibly had a better season than said superstar, B) a quality starting caliber player, and C) gets a draft pick for the next year that is GUARANTEED to be top 5.

What Do The Celtics Get?

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KYRIE IRVING. The clear centerpiece of this deal is the 25-year-old point guard. Boston should know that they are adding a SCORING MACHINE to their roster. Isaiah Thomas was definitely a scoring dynamo as well, but let’s be clear, Kyrie is on a different level. In addition to bolstering their own lineup, this move allows the Celtics to avoid the inevitable decision they were going to have to make on whether or not to give Isaiah Thomas the max contract that he was certainly going to ask for. Kyrie Irving is under contract for another two years at what now serves as a bargain deal with some of the other contracts around the league. The Celtics now have a core nucleus of Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Al Horford, and are hoping that Jayson Tatum can develop into the scoring wing that can serve as the third member of a big 3. Kyrie Irving is a champion, and he has more than proven his worth on the biggest stage possible. Kyrie has expressed that he is starving for the opportunity to be the ultimate alpha dog on his team and face of a franchise. It cannot be overlooked that a player of that caliber, who has already won a championship still feels like he has more to prove and accomplish. Kyrie will be chomping at the bit to be the reason that Boston gets back to the Finals, especially if comes at the expense of his now former teammate, Lebron James.

Speaking of his former teammate, Kyrie has not had too much success on the court without LeBron James; he’s had no success in the NBA at all without LeBron James. This season alone when LeBron James sat out the Cavaliers did not win a game. One would think that Kyrie, Kevin Love, and the rest of the Cavaliers would be enough to get you ONE win in the Eastern Conference. Now, I mention that just to state the facts; I am not concerned in the slightest about this being the case in Boston. Off talent ALONE, the Celtics should finish at least a top 2  seed in the Eastern Conference. I must also point out, however, that while Kyrie is certified as a scoring assassin, he does still play the point guard position. In that role, he has not been the best at making his teammates better or getting his teammates involved for that matter. In his defense, that was often due to the Cavaliers’ offense revolving around LeBron making a play and just handing the ball to Kyrie after everything else had failed. I believe that with his ball-handling wizardry and natural basketball IQ that Kyrie can get to the paint and find open teammates if he has to. Do not forget about Celtics coach Brad Stevens in this equation either, as he will play a CRUCIAL role in helping Kyrie get to the next step of his progression as a complete basketball player.

What Do The Cavaliers Get?

Options With or Without Lebron James.

With this move, the Cavaliers have set themselves up for Eastern Conference relevancy whether LeBron James decides to stay or whether he decides to leave the franchise for the second time. In exchange for Kyrie Irving, the Cavaliers acquire Isaiah Thomas. If every exterior factor was left out of the equation and you simply compared the statistics of Irving and Thomas from last season, you might say this point guard swap was a pretty even exchange. (INSERT STATS HERE). Moving away from the statistics, Irving and Thomas are rather similar in their styles of play, scoring point guards that can turn it on in the 4th quarter with the best of them. Now, I do believe Irving is better than Thomas, but on any given night IT4 can light it up with the best of them, and coupled with Lebron, that type of scoring ability can always go far. The Cavaliers, while giving up a distressed asset did not sacrifice any thing that Irving gave them on offense. In addition to this, because of the wing pieces added by Boston this off season, they were forced to include Jae Crowder in order to make the salary cap numbers for this trade line up. In Crowder, Cleveland gets another solid starting caliber wing player who’s skill set aligns perfectly with LeBron. He is a spot up 3 point shooter that can defend very well. He does not need the ball to make plays and will give them a solid lockdown defender so that Lebron does not have to guard the lethal wings in the NBA. He along with Tristan Thompson will become the enforcers for the Cavaliers and bring back that rugged mentality.

In addition to acquiring pieces that ensure they will remain championship contenders for at least the next year, the Cavaliers also acquired a draft pick that will allow them to build either with or without LeBron. The Cavaliers acquired the Brooklyn Nets’ 2018 1st round draft pick. The pick is unprotected, meaning wherever the pick lands (which will more than likely be top 3 at worst) Cleveland owns the rights to draft whom they please. There is said to be some franchise-changing talent at the top of the 2018 draft class. This pick is huge, considering all of the talks about LeBron being unsure about whether he will remain in Cleveland after this year, and we all remember what happened the last time LeBron left. Cleveland can either use the pick and trade it for a proven commodity to try and show LeBron that they are serious about winning. Or if LeBron decides he wants to leave, the Cavaliers can use that draft pick to restart the franchise on the fly. They will be able to sell their fanbase on moving forward in a new direction with a young, new face of the franchise.

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Despite the Cavaliers giving up a young superstar, they were able to acquire pieces that still allow them to remain a definite championship contender in the present, while also acquiring a draft pick that may very well keep them from heading back to basketball purgatory in the future. So while Cleveland did not pull off a heist by any stretch of the imagination they did win the trade between the two teams by the slightest of margins.