Just when it seemed like the NBA offseason was quieting down with training camp drawing near, two Eastern Conference rivals woke the basketball world up with a colossal transaction.
According to multiple reports (first from The Vertical’s Shams Charania), the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics have struck a blockbuster deal to swap All-Star point guards Kyrie Irving and Isaiah Thomas. The Celtics also included forward Jae Crowder, center Ante Zizic and a 2018 first-round draft pick via the Brooklyn Nets.
The news seemingly came out of nowhere on Tuesday afternoon, when Charania tweeted that the two teams were in negotiations for a trade.
For Boston, they get a younger, proven superstar point guard with incredible talent and a little more size with Irving. Similar to Thomas, he is a player who is never afraid of that big moment in the fourth quarter.
He’s arguably the best finisher in the game today with his innate talent to use english on the glass. The skillset is as impressive as anybody at his position. In addition, there’s championship-level experience and pedigree attached to Irving that he’ll bring to Brad Stevens’ core.
Of course, as we’ve seen in the past, talent doesn’t always mesh quickly. It’s going to be a process, but in the end, pairing Irving along with new Celtics star Gordon Hayward and Al Horford will create a brand new “big three” and fully cement themselves as one of the best teams in the East.
On the flip side, the Cavaliers came out as the winner of this deal, specifically new general manager Koby Altman. When reports indicated the organization was looking to address both the present and the future in return for Irving, that was the correct mindset. They were aggressive in pursuing a fair deal and struck one that fit those parameters.
Firstly, Isaiah Thomas is no slouch. He is an All-Star point guard with a knack for volume scoring and no fear attacking the basket. He’s agile and quick on his feet and provides a deadly three-point threat that can go off anytime he gets hot. The 28-year-old is smaller and has his issues guarding opponents because of it, but those shortcomings do not get in the way of his offensive production. That is undeniable.
Crowder is the defensive wing that Cleveland has been desperately lacked for years. His size and versatility will offer a new look to Tyronn Lue’s rotation as a two-way forward. His jump shot has gradually improved over the years, and he nearly hit 40 percent of his perimeter attempts last season.
Zizic is a bit of an unknown as far as professional experience goes, but was a first-round pick in last year’s draft, selected 23rd overall. The Croatian big man is only 20 years old and possesses a 6-11, 250-pound frame. It’s a nice under-the-radar pick up for the Cavaliers.
Finally, the asset that sealed the deal for Altman was the Nets’ first-round pick in 2018. This was the straw that would’ve broken the camel’s back in the past, but he surprisingly got Danny Ainge to budge. With a highly touted class of prospects expected to enter the field after one year in college, the franchise has finally invested in its future. If LeBron James does decide to jet elsewhere, there is now an insurance policy for Cleveland to start a potential rebuild on the right foot.
In an offseason where All-Stars like Paul George and Jimmy Butler netted nothing near what their value was for their respective former teams, Altman was extra persistent in making sure he got back an equal haul for Irving. Give the man credit: He did just that, and under the pressure of Dan Gilbert to right the ship, that’s very impressive. This goes without mentioning that he simultaneously cut the Cavaliers’ luxury tax by $19 million.
Aside from physical differences and Finals experiences, Irving and Thomas are rather the same. They’re great in clutch scenarios and excellent in isolation. The main difference is that one is a tad more invested in a personal brand and the other is focused one-hundred fifty percent on winning ball games.
Now, with the swap complete, this is going to be a fun season to look forward to. James and Irving have a rocky relationship as it stands right now, and if it spills into the regular season and playoffs, we’ll have some high quality entertainment on our hands.
Just imagine that first game of the conference finals between the Cavaliers and Celtics – or how about the first game of the entire NBA season? This is why we all love the NBA, isn’t it?
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