Yesterday saw a mega-trade take place that sent shockwaves across the NBA community as the Cleveland Cavaliers finally dealt disgruntled superstar point guard Kyrie Irving to an unexpected foe. Irving was traded to the Boston Celtics in exchange for star point guard Isaiah Thomas, forward Jae Crowder, center Ante Zizic, and the Brooklyn Nets unprotected 2018 first-round pick.
Jae Crowder can get rebounds and defend the perimeter as a wing player. He has also developed a solid offensive game and a three-point shot and should actually give the team a reliable bench player. He is also under contract for three more seasons at a solid price for his talent as a 3-and-D player.
Ante Zizic was the Celtics’ 23 pick in 2016 and just came over to the NBA this summer after playing in the Croatian and Turkish leagues. Last season in the Euroleague, he put up 9 points, 6.7 rebounds, and shot 64.9 percent. The 20-year-old is seven feet tall, but it is unknown how he will adjust to playing in the NBA.
Isaiah Thomas will help the Cavs this season, as he is an almost perfect replacement for Kyrie. However, he will have to transition from a free flowing offensive that utilized the most handoffs in the NBA to make use of his quickness. He will also not have the ball as much in the fourth quarter, where he shined last season and is also a huge liability on defense.
Thomas, who is also a free agent after this season, has said that he wants a max contract and is coming off of a hip injury. Unless Thomas helps them win the championship, would the Cavs really want to fork over a max deal for a five-foot-nine point guard who would be closing in on 30 regardless of whether LeBron stays after the season?
Of course, the big coup in the trade for the Cavs is getting the Brooklyn Nets’ unprotected first-round pick next season. Despite adding D’Angelo Russell and hopefully having a healthy Jeremy Lin, it is still very likely that this will end up being a top pick for Cleveland since the Nets still project to be one of the worst teams in the NBA.
It seems that this trade was made on the part of the Cavaliers knowing that LeBron James may be leaving after this season, so they want to plan for a possible post-LeBron future if he bolts this offseason. This pick will give the Cavs a guaranteed young asset to build around like Kyrie was before James came back to Cleveland.
However, nothing can be assured with a pick that could be a superstar, a massive bust, or anywhere in between. Even if the pick the Cavs draft is a great young player, there will be an age gap if LeBron stays. The player they take with the pick would likely be a 19-year-old who would need a few years before he started developing into his prime. By then, James would be 36-years-old in a best-case scenario.
In trading for Kyrie Irving, the Celtics now basically get a younger star player who is not as much of a liability on defense. One thing the team will have to take into account is making sure they have the cap room to offer him the max and that they would be willing to pay the luxury tax.
One of the big issues for the Celtics is that they have completely overturned a roster that won 53 games, grabbed the top seed in the Eastern Conference and made it to the Eastern Conference Finals. The Celtics are only bringing back four players from last years team in Al Horford, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, and Terry Rozier, with Horford being the only returning starter.
Of course, they did add Irving, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, Marcus Morris, and Aron Baynes, among others. The challenge for head coach Brad Stevens will be integrating all of these new pieces into his offense while getting the team to develop chemistry. The team does still have plenty of draft pieces, despite giving up the big prize in the Nets pick, to help them further shape their roster in the years to come.
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