The Kyrie Irving-Isaiah Thomas trade completely dominated the sports world Tuesday night, simultaneously enraging and pleasing troves of Celtics fans.
Of course, in reality, a trade deal as polarizing as this always has its’ hefty pros and cons. However, regardless of who “won” or “lost” the trade, it can’t be overstated how drastically this changes the dynamics between the Celtics/Cavaliers rivalry.
As far as the negatives are concerned – trading Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the unprotected Brooklyn Nets pick, along with Isaiah Thomas, seemed a little excessive. And, that’s using the phrase “a little” conservatively.
Alone, Thomas isn’t worth much less than Irving to begin with, even in spite of their difference in age and contractual leniency. Furthermore, trading Crowder gives Cleveland a legitimate small forward that can relieve LeBron James of his galaxy-sized workload. Meaning the Celtics, not to mention 28 other teams, all get a more well rested King James. Lastly, there’s the cornerstone piece that Danny Ainge was holding onto for safe keeping – Brooklyn’s 2018 pick. A draft pick that will almost guarantee fall into the top three in next year’s draft. Instead of cashing in on the pick for a future/potential superstar, or trading it to a team desperate for a fresh beginning, we use it in tandem with Thomas for Irving. In the long run, that just doesn’t seem equitable. “The Land” was slowly crumbling before the NBA world’s eyes, and then in one fell swoop, the Celtics of all teams breathed life into them again.
On the contrary, the positives of the deal seem pretty reassuring. After losing Avery Bradley over cap related concerns, the Celtics essentially had no answer for Irving when it came time to stopping the behemoth. Now though, they moved on from Thomas, arguably the league’s worst defender, and in exchange acquired the scoring juggernaut that they feared so much in Bradley’s absence. Albeit, Boston still has to worry about defending Thomas, their chances with Irving’s defense as opposed to Thomas’ are much better. The former Duke product possesses championship experience, which was desperately needed in Boston.
Irving has already won an NBA title, and been to three straight finals alongside James, so it goes without saying that he’s been in an environment conducive to winning. That is not only conducive to winning itself, but acclimating themselves at a point where they continue winning. That’s something that, to a degree, the Celtics have yet to foster. Sure they’ve improved year after year under coach Stevens, but the team has yet to actually challenge Cleveland’s reign. Hopefully, for Boston, with Irving’s presence, it can actually begin to close the gap between them and their fated rival.
With all of that said, both teams benefited from the trade, so it’s a little unfair to argue who definitively “won or lost”. Still, Irving’s presence does draw a line in the sand, clearly separating the two teams at a developmental level. While the Celtics, despite their unbelievable turnover over the course of the offseason, are not the overwhelming favorite, they have strengthened their core with a unit brimming with young talent. Trading a 28-year-old for a 25-year-old is profound, especially when you pair him with young talent like Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Guerschon Yabusele. Also throwing in the likes of Gordon Hayward, Marcus Morris and Al Horford, you can’t help but stand in awe of that roster’s potential.
Meanwhile, Cleveland just added an older Thomas and 27-year-old Jae Crowder to go along with 32-year-old James, 28-year-old Kevin Love, 28-year-old Derrick Rose, 31-year-old J.R Smith, 37-year-old Richard Jefferson and 26-year-old old Tristan Thompson. Obviously, that lineup won’t get any younger, and if the Dwyane Wade to Cleveland rumors are true, that only makes their problem more glaring. Meanwhile, the Celtics lineup is only getting better and better, which spells trouble for Cleveland in the near future. So, even if the Cavaliers are triumphant this year, their dynasty certainly won’t last forever.