Irving and Thomas shake up Eastern Conference in legendary trade
On Aug. 22, the NBA was rocked with the announcement of a blockbuster trade between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Boston Celtics for star point guard Kyrie Irving. The Cavaliers sent Irving to the Celtics for star guard Isaiah Thomas. In addition, the Cavs received the Brooklyn Nets’ first round pick in the NBA Draft, forward Jae Crowder, center Ante Zizic and a 2020 second round draft pick. While the trade is extremely mutually beneficial, the teams did a great deal of negotiating before finally finalizing the deal on Aug. 30.
There have been rumors of a supposed falling out between the Cavs and Irving. Reports claimed that Irving “quit on the team,” not speaking to his teammates during their Finals run. He was supposedly fed up with playing with LeBron James, who he believed held him out of a starting role.
Irving requested a trade to seek a bigger role, allegedly considering the Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Timberwolves as future suitors. However, last season’s No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics, fresh off their acquisition of Gordon Hayward, came calling for Irving’s services. Eventually, the teams reached an agreement that may change the landscape of the basketball world.
While it seems like Cleveland received the better end of the deal, there is no way to really determine who “won” the trade, as the Cavs’ future is up in the air. The first round pick they received is based on the Brooklyn Nets’ performance, and judging by the current Nets roster and recent struggles, the pick is expected to be a high-lottery pick. The draft pick, also, while high, will not be a guaranteed success, and the Cavs know that first hand. The team could end up with another Irving-caliber player, as it did in 2011 with Irving himself, or could end up with a bust, as they did with Anthony Bennett in 2012. The 2020 second round draft pick they received will most likely be a high second rounder. However, players who are selected that late rarely become stars.
The biggest acquisition for the Cavaliers is point guard Isaiah Thomas, a two-time All-Star who averaged almost 29 points per game for the Celtics last year. While Thomas is a star player, he has suffered through a nagging hip injury as of late, and is nearly 30 years old. Thomas failed a physical exam on Aug. 25 due to a damaged hip, leading to the Cavaliers’ acquisition of an extra draft pick from the Celtics. This is worrisome for the Cavs, because Thomas suffered this injury late last season, and attempted to play through it in the playoffs. However, due to the severity of the injury, he ultimately had to miss every Eastern Conference Finals game after the first two.
Thomas and the Celtics opted to avoid surgery for the hip, instead choosing a lengthy rehab program which now may stretch into the 2017 NBA season. Crowder should be a very valuable asset for the Cavs off the bench, whereas Zizic is unproven in how he will fare. In the end, only time will tell who truly “won” the trade.
The Celtics only received one player in this trade: four-time All-Star Kyrie Irving. Irving averaged fewer points per game than Thomas, with Irving averaging 25 points per game to Thomas’ 29, however, Irving played alongside James, arguably the best player in the league. Irving is also only 25 years old, in the prime of his career, and coming off three straight memorable Finals appearances, one culminating in Cleveland’s first championship which he helped secure.
The Celtics are excited to add him to their starting lineup and make a run at the championship. Some may argue that the business side of the league reared its ugly head, as many believe Thomas was unfairly dealt away after giving his all to the Celtics.
This is a valid argument, as Thomas went above and beyond for the team, playing a game the day after his sister’s death, and playing through injuries. However, the NBA is a business, albeit an unfair one at times. Trades like this are what keep competition strong in the league.
The NBA landscape was turned on its heels, with both the Cavs and Celtics preparing for war in the Eastern Conference. The Eastern Conference race will be a fun race to watch develop over the next few years, as the trade has turned the NBA on its head.