Kyrie Irving Trade To Boston Gives Cleveland Cavaliers Hope
Boston Pulls The Trigger
Danny Ainge has been patient over the past couple of years, constantly rumoured in trade talks because of his deep reserves of lottery picks and talent. The Celtics have been linked to dozens of stars in trade and free agent talks, including Kevin Durant, Paul George and Jimmy Butler. Ainge’s inability to land Butler or George via trade wasn’t popular with many observers.
Often, the asking price was rumoured to be too high. Ainge didn’t want to include lottery picks and established contributors like Jae Crowder for Butler or George. In retrospect, it’s tough to see why Boston couldn’t make a deal, because Indiana and Chicago didn’t get as much as expected when they traded with Oklahoma City and Minnesota.
Compared to the Butler and George trades, the price Boston paid for Kyrie seems excessive. Isaiah Thomas scores more than Kyrie and represents only a small downgrade in defence. Jae Crowder’s superb defence and solid 3-point shooting meshes well with the needs of LeBron.
Throw in centre Ante Zizic and Brooklyn’s first-round pick in 2018, and it begins to appear that Ainge may have overestimated the market for Kyrie. After all, the Cavaliers were forced into this scenario, which should have reduced Cleveland’s leverage.
Cavaliers Got Exactly What They Needed – And More
After ex-GM David Griffin left Cleveland, the front office was in shambles, unable to sign free agents or find a replacement general manager. When news broke that Kyrie Irving was demanding a trade to get away from LeBron James, the timing couldn’t have been worse, considering Cavs plans to scoop Carmelo Anthony. The situation looked grim – no Kyrie and no Melo, putting Cleveland’s runback against the Warriors in question.
A majority of NBA franchises were interested in Kyrie Irving, but nobody seemed to be in a rush. Tactically, letting Cleveland twist in the wind for a while would increase urgency on behalf of the Cavs, reducing the cost of acquiring Kyrie. Instead of showing his trademark patience, Danny Ainge pulled the trigger well before the end of the summer.
Cleveland added scoring, three-point shooting and defence with Thomas and Crowder, a young centre with a mean streak, and a lottery pick in an extremely deep draft. After becoming a Celtics legend, Thomas feels slighted by this trade, which will serve as additional motivation to destroy the eastern conference. Crowder was a heart and soul player for Boston, happy to spot up around the arc while locking down the perimeter. Who knows – even Zizic might contribute minutes as a bully backup center.
This trade also gives Cleveland a plethora of options, because none of these players are guaranteed to stay with the Cavaliers. The Cavs might flip the pick and the prospect before the season starts, landing Carmelo Anthony or another key contributor. Perhaps the Anthony Davis- DeMarcus Cousins experiment goes awry in New Orleans, opening an opportunity to trade for Boogie.
The Cavaliers may decide that LeBron has sufficient reinforcements for another deep playoff run, holding on to the pick for a shot at Marvin Bagley III or RJ Barrett. Maybe they’ll trade their own 2018 first-round pick instead. Whichever path the Cavs choose will ensure that they compete for a ring while building for a better future. Cleveland couldn’t ask for a better ending to a difficult trade scenario. Maybe that’s why LeBron was thanking Kyrie when the deal was announced.
Why Would Boston Give So Much To Their Rivals?
This move makes sense in the long term for the Celtics. Kyrie’s younger, and will remain in his prime as Boston’s picks and prospects mature into stars. Irving also has another year on his contract, so Boston could decide to flip some of their picks for Cousins or another elite player. They might resign Irving to a long-term deal in a couple of years, and still have enough cash to compete in the free agent market – as long as they’re OK with going into the tax for a year or two.
The Celtics are betting that Kyrie will find solace and motivation in taking over as the alpha dog, meshing well with Gordon Hayward and Al Horford. If surly Kyrie shows up and decides to sign with another team, fans will not look upon Danny Ainge kindly. Same if Irving gets banged up.
LeBron James and the Cavaliers remain the favourites to win the eastern conference and face the Warriors for the fourth straight season. If the Celtics play their cards right, Kyrie will lead Boston to the NBA Finals when LeBron migrates to the Los Angeles Lakers – if the rumors have any truth.
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