Upon hearing this trade, the first feeling I got was confusion and that feeling hasn’t changed since. I have tried to sort through it and break it down here for anybody else feeling the same way.
The terms of trade are as follows, the Celtics receive Kyrie Irving while the Cavaliers receive Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, and the Nets 2018 first round pick.
Loser: Danny Ainge
Back in the beginning of July I wrote an article called What is Danny Ainge Doing? and this is the second coming of that article. His decisions continue to baffle me. He easily could’ve gotten Jimmy Butler or Paul George without having to give up Isaiah Thomas and really built a ferocious lineup but decided that he was content with his team and didn’t have to do something hasty. However it feels as though he made this move almost because the media was calling for him to do something. The way that I see it is that he traded the beloved face of the franchise, an elite defender on a team friendly contract, and a potential top 3 draft pick for a player who wants to be the main focus of an offense that he’ll have to share with Gordon Hayward. I just think that the Celtics deviated from their previous plan and ended up making a trade worse than one’s that they could’ve made earlier. Or they even could’ve waited til midseason and dealt a package revolving around Al Horford and a pick for Anthony Davis, this would’ve improved the team much more because they player coming in would be significantly better than the one leaving, not the case with this trade. Stick to the plan Danny Ainge.
Winner: Cleveland’s Hope for a Future
With a general expectation that LeBron will leave Cleveland after this season, the future in Cleveland was looking bleak as they have no first round draft picks until 2021. Many thought that this lack of a future was actually part of the reason that LeBron wanted leave. However, they will now be able to draft a top tier player and potential star using the Nets pick next season. Having this player should allow them to remain a competitor for a while and maybe influence LeBron to stay in Cleveland.
Loser: Boston Team Chemistry
Isaiah Thomas played a large part in recruiting Gordon Hayward and had managed to develop a strong relationship with him. These two were ready to be a powerful backcourt, working together to torch defenses. Not to mention what Kyrie brings to the table in terms of chemistry. Kyrie had a reputation for keeping the ball in his hands a lot when LeBron wasn’t on the floor in Cleveland and this was shown in his 40% usage rate. Not to mention, in 635 minutes with Kyrie on the floor and LeBron on the bench the Cavaliers plus/minus was -120. Kyrie’s scoring and assist rates go up when he’s the biggest star on the court but I question whether or not this is the best. He has said that he wants to be the focal point of an offense and if this means him not buying into the other stars on the team, there are going to be some problems in Boston.
Winner: Jayson Tatum/Jaylen Brown
These two young players weren’t going to see much playing time stuck behind Jae Crowder who was on the floor to lock down the other team’s best player and shoot threes. However with Crowder out of the picture they will both have to step up defensively to replace his 2.5 defensive win shares. Brown managed 1.3 defensive win shares and will be counted on to keep that up while Tatum is expected to mainly be an offensive spark for Boston. Tatum has the body to be an elite defender and will be expected to try to enter that role as a complete two-way player.
Loser: Cleveland Defense
Cleveland themselves exposed what will be one of their biggest defensive weaknesses this year. In the playoffs they attack Isaiah Thomas with taller players who could simply pull up and shoot over him. This will prove to be a problem for Cleveland, especially against Boston who trots out a starting lineup all taller than 6′ 3″. Taking him off the court will mean that Derrick Rose will have to take the the court coming off of a year in which he shot 21.7% from three point range. Unless they plan on playing him at shooting guard, Jae Crowder’s elite defense will be stuck behind LeBron James in the rotation and won’t be able to contribute as much. This does help Cleveland when LeBron has to rest o if he leaves, but right now it is a waste of talent.
Winner: Washington Wizards
This trade doesn’t seem to have a huge effect in the short run on either of the teams involved and helps Cleveland in the long run making it a general loss for the Celtics. However the biggest winner of this trade in the short run in the Washington Wizards. Their matchups with Cleveland have drastically improved. Now that Isaiah Thomas will have to guard either John Wall, Bradley Beal, or Otto Porter Jr. they should have no problem exploiting that matchup. Boston will be difficult to attack but Otto Porter Jr. will be counted on to attack Tatum and Brown. However the biggest thing against Boston is that Marcus Smart won’t see as much court time. The combination of Smart and Avery Bradley had a combined 6.4 defensive win shares last year, whereas the combination of Kyrie and Hayward had 4.8 win shares total last season. Smart and Bradley were able to shut down John Wall and Bradley Beal but this will be a much more daunting task for Boston this year. Washington should be happy with the trade that just happened.
All things considered, this trade is fine for both sides, but that just it, fine. There is nothing special about this team that will truly propel one of them to a championship.
Cover Photo Courtesy of: HoopsHype.com