The Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics agreed to a trade that will send Kyrie Irving to Boston in exchange for Isaiah Thomas. Cleveland will also receive Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and Brooklyn’s 2018 first-round pick in the deal.
Initially the pundits called this a huge win for the Boston Celtics, after all they are receiving a 4-time NBA All-Star that just turned the age of 25 to go with Gordon Heyward and Al Horford and a number of young pieces that could make them a proverbial favorite in the East, but did they, or did they just make the Cleveland Cavaliers a better and deeper team than the one that took them out in four straight last spring in the conference finals?
On the surface, Boston gets a bigger name, a younger player, but Cleveland may have gotten some things they need right now, and the pieces that could keep Lebron in Cleveland, and if he decides to move on a key opportunity to get a piece to keep them relevant in the future!
Lets take a look at the wo key pieces in the trade…Last season, Thomas averaged 28.9 points and 5.9 assists in leading the Celtics to the top seed in the Eastern Conference and was the number one backcourt scorer in the league in the fourth quarter when the game was on the line. Irving, only 25, averaged 25.2 points and 5.8 assists while playing alongside LeBron James — one of the main reasons he reportedly requested to be traded in the first place. But, he will still be sharing the shining light with Heyward, but will most likely be the Alpha scorer between the two of them.
In addition to landing an offense-heavy point guard in Thomas, similar to Irving, the Cavs also get a starter-level small forward in Crowder, one of the best wing defenders in the league, a promising prospect in Zizic, and a potential top pick in next year’s talent-heavy NBA draft. A pick that could yield a Michael Porter, Marvin Bagley, or DeAndre Ayton just to name a few talents projected to be among the first players picked next June in the 2018 Draft.
So, what do the two squads look like as they head into training camp, and who has the depth advantage heading into the season?
PG: Isaiah Thomas/Derrick Rose
SG: JR Smith/Iman Shumpert
SF: LeBron James/Jae Crowder/Kyle Korver
PF: Kevin Love/Jeff Green/Richard Jefferson
C: Tristan Thompson/Channing Frye/Ante Zizic
Note: Cleveland has an older squad, but the Cavs go two deep across the board, at some spots three deep. That depth ,may allow them to sit players throughout the year and let Thomas, James, Rose, and Love to have fresher legs in the second half of the yer and the playoffs, something they lacked last season. That rest will allow the legs to stay fresh and keep them in the hunt as one of best three-point shooting teams in the east. Also, the addition of Thomas gives them a go to guy late, something that have missed at times when LeBron seemed to run out of gas at times late in the season. Right now the biggest concern is the health of Thomas and Rose, as Thomas is coming off an injury and former MVP Rose has been injury prone. If they spell each other well and remain healthy, this might end up being Cleveland’s best team since LeBron returned to the Cavs.
PG: Kyrie Irving/Terry Rozier
SG: Jaylen Brown/Marcus Smart
SF: Gordon Heyward/Jayson Tatum
PF: Al Horford**/Marcus Morris
C: Aaron Baines/**
**Only quality back-up at center
Note: Boston’s starting line-up has improved over last year with the Addition of All-Stars Heyward and Irving, but that they gave away a lot of depth talent as well as depth. To make this squad a Eastern Champion they are going to need Aaron Baines to be good enough at center to allow Al Horford to move to the power forward spot, or Rookie Jayson Tatum to be so good that e moves Horford back to the post and adds depth in their true overall weakness which is depth at the size positions. No Doubt, the backcourt and wing spots are deep, but after Horford and Morris their isn’t an answer inside, that will give them what they need, so depth or a smaller line-up with Jayson Tatum may have to be the answer. Lots of pressure on a young, but very talented player, but he may be the key to Celtics future along with the draft choices they still hold for 2018!
Depth is going to be the key here, as the starting line-ups are very close, some think Boston’s Jaylen Brown might be a key to giving them an advantage, but the bench, right now goes to Cleveland. In the regular season, this is a push without injuries, and may come down to which team is healthiest at playoff time, especially if Boston solves their inside lack of depth! Until then I think Cleveland is a one game favorite in the regular season (although they have already shown they don’t mind dropping to second seed), in the playoffs, this one is going to be much closer, no 4-0 sweep, personally I think it goes seven games (Cleveland favored), but lots of questions to be answered and bodies that need to stay healthy, but that’s what makes it all interesting!
Food for thought: Most people think that LeBron is destined to leave Cleveland at the end of next season, but with the opportunity I described above to come up with a Porter, Bagley, or Ayton (something he will know long before free agency starts in July) you may see LeBron look much harder at staying put that e thought in the past, and the Cavs go out of their way to sign both he and Thomas if they believe it can lead to another title prior to the above mentioned young talents hitting their second contract. Just one of those things that makes you go hmm! as Arsenio Hall used to say.