By: Colin Chiles, who you can follow on twitter here: ColinC27
Estimated read time: 5 minutes
First, a disclaimer: I am hopelessly biased against Kyrie Irving. If you’ve ever talked with me about the NBA there’s a good chance you already know this. I’ve yet to write my definitive take down piece of him but it’s coming. I can feel it in my bones.
In short, my case against Kyrie is as follows. He is the third most talented scorer in the league (behind KD and Steph) but he uses that talent to find the worst, hardest, most Kobe shot on the court. If he were smarter about picking his spots he’d be a MUCH better player. He also doesn’t care to be bothered on defense and he doesn’t pass. I think most of the time, he’s a net negative. Kyrie’s value is in the playoffs. In the playoffs, defenses tighten, conventional offense doesn’t always flow and sometimes you just need someone to get you a bucket. Kyrie is phenomenal at that.
Anyway onto the trade…
P.S. I desperately wanted to title this article Isaiah Thomas to the Cavs so I could further slander Kyrie but the deep rooted almost religious code of clicks I live by wouldn’t allow it.
Let’s look at the trade from both sides here, starting with the Cavs. They get Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder and Brooklyn’s unprotected 2018 first round pick. This is a freaking haul. IT is 75% as good of a scorer as Kyrie and he can/will actually pass. He might be the only guard in the league that is worse on D than Kyrie but they are close enough so that it shouldn’t matter. Jae Crowder is a “doesn’t show up in the stat sheet” type of guy who is a plus defender and a marginal plus offender (which is a term I just made up right now). It also must be noted that he is on probably the best contract in the league for everything he does for your team. This is a guy who scored 14 a game last year on 40% from three and he’s also a talented, switchy defender and he’s only making just under 7 million this year. Remember that Enes Kanter will make 18 million this year.
For this year alone, I would contend that the Cavs are better than they were last year. IT is a better three point shooter than Kyrie and should be the recipient of many drive and dish passes from the king. Isaiah can also carry the offensive load (he did all year last year) which is important to LeBron who at his age wants to be able to coast until April.
But this trade isn’t just about this year. All of NBA Twitter seems to accept that LeBron is going to the Lakers next year. The Cavs didn’t want to be left holding the bag like they were when LeBron left last time. Enter the Nets 2018 unprotected pick. The Nets will honestly be better this year but that pick is still comfortably in the top 10. It is ludicrous that the Celts didn’t give it some sort of protection. If LeBron does leave, the Cavs now have a sort of fall back. They would presumably not re-sign Isaiah, be terrible in 2018/19 and wind up with a stellar 2019 draft pick.
Alternatively, if they really wanted to go for it, the Nets pick along with Channing Fry’s expiring could be great trade bait at the trade deadline in February. At any rate, the pick gives them much needed flexibility.
This was the perfect trade for the Cavs to have their feet straddling both lines. They are still the best team in the East by my count and they have got back a future asset for Kyrie. 12/10 good jobs.
I like this trade for the Celtics too, but it’s not a home run. The Celtics now are presumably starting Kyrie, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, Marcus Morris and Al Horford. That’s a solid starting unit but I don’t love the fit. The talent is there but three of these guys are brand new to the team and Jaylen obviously hasn’t put in a ton of time.
This year will be a different kind of test for Brad Stevens. If he can corral Kyrie into being more of a team first leader, this could go extremely well. However, I’m pretty certain Kyrie is going to try and lead the league in scoring this year and I don’t think that translates into wins as smoothly as he probably thinks it does.
The ball will be in his hands. He has some young guys to help bring up and a couple of vets that are working into a new system that will want touches. Can Kyrie navigate that? I’m skeptical.
I’ve been reading that this is a great fit for Kyrie in the sense that the Celtics have been pretty stout defensively, and it won’t matter as much that he’s essentially a wet piece of paper trying to defend human basketball players.
It’s true the Celtics have been quite good on D, but they also traded away their two best defensive players in Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder. And I can’t rehash this enough, they only have ONE returning starter from last year’s lineup. That takes time to figure out, no matter how good your coach is.
I’m really intrigued to see how this team looks in April. I know I’ve kind of been trashing them but don’t buy the early season storyline that it’s not working out for them when they start at a tepid 5-5.
Ultimately I think the Celts will be the second best team in the East and they will be able to give a tougher challenge the Cavs in the playoffs. They might even go to the finals.
So do either of these teams have a chance at knocking of the Warriors? No. No they don’t.