Opening night Oct. 17, when the Boston Celtics visit the Cleveland Cavaliers, just got a more interesting.
The Cleveland Cavaliers have found a taker for Kyrie Irving — the Boston Celtics. The deal is done, according to Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.
The teams later confirmed the deal.
Amazingly, the Cavaliers and Celtics just traded the No. 1 and No. 60 (dead last) picks in the 2011 NBA draft.
The sides had discussed this trade in the past but Cleveland demanded Jayson Tatum in the deal, and that was the end of it. Things moved fast now because the Cavaliers came off that demand.
This is an emotional blow to a lot of Boston fans — they embraced the underdog, undersized Thomas as one of their own. They got back a younger player on a better contract who will age better, but Thomas is still a fan favorite. With good reason. He will be loved in Cleveland. But Celtics fans will come around.
Cleveland did as well as they could have realistically hoped for in an Irving trade — which is why this is a win for them. They get an All-NBA point guard in Isaiah Thomas with numbers similar last season to Irving to put next to LeBron James, and they add a quality wing defender in Jae Crowder who can help them against Boston and Golden State (plus Crowder is on a great contract). Cleveland remains the team to beat in the East and can make another run at the Warriors and a ring, then if LeBron leaves after the season as a free agent the Cavaliers can decide whether to tear it down and rebuild or bring Thomas back (on less than max deal).
Here’s another reason Dan Gilbert wins.
Boston may like this deal, but Cleveland remains the team to beat in the East today — and they will have a very high pick in the upcoming draft (which is deep with quality bigs).
Boston’s starting five is very good but more focused on the future — Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, Marcus Morris, and Al Horford, with Marcus Smart and Jayson Tatum coming off the bench. And they still have the Lakers’ first round pick next year (protected). That is not enough to beat a healthy Cavaliers team next season, but if LeBron leaves in 2018 Boston is the team poised to take charge in the East. Danny Ainge and the Celtics have been playing the long game and this fits with that.
Boston can argue they won the trade because they got the best player in Irving — and he is going to look even better in Brad Steven’s system. After next season this can work for Boston. For next season, Boston got a player in Irving who put up marginally better numbers than Thomas, is a marginally better defender, and they gave up a lot of assets to do it. Short term this is a win for Cleveland, and maybe long term depending on the Brooklyn pick. But Boston has to like where they are sitting — especially if they can re-sign Irving in 2019.