The Cavaliers traded Kyrie Irving to the Celtics for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the Nets’ 2018 first-round pick – pending physicals.
Boston acknowledged that Thomas’ hip injury played a role in the deal. It also might factor into the trade getting voided.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
It doesn’t take Miss Cleo to read these tea leaves. Cleveland is clearly concerned.
The Cavs don’t need Thomas ready to start the season. With him on an expiring contract, they don’t even necessarily need him to have great longevity – though he would certainly like to be healthy enough to cash in next summer, and they would ideally like to re-sign him (and LeBron James). But most of all, the Cavaliers need Thomas healthy this May and June for a playoff run that could realistically culminate with another championship.
If it appears too unlikely Thomas is up to that, the Cavs have no choice but to flunk his physical and negate the trade.
The big question: How unlikely is too unlikely?
Cleveland got so much in the deal – Crowder (a versatile wing built to match up with the Warriors), Zizic (a fine young prospect) and that sweet, sweet Brooklyn pick that alone might near Irving’s value. The Cavaliers obviously don’t need Thomas perfectly healthy to come out ahead, which is self-evident in them making the trade while Thomas is still rehabbing his hip.
The teams could always try to re-work the trade, though it wouldn’t be easy. They tried for weeks before finding this configuration.
Thomas, an All-NBA second-teamer who averaged 29 points per game last season, was supposedly key in appeasing Cavs owner Dan Gilbert’s desire to acquire a star for Irving. Maybe Boston can swap in other players – including point guards Marcus Smart and/or Terry Rozier – but that might not placate Cleveland. It’d also be superfluous for the Celtics to keep Thomas while adding Irving, at least if Thomas can play.
And just which players would Boston include in a revised deal? Marcus Morris can’t be aggregated in a trade until Sept. 7. Aron Baynes, Shane Larkin and Daniel Theis can’t be traded at all until Dec. 15. Options are narrow.
If the deal gets undone, there would be a lot of hurt feelings on both sides.
Irving, of course, requested a trade from Cleveland. How would he handle returning after believing he had moved on? How would his teammates welcome him back after coming to terms with his exit?
Likewise, Thomas might not be keen on returning to the Celtics. I wouldn’t blame him for looking around the locker room and front office and wondering whom he can trust. Even if Thomas returned to Boston and played well, there’d be no chance of pitching him with loyalty in free agency next summer.
The simplest answer might be the Cavaliers getting another pick from the Celtics, which wouldn’t affect the trade’s cap math, in exchange for taking greater risk on Thomas’ hip. That’d avoid a lot of drama.
If even amenable to that – they’re already giving up so much – the Celtics would probably want to conduct another physical of their own on Thomas. Otherwise, what would stop the Cavs from signaling concern just to extort an extra pick from Boston?
There are good reasons for both teams to take their time in evaluating this. It just must be excruciating for everyone involved.