So, when it came to Cleveland trading its own star – Kyrie Irving, who requested out – Gilbert apparently took matters into his own hands.
Koby Altman may be the latest person to call himself Cleveland Cavaliers general manager—the fourth in the last 12 years since Dan Gilbert bought the team—but multiple sources have told me that the Cavs owner was the one calling the shots on the trade that sent Irving to Boston, and he’s the one dealing with the fallout.
Multiple sources told me that Gilbert is operating under the assumption that LeBron will opt out of his contract next summer and leave Cleveland. So Gilbert and Altman targeted Irving trade packages that set up the franchise for the post-LeBron era
Dealing with the fallout of receiving an amazing return for Irving? Sign me up.
Gilbert is often blamed for the Cavs’ problems, sometimes fairly and sometimes unfairly. It’s not difficult to find people eager to tarnish him.
But good luck turning this trade against him. The Cavaliers aced it.
If healthy, Isaiah Thomas is nearly as good right now as Irving. Irving’s higher value stems from his age and contract status, but on the court this spring, the point guards are very close – again, if healthy. Thomas’ hip is the major risk, but Cleveland also got Jae Crowder – an underrated 3-and-D forward who can defend multiple positions and is on a ridiculously team-friendly contract for the next three years. The Cavs might have improved in the short-term, especially with how they match up against the Warriors.
And the Cavaliers still got the Nets’ unprotected 2018 first-rounder, a valuable asset that might net Cleveland its next franchise player or could be flipped for someone more capable of helping now. Ante Zizic, who’s just beginning his rookie-scale contract, is a solid developmental piece.
If LeBron James leaves – we previously heard the Cavs are operating under that assumption for purposes of the Irving trade – they’re better off than they would have been without this deal. If LeBron stays, they’re better off than they would have been without this deal.
Want to pin this trade on Gilbert? I think that will work out fine for him.
Another theory: Seeking additional compensation after the trade was agreed upon – especially because the Celtics acknowledged Thomas’ hip issue, and Cleveland reportedly found no new information in its physical – could stain Altman in future trade negotiations. Nobody wants to announce a trade, alienate outgoing players then have the other team threaten to veto the deal. This might have been an isolated incident where there was genuine disagreement about Thomas’ hip, but it’s also Altman’s only trade so far.
Better everyone blame Gilbert and allow Altman to do his job without that cloud hanging over him.