Unprecedented. That’s the word that comes to mind in regards to the blockbuster trade that sent Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics, and Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, and the Brooklyn Nets’ 2018 first round pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Stunning, shocking, flabbergasting. Those are other words that could describe what occurred. But after the initial shock, unprecedented is the word I keep coming back to.
The Celtics and Cavaliers finished the 2016-2017 season number one and number two in the Eastern Conference standings. Later, they met in the Eastern Conference Finals with the Cavs winning in five games. This is the first trade in the history of the NBA in which players who met in the Conference Finals were swapped. A trade between two top teams like this is unheard of. Not only that, but this is the first time in NBA history a trade has swapped two players who averaged 25 points a game (in this case, Irving and Thomas). Yes, unprecedented is the word to describe this trade.
For the Cavaliers, they get rid of a disgruntled star and get an all-star point guard in Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder who provides good defense on an amazingly cheap contract, a 20 year old center with potential in Ante Zizic, and the 2018 Brooklyn pick that is likely to be in the top five. This trade might make the Cavaliers better this year, and provides them more flexibility for the future. On top of that, it reunites Kevin Love with his AAU pal (Thomas and Love better recreate this picture).
Rumors have been swirling for months that LeBron James will leave the Cavaliers after the 2017-2018 season. Perhaps this reshuffling of the deck makes LeBron more likely to stay. However, if LeBron does walk away the Cavaliers now have some pieces to build around. The Brooklyn pick should be in the top five, so they can get a good young player, and a lot of people are excited about the player Zizic can potentially be. The pick and Zizic can also be used as trade chips to get an established star. On top of that, Thomas is on a one year deal, if LeBron leaves the Cavs can let Thomas walk and not break the bank, or they can bring Thomas back and still be a playoff team. The trade provides the Cavaliers with a lot of flexibility.
For Boston, they now don’t have to worry about giving the 5’9″ Thomas, who is coming off of a serious hip injury, a max contract. The Celtics have a big three of Irving-Hayward-Horford, which is pretty good. Plus, they also have young guys like Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum who can grow and contribute. Do not underestimate Kyrie Irving in Brad Steven’s offense. In Vegas, Irving’s MVP odds went from 50-1 to 25-1, and for good reason. Point guards put up big numbers in Boston. If Irving scored around 30 points a game, would you be that surprised? He averaged 25 points a game in an offense that was centered around LeBron. Irving is going to put up huge numbers.
Perhaps the most shocking part of this trade is that it makes sense for both teams. You could argue that both the Cavaliers and Celtics improved. It seems like a win-win. Between the two top teams in the Eastern Conference. Unprecedented.