Unprecedented: the Cavs-Celtics Mega-Trade

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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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Should the Suns Trade for Kyrie Irving?

There are reports that the Cleveland Cavaliers would be willing to trade disgruntled star Kyrie Irving to the Phoenix Suns for a package of Eric Bledsoe, rookie Josh Jackson, and first round pick. For the Cavs, they get a talented (but brittle) point guard to replace Irving, and Jackson and the pick give them some assets to build around. For the Suns, they get a star player to pair with Devin Booker and expedite the rebuilding process.

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Rumors of the Suns angling for a star have been around for years now. The Suns were in the mix during LaMarcus Aldridge’s free agency in 2015, and have been rumored to be targeting players such as Kevin Love and Paul Millsap recently. The franchise appears to be enamored with the idea of snagging a star. The Suns haven’t made the playoffs since the 2009-2010 season, wanting a star to make the team competitive again isn’t surprising. But is Irving the right star to target, and if so, is Cleveland’s asking price too high?

First, lets take a look at the Suns roster. The team has a lot of good young talent. Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender were drafted last year and showed some promise, and Booker is already a very good player. Plus, many have faith in Jackson, though his shooting woes in college make others wary. Bledsoe is a good player, but he doesn’t really fit the team’s timeline. The team is certainly not a playoff team this season, and it is hard to imagine they make the playoffs in the stacked Western Conference even with Irving.

However, a core of Irving and Booker would be dynamite offensively. If one of Chriss or Bender develop into a good rim protector, it would help mask some of the poor defensive skills of Irving and Booker. The Suns would be a difficult team to face, but probably not a playoff team. Irving can opt out of his contract in two years, and it is certainly possible he would leave the Suns if they are not competing for a playoff spot. That’s a pretty big risk.

The package that the Cavaliers are reportedly asking for is Bledsoe, Jackson, and a first rounder. As of now, the Suns have their own first rounder in 2018, as well as the Miami Heat’s first round pick. If the Suns could trade Miami’s first rounder, they still would have their own pick, likely to be in the lottery. Bledsoe is a good player, but he’s injured a lot and is 27. Plus, Irving would replace Bledsoe, so that isn’t an issue. The big question comes down to how the Suns view Jackson. The fourth pick in the 2017 draft, many consider Jackson to have star potential. Jackson’s biggest asset is his defense, but his offensive game seems solid besides his inconsistent shooting. If the Suns think Jackson is a star in the making, trading him away is silly. If that’s the case, just stay the course and let the young guys develop. This isn’t a team ready to compete, Irving or no Irving.

Kyrie Irving Wants Out of Cleveland

The 2017 offseason has been a rough one for the Cleveland Cavaliers. First, rumors about LeBron James joining the Los Angeles Lakers next summer started popping up. Then general manager David Griffin’s contract was not renewed and the team went weeks without a GM. There’s the fact that the Cavaliers had very little cap space and no real way to improve their roster. Finally, Kyrie Irving has requested a trade and rumors say there is a lot of animosity between Irving and LeBron. Now that’s a bad summer.

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For Cleveland, their present and future is now in serious doubt. On one hand, with the current roster the Cavaliers are favorites to win the Eastern Conference. On the other, one of the best players in NBA history is rumored to have a foot out the door, and another of their stars wants out too. While LeBron has the ability to leave the team next summer, Irving is still under contract at least another two years (with another year possible due to a player option).

It will be curious to see how the Cavaliers deal with Irving’s trade demand, the team has no real incentive to deal him now. Trading Irving before the upcoming season would likely make them a worse team, and a down year for the Cavaliers could mark the end of LeBron in a Cavs uniform. However, it is possible that Irving’s trade value is higher now than it will be next season because his contract will only have one (possibly two) years left.

Irving reportedly wants to be traded the Minnesota Timberwolves, San Antonio Spurs, Miami Heat, or New York Knicks. Unfortunately for the Cavaliers, those teams do not have much in the way of assets that will help the Cavaliers get better now. The Heat could build a package around Goran Dragic and Justise Winslow, but that does not seem like enough for Cleveland. Minnesota could trade Andrew Wiggins back to the team that drafted him, but that is more of a long-term move for the Cavs, and time is not on their side. Of course, the Cavaliers can send Irving wherever they deem fit because he does not have a no trade clause. If Irving is traded, it certainly is not a lock that he would be moved to one of his four preferred destinations.

The Cavaliers are in a tough spot, but not an impossible one. The Lakers won multiple championships with Shaq and Kobe hating each other. Winning a title with disgruntled players is possible. The best thing for the Cavaliers is to stand pat. This same team is coming off of back to back Finals appearances. The Cavaliers cannot jeopardize what possibly is their last season to win a title with LeBron just because Irving is upset.