After carefully stockpiling assets and draft picks in the last few years and showing notorious reluctance to part with them, Celtics president Danny Ainge finally pulled the trigger in a blockbuster trade that sent Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, Isaiah Thomas, and Brooklyn’s unprotected 1st round draft pick for Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving.
The Cavs had no leverage whatsoever to get good value for Irving especially when he said he wanted out in late July. But somehow, newly-minted Cavs GM Koby Altman, in one fell swoop, secured the franchise’s present and future.
Thomas is an All-Star point guard who blossomed last season averaging 28.9 points and 5.9 assists and is considered a clutch player. Crowder, meanwhile, is a good 3 and D player who can guard 3 positions. Zizic is a 20-year old seven-footer who showed promise in Europe. These three players would have been fair trade for Irving who is considered one of the most gifted offensive players in the league today. The four-time All-Star averaged a career-high 25.2 points together with 5.8 assists. Moreover, he was instrumental in helping the Cavs reach three straight Finals.
The deal breaker here for me was Brooklyn’s 1st round draft pick which could easily be in the Top 5, if not the No.1 draft pick for 2018. Next year’s draft, while not as deep as 2017, is top-heavy and have several big men who are potential franchise players. The No.1 pick could be Michael Porter Jr. or Marvin Bagley. Both are near seven-footers who are athletic, versatile and handle the ball like point guards. Of the two, Porter is more polished offensively since he has range out to the three-point area. Defensively, Bagley is a monster.
By getting veterans, a youngster, and a draft pick, the Cavaliers suddenly added much needed depth for what could be their 4th straight NBA Finals appearance. Crowder is a good fit and would be a great second defender to backstop LeBron James if and when they go up against the Golden State Warriors again. Zizic is a young talent who can fill in for the often-injured Kevin Love or Tristan Thompson.
In case James walks opts out next season and based on news reports, he probably will, the Cavs still have a high pick so they can start building foundations for the future.
The Celtics, meanwhile, have gutted their line-up to sign Gordon Hayward and now, Kyrie Irving. This is basically a new team with only four holdovers (out of 15) from last year’s team which posted the best record in the Eastern Conference. Only Jaylen Brown, Al Horford, Marcus Smart, and Terry Rozier remain in green and white.
The Irving trade basically takes away their depth and the most glaring weakness in the line-up is at the center and power-forward positions.
The Celtics had assets to get better players namely Paul George and Jimmy Butler, both better and more versatile players than Irving, but they opted for a point guard who doesn’t create a lot of mismatches. If Ainge’s goal was to wait and get a star to take the Celtics over the top, he may have gotten the wrong one. This is a deal that will haunt the Celtics two years from now.