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The Kyrie Irving trade with the Cavs is a horrible blunder by the Celtics

kyrie irving isaiah thomas, cavs celtics

Ever since Brooklyn Nets billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov gifted the Boston Celtics with three first round picks in exchange for 37-year-old Kevin Garnett and 35-year-old Paul Pierce in the 2013 offseason, a majority of discussions around each trade deadline and offseason have centered around whether the Celtics would finally exchange some of their allowance from the Nets in exchange for a superstar player.

The dream of a superstar finally donning the green and white has never fully transpired for the Celtics faithful. In 2014, the Nets were still in fantasyland that the Garnett-Pierce experiment would work and the Celtics weren’t ready to contend yet, so they used the 17th pick on James Young, a reasonable decision.

After the 2015-16 season, the Celtics were clearly on the rise with a budding core of quality young players on good contracts including Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, Isaiah Thomas, and Terry Rozier. They got the fifth seed in the East with a respectable 48-34 record before losing to the Hawks in six games. The Celtics clearly had a bright future armed with their Brooklyn picks and all, and tried to go after superstar players such as Kevin Durant in free agency without surrendering any draft capital. While Durant was clearly intrigued by Boston, we all know how his story ended and the Celtics weren’t able to sign any other big free agents.  Frustrated, they drafted Jaylen Brown third overall with their Brooklyn pick

After last year, no one can doubt the Celtics are loaded and very much in the conversation as a championship contender. Finishing top in the East with a 53-29 record, the C’s made it all the way to the Conference Finals before losing to the Cleveland Cavaliers 4-1. No matter, they used their annual Brooklyn gift by swapping picks with the Philadelphia 76ers in order to draft Duke Forward Jayson Tatum before finally landing their man in free agency: Gordon Hayward.

With last year’s experience of a deep playoff run under their belt and a then-projected starting five of Isaiah Thomas, Gordon Hayward, Jae Crowder, Marcus Morris, and Al Horford with Marcus Smart, Aron Baynes, Terry Rozier, and rookie Tatum coming off the bench, plus all the turmoil the Kyrie fiasco has created for perennial favorite Cleveland, the Celtics seemed well-poised to have their best chance of reaching the NBA Finals in the post-Kevin Garnett era. All these only make the Celtics’ trade of Jae Crowder, Isaiah Thomas, Ante Zizic, and the 2018 Brooklyn pick for Irving so incomprehensible.

We have already established how patient Boston has been to pull to trigger on a big deal. They sat on their hands when the readily-available Jimmy Butler was shipped to Minnesota for  Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, and a pick swap.  They didn’t bat an eye when Oklahoma City acquired Paul George for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.  I think it is very clear that Crowder, Thomas, Zizic, and the pick EASILY beat these two packages combined.

Perhaps the Bulls and/or Pacers knew they could’ve gotten a better deal with Boston but refused to do so in order to spite the Celtics who have been their bitter rivals over the years. It is hard for me to believe that a rebuilding team would jeopardize their own future over such a petty reason, but GarPax is running the Bulls so anything is possible.

Even still, the Celtics could have at least justified not putting together a better offer for George and/or Butler if they really liked their roster and strongly felt they wanted to stand pat going into the season; this trade sends an opposite message.

There is so much wrong with this trade that it disgusts me. Danny Ainge is putting his entire roster on notice: We don’t think we can beat the Cavs without trading our best player and a bunch of other strong assets so we make a deal for one of their best players. How is that supposed to motivate your organization for a title run?

Why is the gap between Thomas and Irving so astronomically large? Take a look at their stats from last season.

Per Game Table
RkPlayerSeasonTRBASTSTLBLKTOVPTS
1Kyrie Irving2016-173.25.81.20.32.525.2
2Isaiah Thomas2016-172.75.90.90.22.828.9
Seems pretty comparable to me. Undoubtedly Irving is the better player, he has a slight advantage in his efficiency rate and assist to turnover ratio and he is not as large of a liability on defense. However, the emphasis should be on the word slight, not better.

In a conference where only the Cavaliers, Celtics, and Wizards have any shot of making the finals, you have to be especially careful when dealing with one of the other two contenders, and beyond tweaking his own roster Danny Ainge has given his biggest rival a “Get out of jail free card” on the whole Kyrie situation.

Everyone in the league knew that Cleveland was pretty desperate to move their disgruntled superstar but clearly interested parties such as the Knicks and Suns were unwilling to give up fair value. Why Boston would step in and offer a package that exceeds Irving’s true value is beyond me.

Even worse, can you imagine how motivated Thomas and Crowder will be to destroy their old team come playoff time. Irving will have no strife towards the Cavs since he was the one that put this trade into motion and the team simply fulfilled his wishes by trading him, but from the departing Celtics’ perspective, this is extremely disrespectful to their talents.

The Cavaliers got so much better in this trade. The biggest weakness for Cleveland has always been their bench and now they have three players and an extremely good asset in the Brooklyn pick for one.  Look for Cleveland to go all-in this year to try to ensure LeBron sticks around by dangling the Brooklyn pick at the deadline to further upgrade their roster.

As of now, the Cavs have moved an uphappy Irving for a player with as close to his skillset as they could have possibly hoped for and a solid perimeter defender they so desperately needed in Crowder.  As a bonus, they no longer have to rely on Edy Tavares for backup center minutes. While we don’t know how good Zizic will be yet, even if he completely busts, the Cavs still win this trade easily so this is a nice free-roll for Cleveland.

With this trade, the Cavs went from having little to no chance against Golden State to having a puncher’s chance if they can get good value for the Brooklyn pick at some point this season. For the Celtics, fans have to be wondering why the trade they’ve been waiting so long for went so horribly wrong.