August 30, 2017

Cavaliers or Celtics: Who wins the Kyrie trade? (Updated with trade finalization)

Kyrie Irving
What's Kyrie gonna do for Boston?

A month ago, I blogged about how Kyrie Irving said he wants the Cleveland Cavaliers to trade him because he doesn't want to play wingman to LeBron James any more. Yeah, jaw drop. One ring and two other Finals trips will do that, I guess?

Well, of course, as of Tuesday evening, we have an update.

Rather than just salivating over the possible eventual breakup of the Cavs, Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge, just having landed Gordon Hayward as a free agent, and still having stockpiled draft choices, swooped in and helped hasten the breakup process by trading for Irving.

At a pretty steep price. Pretty steep price indeed IF Isaiah plays most of this year AND resigns with the Cavs.

Isaiah Thomas
Ainge sent a 2018 first-round draft choice from Brooklyn, mighty mite point guard Isaiah Thomas, small forward Jae Crowder and stashed Serbian center Ante Zizic all to the Cavs for Kyrie.

Update, Aug. 30: After the Cavs bitching about how Isaiah was so hurt, and trying to extort another first-round choice, they finally settled for a 2020 second-rounder that Boston had from Miami. Unless the Heat really suck three years from now, that will be no higher than No. 40.

First, on the Boston side.

They now have only four players left from last year's team. Coach Brad Stevens is going to have a compressed, accelerated-learning training camp indeed. Celtics fans should be patient and should have the brains to be patient for the first month or so of the new season. More on that here.

Second, Kyrie's butt-hurt-ness — will it be a problem in Beantown? Both Ainge and Stevens say no, and that they kicked all the tires there. But, but, but —

Stevens was Hayward's college coach at Butler and that was a definite part of the reason he left the Jazz.

To think this will all be peaches and cream, sweetness and light, is laughable. Kyrie may be 1A in Boston rather than No. 2, but he's not going to be the solo alpha dog.

Third, the Celts lost a low-cost player, under contract for three years, in Crowder.

Fourth, between Crowder and Avery Bradley, traded to clear cap space for the Hayward signing, Boston lost two solid-to-good defenders, a descriptive phrase that's, well ...

That's never, ever really come close to being used about Kyrie Irving's NBA career.

That said, especially if Thomas' hip wouldn't be ready for the start of the season, and the fact that he's a few years older than Irving, the player swap wasn't bad.

I think Ainge should have held out for sending Boston's own No. 1 instead of Brooklyn's, though. He probably put in the Brooklyn choice in part because, while not hiding anything, he knew Isaiah probably wouldn't be ready to start the season.

Cleveland?

If Thomas is slowed, this is less of a win for them in the short term. And, while Irving is not at all known for defense, Thomas, while he gives an effort, at 5-9 has size limitations. And is no better, height difference aside. And, like Irving, he's a shoot-first point guard. And, on that D, he's actually got a worse D-rating, by points allowed per 100 possessions, than Irving.

AND — if the hip is bad enough, but ... not "failing" a physical, if the Cavs ask Ainge to sweeten the deal, he won't, I'm sure. If the Cavs try to void it outright? Ainge may say that's why I gave you the sweeter drafter choice rather than our own already, as I noted above.

Ainge surely mentioned that in the back and forth, and finally gave Cavs' "GM" Dan Gilbert a go-away gift.

The other players are a bigger deal for Cleveland.

Crowder could be ready to up his game further, and he's under a cheap contract for three years.

Zizic could be a deal into the future. Based on brief clips from summer league play, he's at least middle of the pack in mobility and ball-handling among Euro-league centers. And, at 6-11, 250, he's big enough to be a true center. I have no idea what his shooting range is, or his defense is, but he gives Cleveland another option, at least, in bigger lineups, along with Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love.

That said, his down side is limited vertical and limited defense.

Five Thirty Eight discusses Cleveland's long view, as well as wondering how much changes in offensive sets and styles with new teams will affect both Irving and Thomas. (That said, it's kind of laughable for it to call Kyrie "undersized" in the same breath with Isaiah.) I suspect Irving's going to like the faster pace. The Celtics will certainly be uptempo; Al Horford runs decently for a big, and he may like the change too. Kyrie isn't having to play little LeBron when LeBron is out, and will have an offense more to his liking.

It also notes that the extra year of control for Irving vs Thomas gives Ainge an extra year before making some cap-related decisions.

Or, depending on just how much he shows over the next year, if LeBron does bolt Cleveland for La-La Land (EITHER team, if Blake Griffin can do a good recruiting job, a better recruiting job, perhaps with the help of Jerry West, than Magic Johnson does), he lets the Cavs put Thompson or Love on the trade bloc as part of a full tank rebuild or something.

Finally, we know now Carmelo Anthony isn't going to Cleveland. So, Houston? Stay with the Phil Jackson-less Knicks? Trading him is problematic for an additional reason — his 2018-19 contract is a player option. But, per what CPIII just did in getting traded to Houston, opting in to that year as part of a trade could be a smart thing. (The option year issue may be part of why the Spurs got little interest when they dangled LaMarcus Aldridge earlier this summer.)

And, speaking of CPIII, Deadspin bitches not once but twice about Ainge allegedly making an overpay, when Morley overpaid more in Houston for just one year of an older Chris Paul. In the first bitch, it says Paul is better than Kyrie.

Wrong.

At his prime, yes. Today? no. Seven years older with a semi-significant injury history, and just under Rockets control for one year? Bigger overpay for him, too.

Bigger overpay than for Paul George? Well, not necessarily, as PG-13 is just one plus a player option, not two guaranteed years, and was sent out of conference. (Kyrie is two plus player option.)

Besides that if one goes by points scored vs points allowed, in other words, season-long plus-minus, George may be overrated himself.

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Update, Sept. 20: Kyrie bunny-hops around Stephen A. and Max attempting to grill him. It's funny that, whether he actually was smirking or not, he sure looked like it, and social psychologists tell us to trust nonverbal communication first.

I think he was, and despite some truths that he was ready to get out in general, and he thinks Boston's offense will be better for him (it will), there still was some personal angle here.

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