After a long drawn out summer, it’s finally happened.
Per Shams tweet, the Cleveland Cavaliers have traded Kyrie Irving for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, and the 2018 Nets first round pick.
While its always a blockbuster move when two All-Stars and a potential #1 overall pick are traded, power balance in the East still won’t shift very much. At this point, Thomas and Irving are essentially identical players, so they basically negate one another. This still leaves LeBron James and the Cavs the best team in the East. Sure, Boston has a fighting chance to dethrone them this yea. Either way, Cleveland still definitely has the upper hand in the East because, simply, they have LeBron.
So why make the trade?
Because it perfectly sets up the Boston Celtics for a potential Finals appearance in 2019, if things fall into place for them.
As I previously stated, the IT/Kyrie swap doesn’t really help Boston’s chances this upcoming season. The Cavs still have LeBron, Kevin Love, and a top scoring point guard (it’s just Isaiah Thomas now). That exact same team handily beat the Celtics in the playoffs last year, and even with Gordon Hayward, will still probably happen again this year.
Here is where it gets interesting. After Boston is presumably beat in the ECF again by the Cavs, what happens? Firstly, they do not have to pay their premier point guard just yet. Kyrie Irving will still have two years on his contract, so the front office won’t have to deal with that yet. What they won’t have to do is choose whether or not to pay Isaiah Thomas, who will be looking for a payday when the season is over.
At the same time, Cleveland is probably being throttled again by the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals. And with the reports that LeBron is already leaving Cleveland, this loss only solidifies that fact he is checking out. Those same reports have linked LeBron to several different teams such as the Los Angeles Lakers and the Houston Rockets. More importantly for the Celtics end-game, none of those reports indicate LeBron is staying in the East. As you can now clearly see, this leaves the door wide open for Boston to take the crown as the best team in the East.
Yes, there is the possibility that LeBron does stay, even though that doesn’t seem likely at this point. But if you are the Celtics, the time is now or never. You know Cleveland’s front office is in turmoil, and the time to strike has come. If the Celtics hadn’t pulled the trigger on the trade, they lose out on an All-Star point guard when they do not pay Isiah Thomas, and potentially give Cleveland enough time to regroup and keep Kyrie and LeBron in the East. Had that been the eventual outcome, Boston may have missed their opportunity while they have a good team.
It is too early to say whether or not the Celtics masterful plan will come true, but it is definitely going to be interesting to see how it all plays out.