Evaluating the Kyrie Irving Trade
On Tuesday evening, the Celtics and Cavaliers finalized a blockbuster trade unlike any other, adding to the chaos of this year’s NBA off-season. Boston sent Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, and Brooklyn’s unprotected 2018 first-round pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for star point-guard Kyrie Irving.
While this trade hit many fans hard, there is no doubt that Danny Ainge made the right decision in pulling the trigger.
Jae Crowder, however attractive his contract may be, is replaceable; particularly in the system that Brad Steven’s has designed for Boston. Jaylen Brown and Gordon Hayward are more than capable of filling the void, particularly at the offensive end of the court. Additionally, Jason Tatum has a very high ceiling, while Marcus Morris will effectively replace that trademark-toughness that Crowder took with him to Cleveland.
As for the inclusion of the Brooklyn pick; it was a necessity. Realistically, there is no scenario in which Cleveland would agree to trade a player like Kyrie Irving for Jae Crowder and Isaiah alone, primarily due to the fact that the latter will be a free-agent at the end of next season. The very real possibility that Cleveland may lose both Isaiah Thomas and LeBron James at the end of next season made it clear that the team was not going to let Kyrie go without taking out some sort of insurance on their future. In this case, that insurance is the 2018 Brooklyn pick. The only other alternative would have been for Boston to include Jayson Tatum in the deal; and I think that we can all agree that the idea of losing Tatum, particularly to Cleveland, does not sit well.
I’m not going to sugar-coat it: losing Isaiah Thomas hurts. Bad. But I cannot deny the fact that Kyrie Irving is quite the return. Isaiah is a phenomenal player and there is no doubt in my mind that he is of the same caliber as Kyrie Irving. But Kyrie’s insane offensive abilities, length, and the fact that he is 25 years young are difficult qualities to ignore. Additionally, while Irving will likely earn around $30 million per year during his tenure as a Celtic, he is under contract for the next three years, assuming that all goes well. That is plenty of time to see how things mesh with Gordon Hayward and company before the next free-agency frenzy rolls around.
Furthermore, Kyrie has already given assurances that he is very interested in re-signing with the Celtics when the time comes. On the other hand, the Celtics only had one year to convince Isaiah to stay; furthermore, Thomas himself iterated how Boston would need to “bring the Brink’s truck” in order to keep him in green.
Kyrie and Isaiah are both phenomenal talents. But Kyrie is a a player who, given his current situation, has likely yet to find his full potential, nor has he entered into his prime. His length, age, and unique skill-set are an ideal fit for Steven’s system and the team that Danny Ainge has managed to assemble. Perhaps more exciting than this is the fact that Kyrie Irving is genuinely excited to play in Boston; he even agreed to waive his trade-kicker clause in order to expedite the deal.
Ultimately, the Celtics traded for a player with a chip on his shoulder; a player who was tired, and rightfully so, of living in the shadow of “King James.” Despite this fact, Kyrie has managed to consistently post some of the very best numbers in the league and is widely viewed as one of the NBA’s most skillful players. Imagine how well he’ll perform center-stage, in a team-oriented environment, designed to help him thrive.