Just when news got quiet in the NBA, Danny “Trade Master” Ainge shocked the sports world by trading Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and a 2018 Brooklyn Nets first-round pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Kyrie Irving. The Cavaliers granted Irving’s trade request and sent him to the next best team in the Eastern Conference. Now the Celtics have a superstar to build their team around.
Sources: Boston, Cleveland on trade call now with league office. Deal is done.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) August 22, 2017
In a point guard driven league, Irving is one of the best in the NBA. Irving averaged 25.2 points and 5.8 assists per game last season. Both marks were lower than that of Isaiah Thomas’, but no stars stats rank among the NBA’s best alongside LeBron James. Without James, Kyrie has the chance to prove he can lead a team on his own.
Every star player needs help and Irving has plenty of it in Beantown. The Celtics went out and signed Gordon Hayward, drafted Jayson Tatum and have Al Horford under contract.
Hayward gives Irving a complimentary 20 point per game scorer who shot 39.8% from three last season. Tatum brings scoring depth off the bench and Horford puts everyone in position. With Jaylen Brown, Marcus Morris, Marcus Smart, Aron Baynes and Terry Rozier doing the dirty work, Irving can focus all of his attention on being an all-around offensive superstar.
What separates the Celtics from past Cavaliers teams is coaching. Irving will be playing under Brad Stevens, the best young coach in the NBA. In his four seasons in Boston, Stevens led the Celtics to 25, 40, 48 and 53 win seasons. He’s also led the Celtics to three playoff appearances and a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals. Stevens is the best coach Irving’s ever played for and Irving is the best player to play for Stevens.
The Boston Celtics needed to take that next step to true title contention, and Irving helps them make that leap. With Thomas’ hip injury, the Celtics were uncertain on his durability. Signing Hayward proved the Celtics were all in on taking that next step, but with this trade, it was evident they weren’t all in on Thomas.
Crowder created a log jam at the wing. After drafting Tatum and trading for Morris, the Celtics didn’t have enough minutes to hand out. With the teams focus on developing Brown and Tatum, Ainge needed to move Crowder to help balance out the minutes. Now Stevens can give players defined roles heading into training camp.
Irving, at age 25, is under contract for two more seasons and the Celtics hope to re-sign him. Hayward and Tatum are under contract for four more seasons while Brown and Horford are for three. The Celtics and Irving are set for years of success, as Irving has yet to reach his prime.
Most importantly, Boston avoids the Isaiah Thomas max-contract crossroads they would’ve been at next offseason, as it’s been reported he covets a big deal. Boston obviously had qualms about paying a 5’9 point guard who is soon to be in his 30’s upwards of $30 million a year, so instead, they went and snagged Kyrie Irving.
Bravo Danny Ainge.