Superstar guard Kyrie Irving has officially been traded.
After weeks of speculation, Irving is going to the Boston Celtics for fellow All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder and the 2018 Brooklyn Nets unprotected draft pick.
Irving reportedly wanted to be traded to be a team’s main focus and having an icon like LeBron James as a teammate shortened those chances. Irving’s mentor, Kobe Bryant, had a similar moment in his career playing alongside Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal. The duo won championships together, but Bryant felt like he could be a team’s main priority. Bryant denied he influenced Irving in requesting a trade.
Irving has the potential to be the best scoring guard in the league. He has an aggressive, no conscience shooter’s mentality to go along with some of the best ball handling skills in the NBA.
However, the Celtics still got worse in the trade for Irving. Last month, Boston had to trade Avery Bradley to the Detroit Pistons to make salary cap room for All-Star Gordon Hayward. Crowder’s another role player that was included in this most recent trade. Center Kelly Olynyk signed to Miami Heat this summer as well. The team’s other role players are young guys like Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. While Brown showed flashes throughout his rookie season and in July’s Summer League, it has yet to be seen if he’ll live up to his expectations as the 2016 No. 3 pick yet. Terry Rozier and Marcus Smart have played vital roles for the team, but competing with Cleveland, depth is must-have to get out of the Eastern Conference in the playoffs.
Cleveland now has a point guard whose ceiling is slightly below Irving’s, but is now paired with a presumed back-up or starting shooting guard in Derrick Rose, who averaged 18 points a game last season. With an aging Cavaliers squad on the verge of losing James, acquiring a decent role player like Crowder and a potential lottery pick from Brooklyn, the franchise is in better shape than it was yesterday. Does that mean the Cavaliers can avoid irrelevancy if they still lose James next summer? Probably not, but it still gives fans a bit more hope than living with an unhappy Irving and James rumors for an entire season.
When taking a look at the Celtics and asking did this trade put them in a better spot to win a title, one can ask a simple question. If the trio of James, Kevin Love, and Irving wasn’t good enough to beat the Golden State Warriors, then why would Irving, Hayward, and Al Horford be better?
Thinking in a post-LeBron era where the league opens up again, assuming that’s in three or four seasons, Horford is looking at age 34/35. Looking at his stats, Horford’s numbers have already decreased every season since his second pectoral surgery in the 2013-14 season. Brown and Tatum may bloom into stars, but who’s going to be the consistent rebounder to get them over the contender hump? The Warriors have Draymond Green and the Cavaliers have Tristan Thompson, who averaged over 10 rebounds in the 2016 NBA Finals.
The Celtics are trying something different, but emptying more of your core for a player who hasn’t even committed to your team past two seasons is a risk.