Cavs trade Kyrie Irving to Celtics for Isaiah Thomas

The Cleveland Cavaliers reportedly agreed to trade All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics in exchange for a package led by fellow All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas. Irving, who made headlines earlier in the summer when it leaked that he had requested a trade, moves on from a Cavaliers squad that reached the NBA Finals in each of the last three seasons and won a championship in 2016. He joins a Celtics squad that finished first in the Eastern Conference during the regular season last season but was bounced by the Cavaliers in five games the Eastern Conference Finals. Thomas missed the last three games of the series with a hip injury, and might not be ready for regular season opener. Boston will also reportedly send small forward Jae Crowder, center prospect Ante Zizic and the Brooklyn Nets 2018 first-round pick to Cleveland in the deal. Irving, 25, averaged a career-high 25.2 points on 47.3 percent shooting and 5.8 assists last season. He has three years and $60 million remaining on his contract. Thomas, who finished third in the NBA with an average of 28.9 points in 2016-17, will be a free agent after the 2017-18 campaign.

Why in the heck did the Cavaliers trade Kyrie Irving?

Good question. Cleveland didn't really have much choice in the matter: Irving requested a trade in June. The delicate locker room politics found on high-end NBA teams pretty much dictate that such trade requests should be honored, lest seasons be ruined from the inside. Once Irving's trade request became open knowledge, it was likely he'd be on another team by the start of the next season.

OK, why in the heck did Irving want to be traded by the Cavaliers?

I covered this quandary extensively in my explainer on Irving's initial trade request. The short version: Irving feels LeBron James' omnipotence is limiting his own growth and stardom. He'd like to be the No. 1 option somewhere, and that would never happen as James’ co-star. There have also been subsequent reports that Irving is unnerved by Cleveland's special brand of executive turmoil, especially in the wake of former GM David Griffin's bizarre dismissal.

Why did the Cavaliers trade Irving to their biggest rival in the East?

This is interesting, right? These teams just faced off in the Eastern Conference Finals. James and Boston have a decade's worth of bitter rivalry. And here they are, swapping all-stars.

The bottom line is what matters here: the Celtics had the best imaginable trade offer for Irving. Getting a near-equal talent (albeit with a couple more red flags we'll discuss in a moment) plus a premium draft pick, plus a dice roll prospect  this is a coup. It's not foolproof (we'll discuss that, too) but it's a great return for flawed young all-star who wants out.

The Celtics gave up a lot. Why did they do it?

Irving is a better asset than Thomas. He's three years younger, half a foot taller, under contract for longer, and didn't finish the season with a torn hip labrum.

Thomas has been a genuine miracle in his seven NBA seasons, proving everyone who gave up on him wrong. He's improved every single season.

But because of the nature of his body, he will still be doubted. Plenty of smart folks still openly wonder whether he'll be worth a maximum contract as a free agent next summer. Why? Because his size and age he's currently 28 spark fear of a sharp, sudden decline in his early 30s

Can Jae Crowder help the Cavaliers?

Absolutely! He's a tough defender and shot the ball quite well last season. It remains to be seen whether coach Tyronn Lue will change up his starting frontcourt — neither Kevin Love nor Tristan Thompson came off the bench once last season — but we can expect plenty of minutes where Crowder and James play together as two big, tough, and agile forwards. This combination is exciting.
Is Crowder a solution for Kevin Durant?


What is an Ante Zizic?

An Ante Zizic is a Croatian 7-footer. Celtics fans were pretty excited for his rookie season. Learn more and catch some highlights. Knowing how rookies fare in Cleveland during the LeBron James era, don't expect to see him much in the NBA this season.

Have the Celtics actually improved this summer?

This move is the culmination of a wild offseason for Boston. The Celtics traded Avery Bradley for Marcus Morris, lost Kelly Olynyk, signed Gordon Hayward, and drafted Jayson Tatum. Rookies usually don't contribute much to winning teams Jaylen Brown was a rotation player off and on last season so Tatum won't move the immediate needle, in all likelihood.

The Bradley move clears the way for Marcus Smart to get the heaviest minutes load next to Irving, while the forward swaps should lead to even more smallball up front. Either Hayward or Morris should be the starting power forward; it remains to be seen whether Morris or the young Brown will get a starting nod.

Aron Baynes serves as Al Horford's backup at center, and you can't imagine Brad Stevens playing those guys together much. Terry Rozier should also take on added importance in the backcourt, though this was the case before the Irving-Thomas swap.

To answer the question: we have no clue whatsoever. There are so many variables at play.

What's this about James possibly leaving Cleveland again next summer?

James will be a free agent in 2018. He might leave Cleveland again.

According to reports, yes.

Why would he do that?
Dan Gilbert

Say no more. Does either team stand a better chance at beating the Warriors now?
Sure. We know last year's Cavaliers and Celtics were dead on arrival against the Warriors. By changing their rosters in meaningful ways, we can at least believe their respective odds are improved.
Does either team stand a good chance at beating the Warriors now?


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