THIS. GOD. DAMN. LEAGUE. MAN.
Four top fifteen NBA players were traded this offseason. FOUR. Chris Paul, Jimmy Butler, Paul George, and now Kyrie Irving. Four of the fifteen best basketball players in the world, all moved in what I think we can pretty justifiably call unexpected transactions. I mean… that’s absolutely wild. And that’s all without mentioning two top 25 players signing with different teams AND the Number 1 pick being traded. God damn man.
So the question is… is this just the norm now? Like… will we just see multiple monumental transactions of this nature every offseason? Will teams just continue to completely reshuffle the deck in an attempt to account for the dually increasing leverage and influence of superstars in the NBA? Or was this just an anomaly of an offseason – a collision of forces from contract situations to irregular cap movement to that seemingly unbeatable force out in the Bay?
Like most things the answer is probably somewhere in the middle. But… what if it’s not? I mean… Kyrie Irving just got traded to the Boston Celtics. Kyrie Irving, the 25-year-old, once in a generation shot-maker, entering his prime, who hit the game winning shot in the NBA Finals just 15 months ago… just got traded to his team’s biggest in-conference rival… for Isaiah Thomas, a legitimate MVP candidate who became the city of Boston’s biggest most beloved player during a heroic four month stretch that culminated in him playing his fucking heart out for the team after the tragic death of his sister.
If that trade can happen… with all those competing forces, and all the sentimentality of those players to their now-former teams, and the rivalry of these two sides already being what it was… man anything really is possible.
Maybe we won’t see as many blockbuster transactions as we’ve seen this summer. But for all intents an purposes, the floodgates are open on player movement. It’s all on the table now. And you know what? I’m here for it. Let chaos reign.
Now the trade itself… the trade itself is fascinating.
If I have to pick a winner I lean Cleveland here. They expertly prepared for an uncertain future while not sacrificing the present. No, trading away a 25-year-old generational scorer capable of going bucket-for-bucket with the Warriors in the Finals does not make you better. But in Isaiah you can recoup… say… 90% of Kyrie’s value. All while greatly improving your defense and depth with Crowder and Zizic and adding a pick that can serve either as some form of insurance for when LeBron inevitably leaves or as a MASSIVE trade chip come January and February. This was as good as it was going to get in return for Kyrie at the point. You have to consider it a win.
With that being said… I still see the trade as a win-win. Yes, that is possible.
The reason you stockpile assets like Ainge has is to go turn them into Superstars. Kyrie Irving is a superstar. Kyrie Irving is a transcendent scorer who has already proven the ability to play at the highest possible level against the best possible competition. No, he’s not a traditional point guard. Yes, his defense is atrocious. But he’s a gamer — a proven fucking gamer who, again, did THIS. And is still just 25 years old
You trade for that guy. You do it every time.
Emotionally it hurts to trade Isaiah after all his did for you last year. But he’s coming off a bad hip injury, has one year left on his deal, and is absolutely going to ask for the max next summer heading into his 30’s. Danny Ainge was never going to give him that bag, which means the band aid was going to have to get ripped off at some point anyway. If your options are to lose him for nothing next year, versus trading him and a few assets for a better, younger player with a significantly higher ceiling now and into the future, you trade him. That’s it. Yes, giving up Crowder, a very solid role player on a great contract, and Zizic, a potentially very nice backup big on a team that needs rebounding and size, both hurt. But the depth Boston has acquired by stockpiling assets makes that more palatable. There are only so many minutes to go around. Between Hayward/Brown/Morris/Smart/Tatum, Crowder was far and away the most dispensable wing. And by all accounts from summer league, Zizic wasn’t ready to contribute right away.
As for the pick…
Well… the East… and hold on to your seats here folks… the East is bad and in fact not good. Currently speaking I’d say there are six playoff locks. Cleveland, Boston, Washington, Milwaukee, Toronto, Miami. You can pretty confidently lock those six in to 40+ wins and a playoff birth.
Outside of that? Outside of that it’s a total crapshoot. Philly? Total question mark with their health history. Charlotte? Could absolutely get submarined by Dwight. Indiana, Chicago, and Atlanta will get significantly worse after losing their best players. I don’t know what Detroit or Orlando did to markedly improve. And the Knicks are the Knicks.
Could the Nets pick end up in the top three? Yes. And with the possibility of Lebron leaving you have to take that chance as the Cavaliers.
But there’s also a not-so-unrealistic scenario where this young, hungry, very well coached, and completely unmotivated to tank Brooklyn team scraps their way to an eighth seed or somewhere near there. It’s not a lock that this is the top five pick people assumed it would be, which is part of the reason Ainge made that trade with Philly to acquire the Lakers (/Kings) pick.
I think Ainge looked at both conferences and both teams and felt more confident giving away the Brooklyn pick knowing there’s a significantly greater chance the Nets fall out of the top five than there is that the Lakers do (the pick goes to Boston if it falls between 2 and 5).
All in all, I like it on both sides. Did the Celtics give up too much? Probably. But it’s what they had to to get back a player like Irving. Are the Cavs screwed long-term? Probably. But getting back these assets and becoming a more well-rounded team eases the pain of inevitably losing both LeBron and Kyrie come summer 2018.
And, as always… god bless this fucking league.