Kyrie Irving is a Boston Celtic.
The Vertical’s Shams Charania reported Tuesday afternoon that Boston and the Cleveland Cavaliers had agreed on a deal that involves Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, and Brooklyn’s 2018 unprotected first-round draft pick. Where the hell did this come from?
It’s been a month since Irving shocked the league, reportedly requesting a trade away from the Cavaliers as LeBron James heads into the last year of his contract before he can opt into free agency. But the fire from that report seemed to have dissipated during the summer, dying down with the season less than 60 days away. Until now.
Much has been written about whether or not Kyrie is making the right move by seeking to be freed from LeBron’s shadow, but at the very least, he appeared to be dead set on his choice. The only problem was that Kyrie had no leverage to pick where he wanted land. He was reportedly only interested in the Spurs, Heat, Knicks, and Timberwolves — seemingly unconnected teams — but Irving did not hold a no-trade clause, meaning he couldn’t force Cleveland’s hand here. To make the trade request, he had to know that he couldn’t control where he’d go.
Now he is headed to Boston, the Cavs’ immediate threat in the East. The move is shocking on the surface, but sensical once you peer at Danny Ainge’s treasure chest of assets. The Celtics were, by far, the team that could offer the best deal for Irving, an All-Star point guard who is likely the best at-the-rim finisher in the NBA.
From the Celtics’ perspective, the deal not only gets them Irving, but means they don’t have to worry about handing a long-term, lucrative deal to Thomas, who may have already had the best season of his career. With Kyrie in green, Thomas had to be included in the deal, as he would not have accepted a role backing up Kyrie. Even though Thomas hit all the necessary plot points this summer to gain the favor of Boston fans everywhere, trading him was a no-brainer when it meant that Boston would get Irving, who will now slot in alongside Gordon Hayward and Al Horford—creating a very competent big three—glue guys Marcus Smart and Marcus Morris, and young guns Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
The Cavs’ side of the equation is a little more complicated. They get a first-round draft pick, which could turn into the no. 1 overall selection and perhaps give LeBron an incentive to stay in Cleveland, but this deal doesn’t make the team better this season. Acquiring Crowder will surely relieve LeBron of the burden of facing another tough defender in the playoffs, but does Thomas make them better in the short or long term? Irving is three years younger than Thomas and is under team control for two more seasons, but the Cavs seemed to be desperate to ensure that Irving did not become a lingering problem during a crucial season that everyone seems to believe will be LeBron’s last in The Land. It’s also important to note that the projected deal may save Dan Gilbert a whole lot of cash.
Irving is far pricier than an underpaid Thomas, but his talent and his ability to score off the dribble at will (which is becoming rarer and far more coveted in the playoffs) are arguably enough to be worth the short-term price tag. Stars like Kyrie aren’t often available via trade, and the Celtics, for all their inaction and almost-trades, have been waiting and preparing for this for years. This is their moment, and the East just got a lot more fun. Remember who is playing on opening night?
Remember this as The Day That Danny Ainge Finally Made a Trade.