The dust hasn’t settled yet, but the NBA news cycle moves like the wind, so here are the immediate winners and losers of the Celtics-Cavs Kyrie Irving Blockbuster.
Winner: Kyrie Irving
Uggetti: Even without leverage, Irving forced his way out of Cleveland to another Finals contender, landing under the tutelage of a great coach and with the chance to be the no. 1 scoring option. Plus, Boston provides him a city where he can prove his stardom and still make his money, and he’s set up for a bigger payout in two years. It’s the picture-perfect situation. There may even be some flat-earthers in the Commonwealth.
Loser: Cleveland Leaks
O’Shaughnessy: When former Cavs GM David Griffin told ESPN’s The Jump that he understood Irving’s desire to leave, coaching was one of the reasons he listed. But Griffin had a funny slip-up that day, inadvertently saying that Boston was on Irving’s reported wish list of four teams. “[Kyrie’s] list included really good coaching situations,” Griffin said. “Brad Stevens and [Gregg] Popovich.” Irving’s list—that never mattered, as he did not have a no-trade clause, by the way—was reportedly San Antonio, Minnesota, New York, and Miami. Not Boston, as Griffin mentioned that day. Except that’s where Irving ended up. Did he drop a … Griff bomb?
Winner: Brad Stevens
Uggetti: Stevens’s wizardry has been based upon doing more with less. Whether at Butler or in Boston, Stevens has always prided himself of getting the most out of what he has. Now, he has an All-Star-studded roster with young talent bringing up the rear. Defense will be the question the Celtics will need to answer, but there’s no doubt the front office has given Stevens the highest-quality tools to build his masterpiece.
Winner: Koby Altman
O’Shaughnessy: Altman started his tenure as Cavs GM under the looming shadow of David Griffin, who was let go just one season after the team won a championship. The hire seemed less about Altman himself and more about the stubbornness of owner Dan Gilbert.
But it’s Altman who deserves recognition in the Irving trade, somehow managing a haul that is forward-thinking despite the disadvantaged position Cleveland is in without a firm commitment to re-sign from LeBron. Should the King leave, Isaiah Thomas’s expiring contract and the 2018 pick gives Cleveland the flexibility to build from the ground up, while bringing on Jae Crowder addresses a sore spot on defense.
Winner: LeBron James
Uggetti: Hear me out. Your running mate decides he doesn’t want to play with you anymore. Your team is reeling from not making any important offseason acquisitions, and your chances at beating the Warriors in the Finals are growing slimmer and slimmer. Now, the guy who didn’t want to play with you is gone to a team you’ll play soon and often (revenge games!), and you just added a feisty, cheap point guard who can score at will and isn’t much worse defensively. Plus you added Crowder, whom you don’t have to go up against anymore, and a future top-five pick next season in a loaded draft. And what’s more, you can still leave after this season! The pieces on LeBron’s chess board moved, but to his benefit, and he still has the controls.
Loser: Kevin Love
Uggetti: Remember him? Oh yeah, he’s still on this team. Love is sitting pretty, for now, on a contract that will dole out more than $20 million this season. There are two issues: The contract runs through 2020, and if LeBron leaves next season, Love will be left alone in Cleveland hoping for a trade. That’s a dark picture. The plus side? A PNW reunion!
Winner: Dan Gilbert. Ugh.
Uggetti: He saves face for the GM-less mess that the Cavs went through earlier this summer, and most importantly for him, he saves money.
Trading Kyrie Irving will save Cleveland $29.1M in tax savings. Cleveland tax is now $49.3M down from $78.4M with 15 guaranteed contracts.— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) August 23, 2017
Winner: The NBA
Uggetti: If you didn’t believe it before, there’s no reason to doubt it now. The NBA is a year-long league that is keeping its fans engaged, intrigued, and informed. The interest, fanfare, and knowledge have never been greater. The Lakers are on the rise, the East is interesting again, Celtics-Cavs could become a legitimate rivalry, and the West is loaded after Paul George, Jimmy Butler, and Paul Millsap all moved west. And this is all before what should be one of the most compelling free-agency periods next offseason. Basketball never stops.