The hope of a reconciliation between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Kyrie Irving went up in smoke yesterday as GM Koby Altman sent the four time All Star to the Boston Celtics for three players and Brooklyn’s first pick in the 2018 NBA draft.
The best player the Cavs received is Isaiah Thomas, a two time All Star that finished third in the league in scoring last year. In fact, according to the similarity scores on Basketball Reference, the most similar player to Thomas is indeed Irving.
Irving took more shots per game than Thomas, but the newest Cavalier scored more because he went to the free throw line three and a half times more than the man who made the biggest shot in franchise history.
There is no doubt that Irving is the better player, but the edge isn’t that great, so when you figure in getting Jae Crowder, an excellent defender who can also knock down shots, and the pick, which figures to be in the top three of next year’s draft, and you would have to say Altman got a very good return for a player who wanted out.
Think about it, the return is greater than what Indiana received for Paul George, and Chicago received for Jimmy Butler.
And we would rate both of those players as better than Irving.
Assuming Tyronn Lue uses his bench effectively, the Cavs are a deep, deep team, which should allow a player like LeBron James to get more rest during the regular season.
Figuring Thomas starting at the point, he would join JR Smith, James, Kevin Love, and Tristan Thompson at the beginning of the game.
That would mean the reserves would consist of Derrick Rose, Kyle Korver, Crowder, Channing Frye, Richard Jefferson, Jeff Green, and barring any more moves, Iman Shumpert.
And it may not be out of the realm of possibility that Rose and Smith swap spots, and than Dwayne Wade joins the Cavs if and when the Bulls buy him out.
That’s a roster that would figure to be the team to beat in the Eastern Conference.
We would also anticipate other moves to come. The Cavaliers have a glut of wing players and have some younger players, including the big man who came over in this deal, Ante Zizic and Cedi Osman, that could be moved to get another big man, perhaps a strong defender.
As for the pick, which should be a lottery pick, and very well could be in the top five of next year’s draft, there are a several ways Altman can use it.
It’s a piece that can be used at the deadline to bring a major piece for another title run, a player like DeMarcus Cousins, or someone of that ilk. Or he can use it now to bring in another all star type player to start the season with.
Regardless, that pick has enormous value in today’s NBA, and that’s what makes this deal a definite win for Cleveland.
Irving will have a special place here because he made the shot that brought the Cavaliers their first title, breaking the 52 year drought for the city.
However, he had deficiencies, so at the end of the day, replacing Irving with a player of Thomas’ capabilities, and getting a very good player in Crowder as well, means the wine and gold is a better team.
The draft pick is just the cherry on the top of the sundae.