Blogtable: What grade would you give each team in Kyrie Irving-Isaiah Thomas trade?
Each week, we ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day.
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What grade do you give each team in the Irving-Thomas trade? And what do you like most or least about the trade?
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Fran Blinebury: Boston: A. Cleveland: B. You always evaluate a trade based on which side got the best player and in this case that’s clearly Kyrie Irving. He’s a four-time All-Star, bonafide closer, battle-tested NBA champion, younger, half a foot taller, younger, isn’t coming off a significant injury.
Scott Howard-Cooper: A-minus for Celtics, B for Cavaliers. The only drawback for Boston is losing Jae Crowder in the same offseason as Avery Bradley was traded. That’s a lot of defense out the door in a short span. Still, the deal is a big win. The Celtics got the best player, Irving, and got him as what should become a better financial situation as well. Cleveland did as well as can be expected while dealing from a position of weakness once Irving’s trade request went public. The key will be how long Thomas stays. There is a big difference in grading the trade between leaving as a free agent after one season or re-signing and having many productive years. And getting the Brooklyn unprotected pick is obviously a nice piece for the future, whether LeBron James stays or not. It will take a while to truly asses the outcome of the deal for the Cavaliers, while everyone will have a good read on the Boston side after this season.
Shaun Powell: Cavaliers get an A. This was a trial by fire for Koby Altman and the new Cavs GM aced it, making owner Dan Gilbert look smart for hiring him. The Cavs covered all of their bases, getting an All-Star point guard replacement, a solid role player and insurance in the form of a possible No. 1 overall pick should Isaiah Thomas and/or LeBron leave next summer. There’s nothing not to like from their end. Celtics get a B. Kyrie Irving over Isaiah is just a marginal upgrade, although Danny Ainge does buy an extra year of contract and he can let someone else pay a 5-9 point guard on the other side of 30. Losing that Brooklyn pick could haunt him, even if he has the Laker pick as a backup.
John Schuhmann: The Brooklyn pick is the big variable which won’t allow us to give either team a true grade for several years. The deal comes with the context that Irving is under contract for one more year than Thomas and that we don’t know how much Thomas’ hip injury will impact him going forward. Still, the deal looks great for the Cavs, who got a great pick and a very good forward in a point guard swap where one guy is not significantly better than the other. Boston’s grade will depend a lot on how Irving fits on a team that ranked second in passes per possession last season, but has only four guys returning from its playoff roster. That will be the most interesting thing to watch in the early weeks of the season.
Sekou Smith: I don’t like handing out grades before all of the work is turned in, but on the surface this looks like a low As (or at least very high Bs) for both teams. It’s rare that you find a deal that works for both teams in the short term and down the road. But the Cavaliers (A-) and Celtics (B+) certainly seemed to have pulled it off this time. Cleveland got a haul for their 25 year old superstar point guard. Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder and Ante Zizic plus that unprotected 2018 Draft pick rates as a monster return for Irving. The Celtics, meanwhile, plug in a younger, bigger and equally clutch-shooting version of Thomas to go with their other new additions (Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum). Normally, you grade a trade based on who ends up with the best player but I think that’s a wash right now. The kicker will be who (or what) that Draft pick turns out to be.
Ian Thomsen: Giving out grades immediately after a trade is like taking a test without having studied (not that I would know anything about that) (OK, maybe a little). Let’s just say that this deal makes sense for each side. If the Cavaliers benefit from the young legs of Crowder and Zizic, and James loves playing with Thomas — who figures to provide close to as many points as Irving did – then maybe LeBron will choose to re-sign with Cleveland. Or if he leaves, then the Cavaliers can let Thomas walk in free agency on their way to launching a low-payroll rebuild around the Nets’ No. 1 pick. So for them it works either way.
For the Celtics, they no longer have to worry about paying $30 million per year to Thomas as a free agent. They’re loaded with firepower after upgrading at point guard and they still have access to the Lakers’ pick in next year’s draft. I find myself wondering who will provide the defensive leadership that all contenders need. But it’s important to realize that the Celtics, even now, are not a finished product. Danny Ainge still has the means to make another blockbuster trade in the year ahead. In the meantime, the trade for Irving was an opportunity he couldn’t refuse.
Lang Whitaker: Considering that Cleveland didn’t seem to have a lot of leverage in this situation, they sure made out pretty well. I give Cleveland a B-plus. Because not only did they get an All-Star who averaged almost 30 points per game last season, they also managed to get Boston to toss in a ton of great stuff. Jae Crowder, one of the NBA’s best defenders specifically against LeBron James? Ante Zizic, a 20-year-old seven-footer who can run? Oh, and an unprotected first round pick that might go as high as first overall in a stacked 2018 NBA Draft? As Daniel Bryan used to say, “Yes! Yes! Yes!” As for Boston, I’ll give them a B-minus. While I think this deal signals a shift to an entirely different (and more sustainable) style of play for them, Irving is a 25-year-old star under contract for a few more years, and the price for a superstar is understandably high. I’m just not sure it should have been this high.