It happened. After time after time of demanded trade requests, Kyrie Irving- the catalyst of an NBA Finals team- has been traded to Asset Town. That’s right: Kyrie Irving is being shipped out of Cleveland to the Boston Celtics in exchange for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, and the 2018 Brooklyn Nets 1st-round pick.
Although Irving is a very flashy, offensive powerhouse of a Flat-Earth Truther, did Boston give up to much? Welcome to Trade Grades, where we explore that very question. First on the chopping block? The Cleveland Cavaliers.
Cleveland Cavaliers: A+
This trade is amazing in so many ways for Cleveland. Ohh man, they robbed Danny Ainge blind. This is by far the biggest haul for a star since before the DeMarcus Cousins trade, and of those traded (Boogie, Paul George, Jimmy Butler, Chris Paul, Kyrie Irving) there is a legitimate case to be made that Kyrie is by far the worst of those.
Not only do they get the superior player in this deal though; they also get other assets. They get Jae Crowder, who, despite being much-maligned by the Celtics fan base, is a 40% three-point shooter who plays very good defense and has 3 years of under $8,000,000 remaining on his contract (including this year’s $6.8 million). They also get Ante Zizic, a European big man with impressive rebounding chops with insane potential. And that doesn’t even mention arguably the biggest asset: The Brooklyn Nets’ 2018 first-round pick. Now, even if LeBron leaves, Cleveland will get Bagley. Or Porter. Or Doncic, or pretty much whoever they want, because the pick is pretty much certain to be top-three.
And now, if you assume Bagley will go #1, the best the Celtics can get is Porter. Which is still insane, but is way less appealing than a Bagley/Porter pickup. Not only does this strengthen your present and future, it also weakens your only real conference rival of Cleveland and didn’t like playing with LeBron, so that’s another issue solved!
Kyrie would take and make big shots, true. But IT4 just had a historically epic season of fourth quarters and overtime, and that was without someone like LeBron James or even Kevin Love to lighten the load. Think of what he could do now! Of course, there is some downside, but the rest of it overloaded the greatness meter to bump the grade down.
First, even though Thomas is statistically a better defender than Irving, in reality, Irving’s size helped, especially against a team like Golden State with two elite backcourt players. Not that Kyrie/JR is much better than IT/JR, but it helped. Secondly, Isaiah’s hip may have been an influencing factor in the trade, although Cleveland’s medical exam will determine the severity of that. Thirdly, Isaiah is an expiring contract who could walk for nothing in a year.
However, Isaiah is an extremely loyal guy. He will likely stay, and if he leaves, LeBron will most likely be gone as well, allowing them to clear the decks and tank. And finally, he is a short point guard, so “He’ll fall off a cliff.” First of all, he’s a 27-year-old who just made two straight All-Star games. Second of all, Chris Paul is going strong five years later in his life, and he’s just 6’1!
Boston Celtics: F
As a Boston fan myself, it is incredibly hard to write this, but:
Isaiah Thomas, King Of The Fourth Quarter, is no longer on the Celtics. He is on the Cavs.
I really needed to get that off my chest. In Ainge we trust, right? It takes a lot of trusts though. A lot of faith. Yes, he got KG, Ray Allen, Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford, Gordon Hayward, and others, but this has worried many in Celtics Nation. But if we can’t trust Ainge, who can we trust? The government? They seem a bit unstable at the moment. Derrick Rose getting injured? He’s going to be in a marginal bench role on a contender, I doubt he’ll get injured. So as my faith in humanity and everything it’s built crumbles, I just have to blindly try and believe that one phrase that seems to be becoming meaningless now: “In Ainge We Trust.”
With that slightly exaggerated melodrama out of the way, let’s get one thing straight. I don’t like giving Fs. I gave the Pacers a D in the Paul George deal. I gave the Bulls a D- on the Jimmy deal. I didn’t give Boston an F for the Fultz deal (I gave them a B-). I gave Ainge a C for the Bradley deal, which I hated, and… I’m quickly realizing that I liked very few of Boston’s offseason moves. Though I had originally thought the trade a D-, it quickly devolved to D--, and from there to an F. I couldn’t help it, it was just that bad. As I’m just now reading, ESPN is reporting that Boston had significant concerns about IT’s knee.
IDK about Scalabrine,
Pierce, or Big Baby,
But Brad and Danny,
Two guys in Green,
But not Kyrie.
-Poetry, by Me
If his hip is a future issue, it massively changes the deal. However, based on the hard evidence that we have on hand, this is awful for Boston. For multiple reasons, even more than what was previously discussed in the Cleveland portion of this article.
1. His contribution to the city of Boston
Isaiah isn’t just a basketball figure in Boston, he is a life and social figure. Whether that’s helping kids in need, playing pickup with fans, or just being a very relatable guy, he has been embraced by the city as a whole. “A 5’9 guy with sneakers on is making millions? Why couldn’t I!” Says the hypothetical combination of everyone in the Boston geographical area and/or fan base. It is the same thing that made Stephen Curry so popular: Relatability.
No one relates with LeBron except LeBron, and there only is one LeBron, so his popularity has a cap. And yet Stephen Curry, who all smart basketball people agree isn’t as good as LeBron, is the younger generation’s favorite player. Every middle schooler has the jersey, every high schooler, every kindergartener.
Steph became an international icon because he succeeded despite his *below- average* height. He wasn’t especially athletic for his field of work, he wasn’t necessarily the strongest guy, but he worked hard and could do things that we, as regular Joes, could (theoretically) do. Instead of dunking like Michael, today’s youth shoot from midcourt like Curry. Why? Because they can't dunk from the free throw line. They don’t have a chance! But if you give a 9th grader a ball and 10 minutes, he’ll make at least one shot from there. Curry went beyond just being good at basketball, he became a culture. Isaiah did much of the same thing, but in more meaningful ways.
He worked with charities and local kids to provide aid and hope. For all the gripes people had about Sacramento Boogie, he helped in his community. And even though he’s on a new team now, Sacramento-fans (?) would welcome him back with open arms. Isaiah did the same in Boston, and we would still welcome him back with more love than before. Because really, Isaiah saved the franchise.
2. His contribution to the team in Boston
He really did save the franchise. After the Pierce/Garnett trade, it seemed like the Celtics were going to sink into a Titanic-level rebuild. But that was before Marcus Thornton and a first-round pick were traded for a miscast sixth man on a team with an overabundance of point guards. That little role player had been essentially given away by Sacramento for two guys who would never play In the NBA. Boston believed in that little man when no one else did, so he believed back.
Isaiah Thomas is now widely known as one of the hardest-working, scrappiest players you’ll ever come across, a 5’9 former 60th pick who rose the city of Boston from its grave to two All-Star game appearances, a #1 seed, and a conference Finals berth. And man, that Conference Finals was hard to reach. Thomas was the only All-Star, the little shooting star on a team of role players. And yet, despite the fact that his sister died just hours before game one of the playoffs. And yet, despite the fact that his tooth was knocked out and he was in surgery for roughly a dozen hours. And yet, despite the fact that the Celtics never figured out the fifth starter. And yet, despite the fact that Horford and Crowder, two of the top four guys on the team, missed much of the year… Isaiah led the team past Cleveland into the #1 seed, achieving the greatest fourth-quarter season in NBA History and fifth place in MVP voting.
Isaiah led a team of no other All-Stars past John Wall and Bradley Beal, past Jimmy Butler and prime-time Rondo and Wade… until his hip finally got the best of him. And even through all this, Boston wasn’t loyal enough to stick with him through the trials and tribulations. Congratulations, Danny Ainge. I’m so sure that you’re all so happy to rob us of this player who has a legitimate love for the city and the people in it.
3. Maxing out your future
Yes, Kyrie is just 24, three years younger than Isaiah. Yes, Boston still has lots of picks. But is this really how you want to use that last Nets pick? If that ends up as #1, you will have sent Bagley, Thomas, Zizic, and Crowder for potentially just two years of Kyrie Irving.
Yeah, you’d think Irving would resign, but you KNEW that Thomas would, and if you hadn’t made the swap, you’d keep 1) Your scrappiest 3-And-D player, 2) A city hero, 3) A prospect, and 4) A pick that could end up being #1 in a loaded class! Yeah, IT-for-Irving pushes back your timeline a bit. But at what cost? A more-capped timeline? A timeline where one more draft pick, which could, in theory, be a late-lottery 2019 pick, determines your success? I love Boston’s young core, I really do, but I thought that with the two other picks and Zizic that it was better than Philly’s. With just one, I’m not so sure they are.
4. Maxing out your present
As I discussed earlier, Isaiah is better right now than Kyrie. And they also gave up Crowder, a very underrated 3-and-D player who was the heart and soul of this Boston defense. So if they got worse long-term… and they got worse short-term… and on both ends, but especially on defense, where they had more of an issue already… what is the positive here? Jersey sales? Because although Kyrie may be more popular league-wide, IT is much more popular to his own fan base. And I’m sure that the Isaiah Thomas fathead on my wall agrees with me. (Obviously, he isn’t the GOAT, but it further shows how highly Boston fans think of him.)
So, how do I close out an article on this topic? How do I close out an article about the best, most loyal player you could ever ask for being traded with assets for the worse player? I mean, people got mad that the Bulls gave up a pick when they were giving up the best player in the swap, what will they say about Boston? So anyway, I’ll end this article the same way Danny Ainge ended Isaiah Thomas’ Boston career: By slicing down my connections with all of my friends, everyone who has been loyal to me these past years. So hey, all of my friends? I’m going to trade you for someone three years younger. Yes, you’re better than he is, but he’s a few inches taller too, so that about seals it. The absolutely amazing move by me, right?
This article is brought to you by: A Salty Celtics Fan, AKA Jackson Posey