In a stunning trade, the Cleveland Cavaliers shipped disgruntled Kyrie Irving to Boston on Tuesday for All-NBA point guard Isaiah Thomas, forward Jae Crowder, center Ante Zizic, and Brooklyn’s 2018 unprotected first-round pick.
That’s quite a haul for the Cavs.
“Cleveland did really well considering they didn’t have any leverage,” ProBasketballTalk on NBCSports.com’s Kurt Helin said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “Everybody in the league knew Kyrie wanted out. This was as good as you could have hoped for. You get an All-NBA point guard who steps in and keeps the production level up, so you don’t really drop off much. I think Kyrie is a slightly better player, especially in the playoffs, but you’re still getting this elite-level point guard. You’re getting a 3-and-D wing (in Jae Crowder). He helps them tremendously there. And then they get the Brooklyn pick on top of all that. This was as good as you could do if you’re Cleveland.”
Thomas with join LeBron James and Kevin Love in Cleveland’s starting five, as Derrick Rose will likely come off the bench. Dwyane Wade is also reportedly expected to land in Cleveland later this year. Thus, despite losing Irving, the Cavs may be better this year than they were last year.
But they would still be underdogs against Golden State.
“Even with all this, does this just make it six games instead of five in the Finals?” Helin asked. “If Golden State’s healthy, I’m not sure what it changes. It just gets them a little closer.”
Still, if the Cavs are more competitive in the Finals – or if they actually win it all – what incentive would James have to leave and start over somewhere else?
“LeBron, he’s trying to keep the options open,” Helin said. “Most people around the league don’t think he’s coming back. Dan Gilbert rubs everybody the wrong way. He’s a hard guy to work for. But what have we been saying? They’re the best team in the East still. They get to the Finals, and anything can happen. There are injuries or something happens or maybe for whatever reason, Golden State is not clicking like the way we think they’re going to be clicking. He wants to add rings to his legacy or he’s going to leave. If he doesn’t think he’s going to get that in Cleveland, he’s going to leave. But if they’re right there, maybe he doesn’t. Maybe he does stay. I think this brings them closer to that. This whole trade still comes down to trying to keep LeBron or setting them up for LeBron’s exit. Either way, after this trade, Cleveland’s in better position than they were 24 hours ago.”