Coming into this offseason, all signs seemed to point toward the Boston Celtics becoming legitimate NBA title contenders as early as next season. Despite losing to Cleveland in five games, the team reached the Eastern Conference Finals seemingly ahead of schedule. They owned the number three pick in the NBA Draft and GM Danny Ainge was still busy acquiring assets.
Meanwhile, the Cleveland Cavaliers seemed to be losing their edge, at least slightly. They had just lost the NBA Finals to Golden State in five games. GM David Griffin was fired, and the Cavs looked more like the Cleveland Browns in trying to attract potential free agents not named Derrick Rose. On top of that, rumors about Lebron James skipping town after next season intensified more and more.
It was definitely good to be a Celtics fan. Their team was moving on up, and Lebron was likely moving on out. There was no way the Celtics wouldn’t come away with the superstar(s) they’ve needed for sometime. The next star or stars that would help them challenge for the next championship banner to hang in the rafters of Boston Garden.
However, despite landing Gordon Hayward in free agency and now trading for Kyrie Irving, the Eastern Conference runners-up have ultimately pushed the needle very little toward a championship anytime soon. But, even worse, the Kyrie Irving – Isaiah Thomas trade that was announced yesterday likely helps keep the Cavs the favorite in the east, and also helps keep Lebron in Cleveland past next season.
Wow, how quickly things can change, but still remain the same.
To sum it up, Celtics fans should be more than a bit upset right now. Sure, getting Hayward to sign on the dotted line is a good thing. Kyrie is definitely an upgrade from IT (Hey that rhymes..). But, the cost it took to get them is way too high
The Celtics lost arguably, their top three players. Thomas, led the team in scoring. Avery Bradley, who was traded to the Detroit Pistons to clear cap space to sign Hayward, was their best defender. Jae Crowder, who joins Thomas in Cleveland, was one of their better young players and averaged double-digit points per game. If that’s not enough, Ainge also failed to address the Celtics biggest need, rebounding and rim protection. Even if Hayward and Irving light it up next season, rebounding, or the lack thereof, will still get this team beaten.
The one saving grace out of all this is the Celtics do have Jayson Tatum. The first round pick from Duke played well for the Celtics’ Summer League team and looks like he could be a star. They were also able to hold on to Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart who also look very promising. Whether, Tatum, Brown, and Smart are enough to offset what didn’t get done this offseason remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, the team the Celtics are trying to catch has gotten stronger. Mainly, thanks to…… the Celtics. Something that should never happen. While, Kyrie Irving is an upgrade over Thomas, it’s not by much. Especially, if his injuries are ok after missing the last four games of the series against Cleveland. Thomas finished fifth in the MVP voting. That was on a team that didn’t really have a number two scoring option. With a healthy Thomas playing alongside Lebron and Kevin Love, it doesn’t matter that that he’s 30 years old. Thomas’ presence should help Lebron. While, Lebron’s presence will definitely help Thomas.
Speaking of Lebron’s presence, his presence in Cleveland will likely last longer because of this trade. The Cavs front office was literally in shambles after Griffin’s firing. The timing couldn’t have been worse, as it happened before the free agency period began. Which meant wooing free agents to Cleveland was next to impossible. Lebron has been extremely vocal about the Cavs not getting the players he needed to compete with the Warriors. Enough seemed to be enough.
Now with this trade, not only does Lebron have immediate help in Thomas, but with the Brooklyn Nets’ first round pick for next year, which belonged to the Celtics being thrown into the deal, future help should be on the way as well. That future help will likely be a lottery pick and could be the top pick of next year’s draft. Lebron isn’t getting any younger. What better way for him to age gracefully than to place a young superstar next to him.
Plus, the Cavs added Rose, who should be great coming off the bench, or in certain situations playing next to Thomas. Derrick isn’t the MVP anymore, but he just had his best season in a long time for a struggling Knicks squad. Also, keeping Love is huge. It looked like he was going to be traded. Forget that the only Golden State Warrior he can guard is probably Zaza Pachulia. He’s still an awfully good player and now with a few more options on offense, he himself should be that much more difficult to guard.
All in all, not too bad for a team that could only afford to sign Rose to the veterans minimum salary ($2.1M/yr). A 90 percent pay cut from the $21.3M Rose made in 2016 with the Knicks.
The Kyrie Irving – Isaiah Thomas trade is a win-win for the defending Eastern Conference champs, but that doesn’t mean it’s all doom and gloom in Boston. Irving, may become the most prolific scorer in the game without Lebron by his side. The Celtics are still the second best team in the east. It’s just disappointing to think that not only did they likely not close the gap between themselves and Cleveland, but the gap may have gotten wider.