News broke on Tuesday afternoon that the Cleveland Cavaliers had traded want-away point guard Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, and Brooklyn’s 2018 first round pick.
At first glance and awaiting other variables falling into place, Cleveland has won this deal by a landslide. The Cavs have traded Irving who’s wanted out all summer for a similar player in Thomas, a good wing in Jae Crowder, raw big man potential in Ante Zizic, and a top pick in a stacked draft class.
Although Thomas’ contract is up at the end of the season, Cleveland is still operating with a win-now mentality for LeBron James, so that factor is not too significant. The Cavs maxing out a 29-year old Thomas at the end of the season, although not ideal, is not out of the realm of possibilities given LeBron’s also uncertain future.
IT can replace Kyrie’s scoring and, although he’s arguably the worst defensive player in the NBA, Irving was no defensive maestro either. He’s still not the “playmaker” that LeBron James publicly clamored for last season, but that also means that Ty Lue will not have to drastically alter Cleveland’s game plan to accommodate their new star point guard.
Jae Crowder is on a great contract and has steadily progressed over the last few seasons, shooting almost 40% from 3 last year. He should come off the bench for Cleveland and be a great rotation piece, especially if either Kevin Love or JR Smith succumb to injury. The GA native is also one of the few players on the Cavs squad that should be able to keep up with Kevin Durant for stretches — at least in theory.
The Cleveland Cavaliers could be one of the first names on this board come next June.Ante Zizic is the biggest unknown in the equation. He’s yet to play a single minute in the NBA after coming over from Darüşşafaka in Turkey. The Croatian center does not fit the mold of the modern NBA center, preferring to operate from short range and in the low post.
He also looked a bit heavy footed for Boston’s Summer League squad, which is concerning as far his athleticism goes on the NBA level. If Zizic develops into a serviceable rotation player, his rebounding has the potential to expose Boston and Golden State’s debilities in that area.
Cleveland’s biggest coup in this deal is the 2018 Brooklyn Nets first round pick. Despite the East’s weakened landscape and the Nets’ improvement under Kenny Atkinson, they still have one of the worst and most inexperienced rosters in the league. This should lead to Cleveland obtaining a lottery pick.
In June of 2018, the Cavs could be having their pick from the likes of Marvin Bagley III, Luka Doncic, DeAndre Ayton, Miles Bridges, or Michael Porter Jr. Any of these prospects in a top heavy draft class are potential franchise players.
At a time when Cleveland had no significant draft picks coming up and no clear franchise player for the future because of LeBron’s (and now Isaiah Thomas) refusal to commit for the long-term, this pick is absolutely massive.
We’ll have to see how the season plays out, but for now, the Cleveland Cavaliers have fleeced their biggest Eastern Conference rival.