LeBron has a new second fiddle…and I’m not referring to Dwyane Wade, who is rumoured to be sniffing around Cleveland now that a Bull’s buyout is all but official. Plus, at this point in his career, Wade isn’t a 3rd or even 4th fiddle. Life’s a b*tch when the knees go.
Last night, the Cavaliers agreed to trade disgruntled guard Kyrie Irving to their Eastern Conference rivals, the Boston Celtics. I know Kyrie, I’d get sick of going to the finals every year too…no off-season. I get it. In return, the Cavaliers will get Isaiah Thomas, Jae “Predator” Crowder, Ante Zizic, and Brooklyn’s 2018 first-round pick, which is unprotected. Don’t sleep on Zizic, a giant out of Croatia, who played for Darussafaka Dogus in the Euroleague last year. Crowder is an impact wing capable of hitting open shots, something he will get a lot of playing with LeBron. Brooklyn’s 2018 first round pick, likely an upper tier lottery selection, serves as a solid insurance policy in the event James and Thomas pack up and leave at season’s end — I can already see the “WELCOME TO KING’S LANDING” billboards in LA.
It’s a hefty price to pay for a player everyone knew wanted out so props to the Cavaliers for coming away with multiple key assets. In past generations, if you demanded a trade, your team would either straight up refuse or grant your wish by shipping you to a cellar dweller. But in today’s NBA and sports landscape in general, players can call their shots, especially when you factor in full and limited no-movement clauses. General Managers used to wheel and deal and inform players of the situation after the fact. Veterans may have gotten the courtesy of a phone call or face-to-face meeting to discuss possible trade scenarios, but your ability to shape the GM’s decision was minimal at best. Today, they are practically obligated to clear any deal with the player before pulling the trigger. Is that better? Is it worse? I’m sure we could debate that forever…and one day we just might.
Taking a closer look at both Thomas’ and Irving’s stats, you quickly can see there isn’t a lot separating the two and their respective impacts on the business of winning. Both can score at will, ranking 7th and 8th respectively in offensive rating amongst guards playing in at least 40 games last season. Defensive capabilities a wash, neither is super interested but I’d give the nod to Isaiah (Kyrie is bloody awful). While history has shown us where a Kyrie led team can end up, the basement, a repeat of that is unlikely given the make-up of the Celtics roster after an eventful off-season that saw them land Gordon Hayward and drafting Jayson Tatum. Another positive for the C’s out of this deal involves the prospect of them keeping the asset they acquired around for years to come — while the future’s of LeBron and Isaiah are up in the air, the possibility of Irving signing long-term with Boston seems promising, especially if they make a deep run. I have no evidence to prove that other than the assumption that the Celtics would not have parted with the pieces they did unless they felt optimistic about their chances to keep Kyrie beyond this season. All that being said, I’m still not entirely sold on Kyrie leading a team, but I’m also inclined to believe he’s worth the risk.
Many will write their in-depth analysis’ of the deal in the coming days, quoting a plethora of advanced stats in hopes of crowning some kind of early winner in the deal but I’m going to simply say this: neither team got substantially better, nor did either team get substantially worse following this deal. Obviously, Gordon Hayward makes the Celtics better on paper, but that’s independent of this deal. Both teams will still likely finish in the East’s top-3, quite possibly occupying the top two spots. The drama awaiting us next off-season has not been rocked in any way. Cleveland certainly has affirmed their stance of WIN NOW with the deal – I still believe LeBron walks after next season. The relationship with ownership is tarnished beyond repair, and the acquisition of the 2018 pick is writing on the wall. I don’t think Ainge would give a LeBron-led team a lottery pick. It just seems like all signs point to a 2nd jersey burning ceremony in Cleveland. Get your Osweiler jerseys ready!
So as I gear up for another year long chapter in The Association, I cross my fingers that The Orange and Kim Jong-Cartman don’t nuke us all to hell so we can continue to take in the world’s most compelling soap opera – The NBA.