There is no question that the Cleveland Cavaliers won the trade with the Boston Celtics. The question is, how badly did the Celtics overpay? After months of hemming and hawing and hoarding their precious assets, the Celtics gave up a bunch of them for Kyrie Irving.
Now, I’m not saying the Celtics didn’t get something great in return. They got a guy who hit a game-winner in game 7 of the NBA Finals against a 73-win team. They got a young, popular superstar under contract for two more seasons. Kyrie and the Celtics have a legitimate shot to become the first Eastern Conference team to bounce LeBron James from the playoffs since the Boston Celtics in 2010. Even if they do, they still paid so much to get him.
Let’s start with 27-year old Jae Crowder. He has 3-years left on his contract at $7 million a year. He started 90 games for a 1-seed last season. He is better than every single player that the Indiana Pacers and Chicago Bulls got in exchange for Paul George and Jimmy Butler and he’s basically a throw-in. Crowder was a sticking point that kept the Celtics from acquiring Butler during the season. That was 6 months ago. In June the Celtics reportedly wouldn’t include a Brooklyn pick in a deal for Butler.
The Celtics also claimed to have offered multiple first round picks for Paul George… after George was traded to the Thunder for a package the Celtics could have easily topped. Did they really? Were the Pacers hell-bent on getting Paul George out of the East? Sure. Maybe. That’s resulted in a big win for the Cavs.
Cleveland somehow ended up with the Brooklyn Nets’ 2018 1st round pick. A pick that was previously one of Boston’s untouchable assets along with the 2017 Nets pick and Jaylen Brown. The ’17 pick turned into Jayson Tatum. The Cavaliers reportedly only wanted to deal with the Celtics if Tatum were part of the package for Kyrie. Instead they got the 2018 pick which could very easily turn into an even better player and surer prospect in the deeper ’18 Draft.
So it sounds like any part of the Irving deal could have landed Jimmy Butler who compares incredibly favorably to Kyrie statistically and contractually. Butler is also a better defender and would have allowed the Celtics to draft an even younger and potentially better point guard (Markelle Fultz or Lonzo Ball) instead of Jayson Tatum.
As for the Cavaliers, they would have been happy with the Celtics or Lakers pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. The Cavaliers own their own ’18 1st rounder, but their ’19 first is already gone. They didn’t have any picks this year. They rarely have any picks when LeBron is on the roster because they’re busy making minor upgrades in hopes they can compete. Now they made a minor downgrade at point guard, shook up the roster and added a legitimate starter. And they got a legitimate asset in the process. And the Cavaliers saved a bunch of money in the deal.
This was a slam dunk at every turn for Cleveland and they were the ones with the guy who wanted to leave. There’s a chance that Isaiah Thomas’ hip is a problem and the Cavaliers let him walk after the season. LeBron was leaving anyway and they’re left with a solid NBA starter on a good contract in Jae Crowder and a two 1st round picks next summer – including what could be the top pick. Even if the Cavs lose this trade, they won.
It seems like the Celtics missed on other trades and then panicked and overpaid for Irving. Were the Phoenix Suns really going to give up Eric Bledsoe, Josh Jackson and other assets for Kyrie? Did anyone make an offer after Paul George and Jimmy Butler were traded for nothing? A week ago there was no market for superstars. Now the Celtics gave up an MVP candidate, a starter, an international prospect and a top pick for one? This was a panic move by Boston and an improbable win for the Cavaliers who now might have a chance to keep LeBron which would be another loss for the Celtics.