By: Zachary Singletary
How’d We End Up Here?
When news of a trade request by Kyrie Irving became public knowledge, many basketball fans began to wonder about a potential break up of Akron’s title bringing duo. In case you’re somewhat late to the party, let’s recap how we got to Irving as a Celtic in this massive summer shake up. Brian Windhorst, an ESPN contributor most known for his following of LeBron James, first reported the news of a friction between the two Cavalier stars. Most of that friction seemed to be appearing because of Irving’s desire to “not play with LeBron”, and to be a focal point of his own team (Windhorst). In terms of Kyrie’s wishes, this change of scenery could be very positive to his career and his happiness with his own legacy.
Kyrie’s Dream Comes True….Sort of
The above image depicts Kyrie next to a list of four different teams. The four teams are teams that various sources, from Brian Windhort, to the Woj himself Adrian Wojnarowski. With very little digging we can see that the Boston Celtics were not one of the teams he originally preferred. The Cavs decision to make the trade in spite of this will be covered a little later. In terms of how this deal fits Kyrie. In terms of being a true offensive focal point, Irving has a good chance of leading this Celtics team. A Horford-Irving pick and roll offense seems to maximize the duos shooting. A backcourt of Marcus Smart and Kyrie has potential, as Smart’s defensive abilities compliment Irving’s offensive oriented game. Gordon Hayword is projected by many to play the 3 in his college coach’s current system. And his catch and shot game mixed with defensive potential mixes well again with Irving’s strengths as a point guard. The biggest knock on this deal from the Celtics perspective is losing a defensively skilled wing in Jae Crowder to the trade. The Celtics seem to be relying on the young duo of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum to feel the void. Despite some questions about depth and defensive ability, this partnership between Irving and the Boston Celtics seems to work well.
Cavaliers Reloading, not Rebuilding
LeBron James’ stretch of dominance over the Eastern conference is historic, and the reign doesn’t seem to be slowing down. With an eye on 2018’s free agency, the Cavaliers made the right move for now and for the future of the franchise. Adding a play maker, and noted fourth quarter magician Isaiah Thomas to a Cavs roster built with pick and pop marksmen, as well as the King himself, bodes will for continued offensive dominance. Jae Crowder realistically could start for this team, depending on their infatuation with Kevin Love. If Love is slated to remain in the starting line up, Crowder offers value off the bench as a wing who can play both the 3 and the 4. While Thomas may hurt the Cavs defensively, something the Warriors and other super powered teams in the league can certainly take advantage of. The addition of Crowder lessens the blow, as does remembering that despite Kyrie’s offensive excellence, he’s never particularly been the best defender. Ultimately this trade seems to have been won by Cleveland, as it addressed both team culture needs, and personnel needs. It actually may be Crowder who ends up being the crown jewel of this return for Kyrie.
So is There a Shake Up?
As a personal fan of Kyrie, and trades like these meant to shake the landscape of the NBA, the simple answer is no there isn’t. The Celtics have certainly made strides in the right direction. Adding a two young stars to create a nucleus of Irving-Hayward-Horford was a positive step to long term success in the East. The simple fact being that Kyrie alone, on top of players they’ve lost, the gap between the Celtics and Cavs does not seem to have moved that much. Let’s also remember that last years Celtic’s team did win the East, but were outmatched heavily in the playoffs. This decision may prove fruitful though, as LeBron’s second departure from Ohio seems much more imminent. But until the King leaves, the East is pretty much his. Until proven otherwise the Cavaliers, with LeBron James, have earned the benefit of the doubt on their dominance of the East. While the loss of a beloved Kyrie Irving may hurt Cavs fans early on, the addition of crowd favorite Isaiah Thomas should lessen that blow. Isaiah plays hard and should become a fan favorite in the city of Akron. Crowder’s importance was nearly beaten to death in previous sections, so for the wrap up I’ll just say this is the piece that helps with their ultimate goal of Cavs-Warriors part four.