Cavaliers trade Kyrie Irving to Celtics for Isaiah Thomas in blockbuster deal

August 23, 2017

The Cleveland Cavaliers completed a trade with their primary competition in the Eastern Conference, as the team announced that it acquired All-Star guard Isaiah Thomas, forward Jae Crowder, center Ante Zizic, and the Brooklyn Nets’ 2018 unprotected first round pick from the Boston Celtics in exchange for star point guard Kyrie Irving.

Make no mistake, Irving is the best player in this deal by far, as he is a clutch player and a superior ballhandler who can score in a variety of ways, either from the perimeter or by penetrating and finishing in the lane.

With Irving, free agent acquisition Gordon Hayward, and a collection of promising young players, Boston has vastly upgraded their roster from last season with this point guard swap. They also still have a bundle of future draft picks to help mitigate the impact of trading away the rights to the Nets' pick. The real key to this deal for Boston will be eventually signing Irving to a long-term contract.

Irving (6-3, 193) played in 72 games (all starts) for the Cavaliers in 2016-17, averaging a career-high 25.2 points on .472 shooting, including .401 from beyond the arc, 3.2 rebounds and 5.8 assists in 35.1 minutes. He also shot .905 from the free throw line.

As for Cleveland, Irving's trade demand this summer put the Cavs in a pickle, but give their front office credit for pulling a rabbit out of their hat with this deal.

“This trade needed to include both players and assets that we felt strongly could help us continue to compete for championships and we believe it does,” said Cavs GM Koby Altman. “We look forward to Isaiah, Jae and Ante joining us and also felt that the unprotected first round pick in the deal was very important for us and our future as well.”

Thomas may not be Irving, but he is a very capable replacement.  The lightning-quick Thomas, much like Irving, can make shots from behind the arc, or he can beat his man off the dribble and score in the paint.  Although he can be a defensive liability with his diminutive size, he managed to carry the Celtics on his back this past season, leading them to the best record in the East.

Thomas (5-9, 185) appeared in 76 games (all starts) for the Celtics in 2016-17, averaging a career-high 28.9 points, 2.7 rebounds and 5.9 assists in 33.8 minutes. He finished as the third-leading scorer in the NBA and had the second highest scoring average in Celtics history, trailing only Larry Bird’s 1987-88 mark of 29.9 points.

Thomas also set career highs in field goal percentage (.463), three-point percentage (.379) and free throw percentage (.909, 2nd in NBA) this past season, while setting the team record with 245 three-pointers. An NBA All-Star in each of the last two seasons, Thomas was an All-NBA Second Team selection in 2016-17.

Throw-ins Zizic and Crowder are mere role players, although Crowder figures to be a prominent part of the Cavs rotation due to his energetic play, tough defense, and three-point shooting. Still, the real prize, besides Thomas' ability to offset Irving's loss, is the unprotected first round pick.

A likely lottery selection, the pick gives the Cavs great flexibility for this season or beyond. Cleveland could add another star this year by trading the pick, or could simply draft an elite prospect after the season and go into rebuild mode should LeBron James leave the team next summer.

Crowder (6-6, 235) played in 72 games (all starts) for Boston this past season and averaged 13.9 points on a career-high .463 shooting from the field, including a career-best .398 from three-point range, 5.8 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.0 steal in 32.4 minutes. He also went .811 from the charity stripe, while scoring in double figures on 54 occasions and posting seven double-doubles.

Zizic (7-0, 250), who was selected 23rd overall by the Celtics in the 2016 NBA draft, competed internationally with Darussafaka Dogus Istanbul in Turkey and KK Cibona Zagreb in Croatia last season.

Whether Boston has done enough to surpass the Cavs is another question entirely.  For now, the only certain thing is that the Kyrie Irving era in Cleveland has ended.

“On behalf of the entire franchise, I want to thank Kyrie Irving for the six impressive years he spent in Cleveland wearing the Cavaliers uniform,” said Cavaliers Chairman Dan Gilbert. “From the moment we won the 2011 NBA lottery that put us in position to draft Kyrie to the ‘The Shot’ that sealed our first NBA championship and all of the electrifying play that made him a joy to watch, 'excitement' was always in the air when it came to Kyrie Irving. We wish him and his family well as he moves on to the next phase of his NBA career.”

By Staff of and news services

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