Cavaliers trade Kyrie Irving to Celtics for package including Isaiah Thomas

Cleveland Cavaliers v Boston Celtics - Game One

Kyrie Irving’s trade request was one of the major storylines of the NBA offseason. 

After playing all six seasons of his pro career as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers, various reports came out that attempted to explain the reasons for Irving’s request. Most of them centered around teammate LeBron James, who hogged the spotlight in Cleveland. Now, after weeks of conjecture by the media and basketball fans alike, Irving’s story took a drastic turn.

On Tuesday evening, he was traded to the Boston Celtics in exchange for a package that includes point guard Isaiah Thomas, versatile forward Jae Crowder, 20-year-old center Ante Zizic and the coveted 2018 first-round draft pick of the Brooklyn Nets as reported by Shams Charania of The Vertical.

Last season, Irving averaged 25.2 points, 3.2 rebounds and 5.8 assists during 72 regular-season games for the Cavs before posting 25.9 points, 2.8 rebounds and 5.3 assists during his team’s playoff run. As a member of the “Big Three” in Cleveland alongside of LeBron and Kevin Love, Irving helped lead the franchise to three-straight NBA Finals appearances and a championship in 2016.

Judging by his career averages of 21.6 points, 3.4 assists and 5.6 assists along with a Rookie of the Year award, four All-Star honors and an NBA title, it’s easy to make the claim that he’s on the trajectory towards a Hall of Fame career.

2017 NBA Finals - Game Four

However, it seemed as though he wasn’t budging on his request, even after LeBron reportedly met with him for a face-to-face discussion last week.

As a result of the trade, the Celtics have some impressive options for their starting five this season. With Irving at the point, either Marcus Smart or Jaylen Brown will play shooting guard, newcomer Gordon Hayward will take over at small forward, rookie Jayson Tatum or veteran Marcus Morris will likely start at the four and skilled big man Al Horford will assume the center spot.

In return, the back-to-back-to-back Eastern Conference champion Cavs will receive the 5’9” Thomas in his contract season. Although the threat of him leaving after one season in Cleveland is real since he has publicly demanded a max deal next summer, Cleveland will receive a dynamic offensive player who put up a career-high 28.9 points along with 5.9 assists over 76 regular-season games before posting 23.3 points and 6.7 per contest during Boston’s failed playoff run.

Boston Celtics v Washington Wizards - Game Three

Boston’s willingness to trade him despite his clear love for the city and organization likely hinged on two factors: his contract status and the liability that he posed on the defensive end of the floor due to his size. At numerous points in the season, including in the playoffs, opposing teams took advantage of his diminutive stature, which nullified his offensive dominance.

Additionally, the Cavs will receive Crowder, who proved himself as one of the best defensive wings in the NBA over the past couple seasons. With the ability to guard either forward position as well as anyone on the perimeter, Crowder also chipped in offensively, averaging 13.9 points along with 5.8 rebounds over 72 regular-season games and 13.6 points and 6.4 boards in the playoffs. He will likely come off the bench for Cleveland, but based on matchups, could be a very useful addition, especially against the Golden State Warriors and their famed small-ball lineup.

The 20-year-old Zizic does not have any NBA experience and was one of Ainge’s draft-and-stash picks last summer. He spent the 2016-2017 season playing for Darussafaka Dogus in the Euroleague where he averaged 9.0 points and 6.7 rebounds in 21.9 minutes per game. In recent Summer League play, however, he showed some real promise on the interior, thus making him an attractive project for the Cavaliers.

Cleveland Cavaliers v Boston Celtics - Game One

The 2018 first-round pick of the Nets also has the potential to be a major building block for Cleveland. As seen earlier this summer, the Celtics received the No. 1 overall pick based on the fact that they owned Brooklyn’s 2017 first rounder. If the rumors of LeBron leaving Cleveland end up being true, that pick might provide an opportunity for the organization to land the top talent in the upcoming draft class while salvaging the rest of their solid roster.

The Cavaliers will likely start Thomas at the point, free agent signee and former MVP Derrick Rose at the two, LeBron, Love and Thompson while Crowder should play major minutes off the pine.

As a whole, both teams benefitted from the trade. Boston received an equally-dominant offensive player in Irving, who at 25 years old (three years younger than Thomas) can be the face of the franchise through not only the next two seasons when he will be under contract, but also through the entirety of a maximum extension that he can sign in the summer of 2020, when he will likely opt out of the final year of his current deal. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, Irving is already open to the idea of signing an extension in Boston.

Boston Celtics v Cleveland Cavaliers - Game Four

Based on Boston’s depth, they will be able to compensate for losing Crowder as well, as the team will rely on Hayward, Tatum and Morris to play major minutes at the three and four among others. Paying a 5’9” point guard a max deal that would have taken him into his mid-30’s wasn’t a viable option for Ainge and the C’s.

Cleveland will most likely be treating the upcoming season with a do-or-die mentality. LeBron is rumored to be interested in leaving next summer, Rose is on a one-year veteran’s minimum and now Thomas is in the final year of his current deal, making it perfectly clear that he will receive the max deal in free agency. Therefore, adding Thomas and Crowder to an already-talented roster from a pure basketball sense will likely be an upgrade over the singular Irving. The presence of Zizic and the Nets’ first-rounder in the deal also set them up for the future if LeBron decides to leave.

Boston Celtics v Cleveland Cavaliers - Game Two

If you weren’t ready for the upcoming NBA season, this trade most likely got you fired up. Oh, and if you were wondering, the two teams open the regular season on October 17 against each other in Cleveland and will also match up on January 3 and February 11.

Those were already going to be some of the best games of the season. Now, given the trade, they will be must-watch events.

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