When the Cleveland Cavaliers decided to trade Kyrie Irving to Eastern Conference rivals the Boston Celtics, many were surprised that they were willing to do business with a team they are likely to be battling for a place in the finals this season.
But after Irving requested a move, the Cavs felt they had no option but to accept the offer put on the table by Boston as it included some valuable players.
Unsurprisingly, Kyrie and Isaiah Thomas were the focus of attention in the trade but the addition of Jae Crowder cannot go unnoticed.
The 27-year-old has developed into one of the best defenders in the league and having performed horribly on that end of the floor last year, Cleveland sees his arrival as a potential game-changer.
The acquisition of Crowder was so crucial that it convinced Dwyane Wade to sign with the Cavaliers after securing a buyout from the Chicago Bulls.
Many believed his decision was purely focused on the chance to play with former teammate and close friend LeBron James again and compete for a championship, but the veteran admits the presence of Crowder was a key reason.
“For me, one of the most important parts of the trade was getting Jae Crowder as a defender,” Wade said, according to cleveland.com’s Joe Vardon.
“I think it definitely came together at the right time. I think if I would have gotten bought out (in June), I don’t know. Things could’ve been different for me.”
“That was huge … Because if you look at it, when Kyrie was here … I was like if you go there who’s gonna guard? You don’t want to be a 35-year-old having to guard everybody every night.”
The cynics will construe this as a dig at Irving for his poor defence but due to the team’s overall defensive frailties last season, he’s simply pointing out the importance of adding another player who can contribute effectively on that end.
Before acquiring Crowder, the only above-average defenders the franchise had were LeBron James, Tristan Thompson, J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert.
But it would be a discredit to the small forward to just label him as a defender as he improved his offensive game considerably during his time with the Celtics under Brad Stevens.
As a starter in Beantown, he averaged 14.0 points per game, 5.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.4 steals per game while shooting 45.2 percent from the field and 36.9 percent from three-point range.
He may be the underrated player in this summer’s blockbuster trade but he could play a pivotal role in helping the Wine and Gold win another championship.