Who won the Cavaliers–Celtics trade?

August 23, 2017

By Asha Doucet

Determining who got the better end of the Kyrie Irving, Isaiah Thomas trade is a matter of thinking short-term or long-term.

The Cleveland Cavaliers traded Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, center Ante Zizic and the Brooklyn Nets’ 2018 first-round pick.

At face value the blockbuster trade was a wash for the Cavaliers and the Celtics. Irving and Thomas are essentially even guards in terms of their star power, clutchness and overall effectiveness. However, Kyrie’s height, handles and explosiveness elevate him over Thomas individually. But considering the Cavaliers also got Crowder in the trade, the deal was equally beneficial.

If the trade is viewed in terms of the now and the future, then winners and losers can be determined.

Short-term Winner: Celtics

The addition of Irving to Boston is an upgrade at the point guard position even if not a major one. The Celtics and the Cavaliers both view Irving as the better PG overall, however, or the Cavs wouldn’t have gotten so much for him in return. That being said, Irving’s higher talent level to go along with Gordon Hayward, Al Horford, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Morris and even rookie Jayson Tatum make last year’s No. 1 seed in the East even better. With such a talented mix of tested veterans and young prospects, Boston has a serious chance of dethroning Cleveland.

Because Kyrie is only under contract for two more years with no guarantee he’ll re-sign with Boston, all the Celtics’ chips are on making a move in the East now. Especially because they lost a future first-round pick in the trade.

Long-term Winner: Cavaliers

The Cavs just traded away a four-time All-Star and arguably the clutchest point guard in the NBA but Isaiah Thomas is certainly no scrub and was an MVP candidate last season.

To go along with Thomas, Cleveland got additional pieces. But the added value the Cavs received isn’t as beneficial in the now as the could be in the future.

For starters, center Ante Zizic is a rookie and shouldn’t be expected to contribute much out of the gate, so his value will come later once he develops.

Second, Cleveland got a steal by acquiring the Celtics’ 2018 unprotected first-round pick by way of the Nets. That first rounder could easily be a top-three selection, which includes a potential No. 1 overall pick. That value alone could justify trading Irving who made it very clear he was no longer interested in a career playing alongside LeBron James.

But the biggest upside of the trade has to be the message it sends to LeBron. Cavs’ new General Manager Koby Altman’s first deal not only got equal value for a talent the likes of Irving but also put Cleveland in a great position moving forward.

The trade package shows James the team is willing to build for the future.

Having a new young center and a future first-round pick in 2018 may be just enough to get LeBron to stay. If he opts to sign elsewhere anyway, the Cavaliers would still be in position for a bright rebuild.

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