Why The Boston Celtics Won The Blockbuster Trade


Kyrie Irving requested a trade from Cleveland, and his wish has been granted. Whether or not the rumors about him no longer wanting to play with LeBron James were true, Kyrie will now find himself playing against LeBron on opening night. The Cavs will host the Celtics in a rematch of the Eastern Conference Finals October 17th, on TNT.

Danny Ainge has been under scrutiny all summer for both the trades he made, as well as the trades he did not make. Boston didn’t trade for Jimmy Butler or Paul George, and they didn’t sign Paul Millsap or Blake Griffin. But the Celtics patience paid dividends and shook up the NBA just as we thought summer might be over.

Speculation over what Ainge would decide to do with the valuable 2017 and 2018 Brooklyn Nets 1st round draft picks ran rampant leading up to, and even the night of, the draft. Boston surprised a lot of people when they traded the first overall pick in this year’s draft to Philadelphia for the third pick and a 2018 1st round pick. The Sixers drafted Fultz, as expected, and the Celtics drafted Tatum, whom Ainge claimed he would have taken first anyway even though no one really believes him.

Initial reaction around the league seemed to be that this was an L for Ainge (who rarely takes L’s). But regardless if he really felt Tatum was worthy of #1, this trade gave Boston an additional lottery pick next season, and the flexibility to move the 2018 Nets 1st round pick. An underrated aspect of this week’s trade is that Danny Ainge may have possibly traded the worse of the two 2018 picks that the Celtics owned.

The 2018 1st round pick that Boston still owns the rights to is the Lakers pick if it falls in spots 2-5 (it is protected for picks 1 and 6-30, for some reason). If the Lakers pick hits the protected spots, then Boston would receive the more favorable draft pick between Philadelphia and Sacramento, both picks protected for #1. So if Brooklyn winds up with a pick outside of the top 6, then Boston will likely have kept the better of their two 2018 lottery picks.

All that is just an appetizer as to why this trade is a win for the Celtics. The main course is Kyrie Irving. Kyrie is 25 years old and is coming off the best season of his career. In 2016-17, Irving scored, damn near, 26 points per game, a career high. He accomplished this shooting 47% FG, 40% 3FG, and 90% FT, the best splits of his career. Kyrie is a superstar who just entered his prime. This is the type of player you trade stockpiled assets for.

There is also this.

“I’m a max guy. I deserve the max… my time is coming, they know they’ve got to bring the Brinks truck.”

Isaiah Thomas is a free agent next season and famously stated that he has earned a “Brinks truck” full of cash, a.k.a a max offer that would likely exceed $30 million in the first season. Kyrie is under contract for 2 more years, with a player option for 2019-20. And has already stated that he would love to sign an extension to stay in Boston.

This move makes Boston a stronger team for the next 5+ years than they could have been if they had kept IT, Crowder, and the pick. Irving and Hayward have the potential to put Boston in position to start winning titles whenever the Warriors are done winning titles. And that is what this is really about. There are a few teams this season capable of knocking off Golden State, but it would take an almost ridiculous amount of things to go their way to be possible, in my opinion. Houston could outshoot them, San Antonio could Klaw them, and LeBron could LeBron them. That is about it.

Maybe Boston will be good enough this year to end LeBron’s reign over the East and get to the Finals. I would still pick Golden State to win that, assuming no injuries. There is a chance that James may head West after this season, to Los Angeles, and leave a void atop the East. This Celtics team with Irving and Hayward are better positioned to seize that throne, and retain it for years, then a team that had to pay IT the supermax would have been.

The acquisition of Irving also helps validate Boston’s decision to pass on Markelle Fultz in June. The combination of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum lit up a lot of Celtics’ fans eyes in Summer League, and hold a lot of promise for the future. Whether or not either is able to be key pieces for a title contender within the next few seasons remains to be seen.

It is true the Celtics lost a lot of their core this offseason, with Avery Bradley and now Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder. Bradley and Crowder are both huge losses on the defensive end, and in the locker room. The team will rely more on veterans Al Horford and Gordon Hayward for locker room leadership, and seasoned Celtic Marcus Smart to set the tone on defense. Both Hayward and Marcus Morris should help to lessen the blow defensively of losing Crowder.

All in all, I expect it to take a bit for Boston’s new roster to mesh, as it generally does for newly assembled teams in the NBA. But having Brad Stevens at the helm will ease that process. Stevens is one of, if not the best, X’s and O’s coach in the entire league. Last season the Celtics were top 10 in points scored, offensive rating, effective fg%, and real shooting %. They were also third in the league in three pointers made.

While Boston may have taken a slight step back in terms of their overall defensive talent this offseason, I believe they took a big step forward offensively. Kyrie’s skill set, while comparable to Isaiah, is more advanced. Kyrie has a larger arsenal of tools to beat defenders, and is younger and still getting better. Hayward is an obvious upgrade offensively over Crowder. Once Hayward and Irving get acclimated, I think Boston could have an offensive efficiency that rivals Houston and Golden State.

Overall, the Celtics did give up a lot to get Irving. But that’s the price it takes to acquire a superstar in his prime. In 2007, nobody questioned Boston for giving up a king’s ransom to acquire Kevin Garnett. That trade worked out pretty well for them, and this one will be better.

Now, see why we also think the Cleveland Cavaliers have potentially won the trade.


About Preston Dubey

Lifelong basketball fanatic and Bucks' supporter I coach basketball; but I eat, sleep, and breathe the game.

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