Uncle Drew (officially) got his wish.
Wednesday saw the NBA’s splashiest offseason trade finally come to a close as Cleveland’s 4-time All-Star was shipped up to Boston for Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, and (according to reports) a reasonably healthy Isaiah Thomas. The Cavs also made off with Brooklyn’s unprotected 2018 1st-round pick, along with a 2020 2nd-round pick on top of it all to sweeten the pot. In other words, you can put away your fire extinguishers, jersey burners. This thing is happening.
The deal makes both teams better. Here’s why:
- The Celtics got the best player. Plain and simple. At just 25, Kyrie Irving is already a top-15 player in the league and the best on-ball offensive player I’ve ever seen (gasp). With unparalleled ball handling skills and a game less reliant on body-bruising drives than Thomas’, Irving gives the Celtics a more polished version of their former point guard to play alongside newly acquired SF Gordon Hayward, who’s better suited as first mate instead of captain of Boston’s ship. Although I have concerns about how the ISO-heavy Irving fits into Boston’s free flowing offense, he’s still the best player Brad Stevens will have had the luxury of grooming in his 4-year NBA career. His arrival unquestionably elevates this team.
- For the Cavaliers, the key thing to remember is that (SPOILER ALERT) LeBron James is still the best player in the NBA, so bringing Thomas into the fold lets the King take center stage. In some ways, Irving was almost too talented to fit within Cleveland’s star-studded roster, so the prospect of seeing James fully enabled by complementary pieces rather than hindered by clamoring sidekicks is appealing from a fan’s perspective. The addition of Jae Crowder also gives Cleveland the perimeter defense it badly needed, and a nice role player who can score when called upon.
Ultimately, I still like Cleveland as the favorite to come out of the East. Boston may have the better, and younger all around roster on paper, but if there’s anything I’ve learned from watching the King’s 14-year reign, it’s to never bet against him.