In what has been rumored ever since Kyrie Irving announced his wish to be traded, the Eastern Conference champion Cleveland Cavaliers traded the former Duke point guard to the rival Boston Celtics.
Irving, who averaged a career high in points (25.8) and assists (5.8) while shooting 40 percent from the field, joins a Boston squad that recently added former Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward and has one of the league’s best young coaches in Brad Stevens.
With a new lineup likely to having Irving, Hayward, center Al Horford, shooting guard Jaylen Brown and power forward Marcus Morris, Boston positions itself as Cleveland’s undisputed rival and biggest threat to derailing their semi-annual trip to the NBA Finals.
While it is rare for conference rivals to trade with each other, Boston and Cleveland both helped each other, while nullifying who the real winner is.
But if one has to choose who’d win in a Cavs-Celtics clash, there is only one question that needs to be asked. Which team does LBJ play on?
While losing the distraction of Ky-Leave, Cleveland gets an All-Star point guard in the 5’9 Isaiah Thomas who averaged 28.9 points, 5.9 assists and shot 38 percent from three-point range. And now he gets to team up with LeBron?
In addition to playing alongside James, Thomas will now share the same back court as J.R. Smith, Derrick Rose, Kyle Korver, Jose Calderon—and possibly Dwyane Wade via buyout—in an up-tempo, pace and space system that Tyrone Lue runs, that’ll only maximize his potential.
Cleveland also gets a much-needed wing defender in Jae Crowder, who plays a rugged and brutal style, that’ll also give James a break on the bench, in addition to stretching out and shooting from long-range. The mystery of this deal is who is Ante Zizic, and why was he included.
Zizic, a 6’11, 240-pounder from Croatia, averaged 12.7 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.2 rebounds while being named the 2015-16 Adriatic Basketball Association as it’s top prospect.
Per SB Nation’s Harry Lyles Jr, Zizic is considered part of the “golden generation” of Croatian prospects. Zizic also has a Cleveland connection, as he played under former Cavs head coach David Blatt for Turkish club, Darussafaka Dogus.
So, in addition to getting a shot-blocking Euro player, Thomas, Crowder, their own Euro star in Turkish 6’8 230-pound forward Cedi Osman, Cleveland also gets Boston’s 2018 (unprotected) draft pick via Brooklyn.
In a draft that is expected to have top prospects such as Texas A&M’s Robert Williams, Duke’s Wendell Carter, Michigan State’s Miles Bridges, Real Madrid’s Luka Doncic, Texas’ Mohamed Bamba, Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr. and Duke’s Marvin Bagley, Cleveland will have a chance to have it’s cake and eat it too in the event that James and/or Thomas walk in 2018, in rebuilding quickly around Love.
If by off-chance both stars stay and Cleveland lucks into the No.1 pick in 2018, then Cleveland truly is blessed.
While we don’t who will pick whom when and where, we do know that both Irving and Thomas will begin their eras with their new teams on opening night against one another in Cleveland, in what has quickly escalated into the East’s top rivalry.