By: Dylan Porcaro
The Kyrie Irving trade is officially complete; the blockbuster deal has finally gone through. Although Danny Ainge and the Celtics were the first team to blink as they gave up a 2020 second round pick, I think throwing in the sweetener was the right move. Kyrie Irving is not only a better player than Isaiah Thomas, he’s also only 25 years old. This was a deal that Danny had to get done, so I give him credit for giving up the second round pick and not trying to be stubborn (as most GMs would’ve).
Don’t get me wrong, Isaiah Thomas was great for this franchise and helped speed the rebuilding process up drastically. He had an absolutely unreal season, and displayed what it truly means to be a Celtic. I’m sure he’s upset and angry right now, but assuming he’s healthy enough to put up good numbers next season, he’s entering an even better situation. He’s undoubtedly closer to winning a championship now that he’s on Cleveland with LeBron. At the same time, he will be able to hit the market at the end of the season and find the best deal possible. If he had remained on the Celtics, he may have settled for a below market deal because of his love for the team/city. Again, this is assuming that he is healthy this year and puts up good numbers, which I expect. When Isaiah is able to get over the trade, he will realize that this actually puts him in a better spot for his future.
Now for the Celtics, it appears that Ainge is executing a perfect plan for Boston to become a legitimate championship contender. Back in 2007, Ainge acquired both Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to form a big 3 alongside Paul Pierce. His intentions were obviously to enter a “win now” mode to instantly start competing for titles. In their first year together, the Celtics won the championship in 2008 for the first time in 22 years. As competitive as they were the next few years after that, I’d argue that the Celtics progressively got worse each season after that leading up to the huge Brooklyn trade. Yes, Ainge was successful in the ultimate goal of hanging up banner 17, but in a market like Boston, you want multiple banners.
This time around, it appears Danny is preparing for just that. This offseason, the Celtics have added Jayson Tatum, Gordon Hayward, and Kyrie Irving. On top of that, they already have Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, and Terry Rozier. I wouldn’t say they are necessarily in win now mode, but they will remain competitive while at the same time building towards the future. They have 2 legitimate superstars in Hayward and Iriving, and a former all-star in Al Horford. Tatum and Brown seem to be promising, while the other assets should contribute more this year as well. This team is designed to get better each year and eventually remain at a high level as the players enter their primes (Irivng and Hayward; maybe Tatum/Brown?), instead of the 2008 team that decreased as time went on.
The Celtics have a few different options on how they want to make the jump to actually being able to beat the Warriors. I leave out the Cavaliers because after this year, I fully expect LeBron to leave for the Lakers, giving Boston a clear path to the Finals. In order to beat Golden State any time soon, Boston would need to package about 5 of their remaining assets for Anthony Davis. That probably would mean the 2-5 protected Lakers’ pick, Brown, Tatum, Smart, and filler to make the contracts work (probably Horford). In my opinion, giving up the pick along with Tatum and Brown is a lot and almost too much. With that said, it should take a plethora of assets to acquire a top 5 player in Davis. If the Celtics don’t go that route, they pretty much will depend on either Brown or Tatum (or both) to develop into an all-star, which is extremely possible and some would even say likely. Another angle to look at this is that while all of the Celtics besides Horford are entering their primes, the Warriors will be starting to get older and running into money problems. I believe that as long as they want to they can keep the core together (KD, Curry, Klay, Green), however it will cause them to go deep into the luxury tax and will affect the quality of the supporting cast around them.
Regardless of how it all turns out in the long run, Boston is receiving a transformative player in Kyrie Irving. Under Brad Stevens, I think he could have the best season of his career so far in 2018. He will benefit from the system just like Isaiah did, maybe in an even bigger way. It will be interesting to see the Celtics and Cavaliers face off on October 11th in Kyrie’s return to Cleveland, I’m sure it will be a good one.