The Cleveland Cavaliers have gone from reigning NBA champions to the sports equivalent of a nuclear meltdown in a matter of months.
To start, there are a series of rumors swirling around the team regarding LeBron James’ looming departure at season’s end, followed by the league shattering news that Kyrie Irving no longer wants to play in Cleveland. While it appears as though the majority of Cleveland’s proposed trades center around the Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks, Boston has a pretty fair shot at landing the blossoming superstar. However, it would be no easy task.
As of right now, the Celtics’ contracts are virtually stacked one on top the other, leaving the Celtics with little-to-no cap space. This is largely the biggest deterrent to the Celtics success in the near future, because as of right now, Isaiah Thomas will only earn $6.26 million in this upcoming season. However, after this season, Thomas has already expressed his interest in signing a max deal that would put him somewhere in the $35-40 million per year range.
Enter Irving, a player who, as of right now, is earning $12 million more than Thomas. With that said, Irving won’t enter unrestricted free agency until 2020, and until then he’ll be skating the $20 million. Now, of course Irving could demand a contract extension and renegotiate his contract before signing, but as it stands, he would certainly be a better long-term solution than Thomas.
Still, it’s obvious that the Cavaliers would only be willing to part with Irving in exchange for some sort of a package deal, so the Celtics wouldn’t be able to just make the straight up trade for Isaiah Thomas alone.
So, the Celtics would almost certainly have to continue sacrificing their already anemic perimeter defense by throwing in someone like Jae Crowder, Marcus Smart or Jaylen Brown, on top of one of their future draft picks acquired by previous trades. Whether that be the Brooklyn Nets 2018 draft pick, or the Los Angeles Lakers/Sacramento Kings protected pick they acquired from the Philadelphia 76ers.
Nonetheless, what can Irving contribute to the Celtics that they don’t already possess?
Consistent scoring and a surefire spark when the Celtics need automatic offense, even to a degree that Thomas can’t already. But, Irving greatest contribution can be instilling a championship mentality into a team lacking championship pedigree. Irving may fit the mold of many contemptible phrases, ranging from “ball-hog” to “injury prone”, but it would be audacious to deny him of his status as one of the league’s few great championship performers at the point guard position. His time with James, absorbing his work ethic and the mindset required to go to three straight Finals would be invaluable to a budding Boston team looking to make huge waves next season.