By: Taylor Summers
For a brief few moments yesterday, the skies darkened, the temperature dropped, and a creeping, crescent moon became darkness across the United States. Many people traveled thousands of miles, flocking open fields and landmarks to witness one of the universe’s most magnificent marvels. They embraced each other while wearing funky shades or home-made glasses made out of cereal boxes. It was an experience the country desperately needed during a time of crisis.
After a few minutes, the moon continued it’s journey down the Path of Totality, hoping to bring wholeness again to it’s next destination.
And today, so has Kyrie Irving. The man that claimed that the Earth was flat….
The sun is now shining again, and so are the lights on the NBA. About a month after requesting a trade, Uncle Drew was granted his wish. The four-time All-Star was fed up of being overshadowed by the Cavalier Moon, LeBron James, his Mamba Mentality urging him to show the world that he could escape the gravitational pull of the franchise’s biggest star if given the opportunity.
“Finding that balance is one of the toughest things to do because you have so much belief and confidence in yourself. … Selfishly, I always wanted to just show everyone in the whole entire world exactly who I was every single time.” Kyrie Irving
And now he can.
Whatever your stance is on the shape of the Earth, the NBA planet has turned upside down again. The biggest threats to the Warriors out East, two teams that faced each other in last season’s Eastern Conference Finals, have swapped starting point guards (Irving and Isaiah Thomas) along with Cleveland receiving swingman Jae Crowder, rookie center from Croatia Ante Toni Žižić, and arguably the most coveted asset of them all: the rights to Brooklyn’s 2018 first-round draft pick. The Cavaliers loquacious owner, Dan Gilbert, said that he and the front office wanted a haul similar to what Denver received when they traded Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks back in 2011.
Mission accomplished. Jackpot received.
So what does this trade mean for both teams?
For Boston, it’s a huge splash. Irving and Thomas had similar numbers during the regular season last year, both averaging over 25 points, nearly 6 assists, and almost 40% on 3-pointers. It is also the first time that two players averaging more than 25 PPG from the previous season were traded for each other.
However, Boston finally landed the superstar that they coveted after ending their last Big Three Era four years ago when they sent Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Brooklyn Nets (and subsequently letting Ray Allen sign with Miami the year before that). Irving now has the keys to his own car, a player four years younger than Thomas, on a “reasonable” contract for the next two seasons (making a mere $19 million next year), and who is a slightly better defender. (That isn’t saying much; while Isaiah Thomas ranked dead last out of 80 point guards and second to last overall in the league with Defensive Real Plus-Minus statistics, Irving wasn’t much better at 69th out of 80 PGs.)
But Uncle Drew has come through in the clutch on the NBA’s biggest stage, a vicious cross-over, scoring machine that is thrilled to join the Celtics. Along with Al Horford, fellow new All-Star addition Gordon Hayward, and several promising young players to compliment the core, Irving will be determined to take down his former team and the Warriors not only this season, but for many years into the future.
As for Cleveland, you couldn’t ask for a better deal given the circumstances. With LeBron James able to opt-out of his contract next summer (where many expect The King to leave the Cavaliers again) on top of your young, superstar point guard wanting out and not having a GM in place for neither the draft or free agency, they survived a different type of cataclysmic event, at least for the time being.
Isaiah Thomas, a Mighty Mouse that has played bigger than his size, overcame the tragic and sudden passing of his younger sister along with losing one of his front teeth during the playoffs, cementing his legacy in Boston Celtics lore with one of the greatest postseason performances by scoring 53 points against the Wizards in the second round. However, he will be coming off hip surgery, an injury that kept him out of the last three games of the Eastern Conference Finals. Along with his small stature and defensive limitations, he could pose as a liability for the Cavaliers come playoff time.
But if anyone is up for the challenge to prove everyone wrong again, it’s him.
Jae Crowder is also a solid addition. A two-way player that can hit the open three pointer, he’s a perfect player that can switch across many positions on defense. Along with Thomas and Žižić, a young prospect that could become a solid rotational player in the front court, their three combined salaries will be less than Irving’s, too. For a team that has been in salary cap and luxury hell the past few years, this is vital for improving the roster moving forward. And now that Irving is gone, this opens the door for half of the banana boat gang to reunite, pending if Dwayne Wade’s contract is bought out sometime between now and the trade deadline. (Just no tampering, please…)
But that potential Nets lottery pick is what pushed this deal through, one that could be crucial in keeping LeBron James in a Cavaliers uniform after next season. With Marvin Bagley III’s reclassification to the 2017 recruiting class, he and fellow high school sensation Michael Porter Jr. could be the top-two players in the 2018 draft. And if the Cavaliers luck with the ping pong balls continues and they land the No. 1 pick again, it would be the fourth time in eight years Cleveland held the top pick in the draft.
Never before have I seen two conference rivals make a watershed trade like this, especially after only a season removed from battling for a spot to play in the NBA Finals. The solar eclipse may have come and gone, but the lights still shine down the Path of Totality. These two teams look to be on a collision course for the Conference Finals once again, and we won’t have to wait another six-and-a-half years for the next big event.
Less than two months instead. October 17th, at 8 p.m. EST on TNT, to be exact.
Make sure to have your sunglasses (or cereal boxes) ready.