Kyrie Irving got his wish and will be the unquestioned face of the Celtics’ franchise, no longer burdened with playing second fiddle to one of the game’s most transcendent talents. Now paired with prized free-agent signee Gordon Hayward, incumbent Al Horford and some promising young talent, the Celtics have positioned themselves to realistically compete for an NBA title next season.
Still, the deal is largely about LeBron James‘ future. His impending free agency and the rumors that he’s maybe headed to Los Angeles put the Cavaliers in an odd spot. Do they prepare for a future sans the three-time MVP or acquire as much talent as possible in order to persuade James to stay? By acquiring Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and Brooklyn’s 2018 first-round pick from the Celtics for the disgruntled Irving, the Cavs shrewdly did both. They can get back to the NBA Finals for a fourth straight year, while being poised to acquire a franchise-builder in next year’s draft in the event that James bolts for Hollywood.
But what are the ramifications of the trade for everyone else? Here are five people you may not have thought about who will be impacted by this deal.
Marcus Smart: “Is everyone expendable?”
Danny Ainge has proven once again he’s a cold-blooded general manager who is unafraid of major roster upheaval. Since the Celtics last took the hardwood they have turned over an astounding 11 of 15 players on their roster. No longer with the team are Avery Bradley, Gerald Green, Demetrius Jackson, Jonas Jerebko, Amir Johnson, Jordan Mickey, Kelly Olynyk , James Young and Tyler Zeller – in addition to the players involved in the Irving swap. Smart, an impactful role player, has to be worried about his long-term future in Boston. The three-year pro, who seems to always be rumored in trade talks, paired with Bradley and Crowder to establish one of the deepest and versatile teams in the NBA. Now Bradley and Crowder are both gone in order to facilitate the acquiring of “blue chippers” in Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving. With the unpredictable Ainge somehow still owning four first-round picks over the next two years and with coveted young assets on his roster, it’s hard to believe that this is the final vision for the Celtics’ roster.
Dan Gilbert: “This is low-key good for my bottom line.”
Whatever you want to say about Cavaliers owner manager Dan Gilbert, he has been more than willing to open his wallet in recent years to help build a championship-contending team in Cleveland. In the 2016-17 season alone, Gilbert paid a league-high $45 million luxury-tax bill. That immense financial burden may have been the reason Gilbert was unwilling to give former general manager David Griffin a raise this offseason and why he reportedly made a low-ball offer to prospective head of basketball operations Chauncey Billups, who ultimately withdrew his name from consideration. As a result of the Irving trade, the Cavaliers will save about $29.1 million in luxury tax money. Their overall tax is down from $78.4 million to $49.3 million, per ESPN’S Bobby Marks. Even for a man worth $6 billion, this is a significant chunk of change.
Carmelo Anthony: “Cleveland back on the table?”
The fact that Carmelo Anthony is still a member of the Knicks is mind-boggling. After Phil Jackson was ousted as president in New York, Anthony agreed to waive his no-trade clause for the the Cleveland Cavaliers or Houston Rockets. This quickly changed due to the Kyrie Irving saga in Cleveland – with Anthony saying he would exclusively waive his no-trade clause for the Rockets. For about the past three weeks, it has been almost a foregone conclusion that Anthony would be joining Chris Paul and James Harden in Houston, but things change fast in the NBA. The Irving drama is now no longer an issue in Cleveland, making it likely Anthony, who has made it clear he wants out of New York, would again be willing to agree to a deal that would unite him with Banana Boat buddy LeBron.
Kevin Love: “More touches?”
Kevin Love has become a relatively forgotten man for the Cavaliers over the past three years. Not too long ago, just a year before joining Cleveland, Love was able to dominate the low block and average gaudy numbers of 26 points and 12.5 rebounds per game for the Timberwolves. Recently, the four-time All-Star has largely been relied on for his unique ability to space the floor from the power forward position while Cleveland’s playmakers get into the lane. Although the newly acquired Thomas is also a prolific scorer who needs the ball in his hands, the diminutive guard does not possess the same transcendent one-on-one scoring ability as Irving. Come playoff time the Cavaliers will need more production from Love to fill this void. As a result, it’s likely Love will be integrated as a bigger focal point of the offense throughout the regular season, as well. Look for Love to average his highest volume of attempts in his Cavaliers tenure during the 2017-18 season.
Koby Altman: “This may not be that hard after all.”
When David Griffin shockingly exited as Cavs GM this offseason after assembling a team that reached three straight NBA Finals, Koby Altman began running the front office on an interim basis following the NBA draft. The 34-year-old, who started working for the Cavaliers in 2012, was soon promoted to full-time general manger and immediately thrown into the fire of dealing with Irving’s surprising trade demand. An inexperienced decision-maker, coupled with a frustrated star, had many wondering if Altman was capable of dealing with such a chaotic and unstable time for the organization. Altman had minimal leverage in trading Irving, but was still able to acquire an All-Star guard (Thomas), a proven wing on one of the best contracts in basketball (Crowder), and a big-man prospect (Zizic), in addition to Brooklyn’s first-round pick. Any questions regarding Altman’s player-personnel acumen can effectively be put to rest.