The potential Cleveland Cavaliers–Boston Celtics trade centered around Kyrie Irving will affect both the present and future of each organization. The Cavs got a great return, receiving All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas, combo forward Jae Crowder, Brooklyn’s unprotected 2018 first-round pick and an additional 2020 second-round pick.
The Cavs felt Boston wasn’t thorough on Thomas’s hip injury in trade talks, so they were able to leverage even more of a haul in the trade. They now have more assets to improve the roster in the future, while maintaining the talent level to make it to the Finals a fourth straight year — despite improving Boston’s chance of winning the East. Cleveland also might not be done dealing and trying to improve the roster, either.
What could Cleveland do from here to improve the roster? Are there more moves to make as the season approaches? Potentially obtaining next year’s top pick might entice LeBron into staying in Cleveland beyond next season. What are the options for Cleveland as it prepares for a possible LeBron James departure while trying to catch up to the Golden State Warriors?
The Cavs could trade the pick in a package to improve the roster. What type of return could Cleveland get if it went that route? What would an offer of, say, Kevin Love and the 2018 Brooklyn pick get in return? If things go south for teams like the New Orleans Pelicans (DeMarcus Cousins), Oklahoma City Thunder (Paul George) or Memphis Grizzlies (Marc Gasol), the Cavs could look to make a play for another star. There’s a lot of upside for what Cleveland could obtain to retool the roster.
Of course, a trade could also hurt the chances that LeBron will stay for the long haul, depending on the return. Ditching their best future asset seems like the riskiest play, especially given the talent at the top of next year’s draft. It’s incredibly likely the Brooklyn pick will land in the top five in 2018, which will give Cleveland a centerpiece to build around in a post-LeBron world.
If Brooklyn does land the top pick and LeBron does decide to leave Cleveland again, it’d be tough to pass on combo forward Michael Porter Jr., who would fit perfectly in LeBron’s place in the starting lineup and offers a very high ceiling. Porter has the size, athletic ability and shooting skill to thrive in today’s new-age NBA, and should develop into a top offensive option at the next level:
If LeBron does decide to stay, I could envision the Cavs drafting Marvin Bagley with the top pick. He’d be a perfect complementary piece to LeBron, given his defensive upside, mobility and athletic ability for a 6-11 big man. He’s not quite ready to be a top option offensively, but could take the time to develop his offensive repertoire with a lesser workload. Defensively, he’ll immediately be a great asset with his lateral quickness and shot-blocking ability.
Of course, if the pick does land outside the (likely) top two picks, there will still be solid options among the top five that should bring Cleveland talent to build around. Big men DeAndre Ayton and Mohamed Bamba bring substantial length, athletic ability and offensive upside as true 7-footers. Point-forward Luka Doncic is extremely skilled and an improved shooter, bringing versatility and playmaking acumen as a potential top-five pick:
There are still questions on how ready Thomas will be for the regular season. His hip injury could linger into the season, and would that hurt Cleveland’s chances of landing the top seed in the East for a second straight year? Luckily, they still signed Derrick Rose as insurance, and he can more than hold his own as a starter for a longer period of time assuming he’s healthy.
Regardless, the Cavaliers did very well in the trade, assuming it still goes through with similar parameters. As long as the Celtics don’t add Jayson Tatum to the mix, the deal will set up a future core of Irving, Gordon Hayward, Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Cleveland will get great contracts, an All-Star and a likely future All-Star with the Nets’ pick.
New Cavs general manager Koby Altman seemingly hit a home run with the deal, but the work is just beginning. If he can somehow turn this Irving situation into a long-term success for the organization, it’ll be amazing considering the situation the Cavs inhabited.
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