Almost 2 months after Free Agency began, THE deal of the 2017 off-season has finally been pulled off. By now, we have all heard of Kyrie Irving getting traded to Boston for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the 2018 Brooklyn pick. Whether you agree with the deal or not, there were many reasons why this deal had to get done on both ends.
It’s time to play the famous “what if” game. Now we can officially ask “What if the Celtics kept Isaiah and Cleveland kept Kyrie?” Well, let’s start with some key reasons Boston had to make this deal…
We’ve all heard it. Isaiah was expecting the Celtics front office to “back up the Brink’s Truck” this off-season, and he seemed pretty intent on getting a max deal. Bringing it up multiple times in interviews and posing with custom-made Brinks’s Truck sandals has shown he is intent on taking nothing less than a max deal.
So let’s say Boston ends up paying him a max deal as he was asking for. I’d say it would be in the 4-year, $150 million range. Boston would then have three players on max deals, which means their cap space becomes even tighter. Celtics fans can pretty much say goodbye to Marcus Smart, Jae Crowder, Terry Rozier and just about any other hopeful trade or free agent-signing. With the I.T. max deal, Boston would have a roster similar to the Cavs, one loaded with rookies and veteran minimum contracts. Does that roster have the ability to win a championship? Probably not.
So now, hypothetically, Boston has Isaiah locked up for another 4 years. There are some Celtics fans that do think Boston has a talented enough roster with a healthy Thomas, Hayward and Horford. Key word, healthy. Secondary word, enough. One of the main reasons Isaiah was traded was because Ainge and the Celtics were concerned about his hip. A 30-year-old 5’ 9” point guard with hip issues doesn’t sound too promising. So now, you have an injured Thomas, an aging Horford and an unhappy Hayward who are not playing for a true contender, and no money to pay anyone else. Boston managed to keep Thomas happy, but the fan base? Not so much.
Time to backtrack for a moment. In this scenario, the Celtics decide not to give Isaiah the money. The biggest free agents of next year’s off-season do not come to Boston. Paul George either re-signs with OKC or travels to L.A. Regardless of where LeBron goes, it wouldn’t be Boston. So now, Boston ends up getting nothing for Isaiah, and the team has gotten worse. Along with losing Isaiah, he also is upset with the organization for doubting him and not giving him the contract.
Although a huge part, Thomas was not the only player involved in this deal. Without this deal, Jae Crowder also remains in Boston. Because of this, Crowder is still heavily involved in the rotation. This means both Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum will have crucial minutes and experience taken away from them throughout the season. Although it would not be a huge amount of minutes, and not the worst thing in the world, it would still leave an impact on the young guys.
With all of that being said, it seemed Boston fans are mostly upset about Ainge giving up the 2018 Brooklyn pick, which is completely understandable. However, there was a reason why this pick recently became expendable. It starts with the recent success of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. With the Celtics having the idea that they aren’t going to be busts, the pick itself became less necessary to keep for the Franchise’s future. With two potential stars on your team, why wait around just based on hope that the lottery balls go your way? Instead, Boston pulled the trigger 25-year-oldr old star who has more playoff experience than anyone else his age and is better on D than the guy they traded away to get him.
While letting the Brooklyn pick go, they still have the Lakers pick. With the addition of Lonzo Ball and Brook Lopez, the Lakers get slightly better this year. Even with those two, there is a very solid chance the Lakers pick could end up being in that 2-5 range in which case it becomes Boston’s. With Martin Bagley now being eligible for the 2018 draft, the Celtics will feel confident in getting another superstar even with the fifth pick.
Fans need to remember, eventually building through the draft catches up to teams. No team has ever been able to consistently build through the draft and keep all of their top draft picks. OKC is the best example. A contract dispute sent Harden to Houston, Durant wanted rings and went to Golden State, and Westbrook was left as the lone wolf. Even if all the draft picks hit, Boston wouldn’t be able to retain all of their talent, and the picks would eventually go to waste.
Boston had to get this trade done. Even though the future seemed bright, there was still many questions and concerns about the team going forward. Getting Kyrie answered many questions about the Celtics future. This team is now built to win now, and in the future.