Don’t get me wrong, this is not an article to bash Isaiah in any way. I’m not saying he is a bad player or anything close to that. However, looking at this deal, there are many scenarios where Isaiah could be the least valuable asset in the entire trade.
Let’s start with what is assumed to be the most valuable asset. The 2018 Brooklyn pick is without a doubt the center piece of this trade. Despite Jeremy Lin’s guarantee that the team would be in the playoffs next season, the Nets will finish in the bottom 5 of the league. The Nets took their best player in Brook Lopez and traded him away for a huge gamble in D’Angelo Russell. Adding Allen Crabbe does not get them close to the playoffs.
Michael Porter Jr. and Marvin Bagley III are considered two future franchise players. With LeBron possibly leaving next year, the Cavs have a chance to start the rebuild right away. If the trade goes through, Cleveland will not even need the year of complete tanking since they have the Brooklyn pick. No doubt this is the biggest asset.
Now lets take a look at Ante Zizic. Personally, I think Zizic could easily be a bust. From what I saw in summer league and his game, he looks slow and not ready for the NBA. Granted, he is only 20 years old and has potential, I just don’t see it. However, there are guys much higher up than me who regard him as a very solid prospect, so for sake of argument I’ll go with their analysis.
If Zizic can develop into the center that many scouts expect, this is a big pickup. With adding a forward like Michael Porter, him and Zizic can create one of the top future front courts in the NBA. This can quietly be a steal for Cleveland if he develops into the player some scouts think he can.
Well, now we have Jae Crowder. The forward has been known to have the most valued contract in the league. Although very controversial in Boston, Crowder has a chance to be a great depth piece in Cleveland. In Boston, Crowder was forced to be a starter and a main piece to a contending team, which he is not. However, in Cleveland he will be asked to be a role player off the bench to give LeBron a break. This is where he is most valuable and can maximize his talent. Crowder, who is under contract for 3 more years at less than $8 million a year, can be a big piece to a Cavs championship run and can also help the younger players develop during a rebuild. He can do all of this without handcuffing Cleveland to a tight salary cap.
Then there is Isaiah. The beloved Boston superstar who was dealt to the enemy for a younger, more talented player. How could an MVP candidate and the leader of a #1 seed in the east be the least valuable asset in a trade? Well, before getting into the analytics of basketball, let’s focus on his health.
Isaiah’s hip injury has been nagging him since June. It was serious enough to keep him out of the Eastern Conference Championship Series and has kept him off the court since. It was also serious enough for Cleveland to threaten to void the trade after going for his physical. Just by the hip alone, Isaiah might miss time during the 2017 regular season.
Another question with Isaiah is if he can continue his success while playing for another team. With Sacramento and Phoenix, he showed flashes but was never the centerpiece. It took some time in Boston, but once Brad Stevens built the offense around him, he shined. The big question this season will be can he continue that success while taking a backseat to LeBron. With Tristan Thompson clogging the paint, and LeBron consistently driving to the hoop, it will be difficult for Isaiah to maintain his success considering his biggest asset is finishing at the rim.
Being the leader of the team, Isaiah had free range to pull up whenever he needed. He was the one taking the final shots and calling the plays. That will all chance this year with LeBron being the defined leader of the team. This year will truly show if Isaiah is a system player, or a true superstar.
The final issue is Isaiah’s contract. Let’s say Thomas proves everyone wrong. The hip is healthy, he continues to have another career year and Cleveland takes another trip to the finals. Well then it won’t even be a question that he will demand max money. Isaiah will then either leave Cleveland, or handicap them in the salary cap as they will pay a 31 year old 5” 9’ point guard with a hip issue max money.
Basically the 4 assets include a top pick in a loaded draft, a young center with great potential, a good role player with a great contract and a questionable point guard with health issues and a year left on his contract. Thomas could easily be the least valuable asset in this trade.