The Celtics shocked the basketball world on Tuesday when they swapped point guards with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Boston sent a package centered around Isaiah Thomas and the 2018 Brooklyn first-round pick for four-time All-Star Kyrie Irving.
It’s a trade with historical significance as this is the first time in NBA history two players who averaged over 25 points per game have been swapped for each other the following offseason.
No pair of 25 PPG scorers have ever swapped teams the following season … until now
Isaiah Thomas/Kyrie Irving
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 23, 2017
It’s also a trade that could have winners on both sides. With Kyrie coming to Boston the Celtics finally get their ascending superstar centerpiece to add to their core of Gordon Hayward and Al Horford. The Cavaliers don’t lose too much offensive production while gaining a potential trade asset with the Brooklyn pick. Kyrie also wins because now he has his chance to be “the man” on an improving team. It’s a rare win-win in a league full of one-sided deals, but for Boston fans, saying goodbye to Isaiah will be tough.
“We are really excited about the trade, although it’s bittersweet to let somebody go like IT,” Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck said.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh added “people loved him, and Isaiah was great for us. We weren’t expected to get what we got out of Isaiah when he came to this city, and we are going to miss him. But we wish him well.”
One of the biggest components of this deal is its ability to solidify Danny Ainge’s reputation as one of the best general managers in the league in terms of ability to make a trade. It’s one of the most important parts of the job, but often one of the hardest. General Managers struggle to cut ties with popular players and often end up losing out – just look at the Indiana Pacers return for Paul George.
Ainge doesn’t seem to have that problem but, while we all remember the blockbuster deal Ainge made to bring Kevin Garnet to Boston in 2008, people have recently started doubting Ainge’s ability to pull the trigger on another big deal.
After fans saw the price tags for coveted stars like Jimmy Butler and Paul George were substantially smaller than the package Boston could have offered they started doubting Ainge’s ability to part with his assets. Ainge took heat again after trading out of the number one overall pick earlier this summer. Fans saw him as downgrading and collecting more assets that he refuses to move.
Well, this trade puts those takes to rest. Ainge’s showed that he’s not afraid to trade a popular player and some of his assets if the return is worth it.
“Acquiring a 25-year-old perennial All-Star, a player that fits a timeline for us and is a fantastic offensive player, one of the best offensive players in the league,” said Ainge. “You have to pay a heavy price.”
The return was worth it.
Danny Ainge swapped the last pick in the 2011 draft for the first overall pick that same year. That shows the level of dedication and hard work Isaiah Thomas put in over the years to bring his game to a point comparable to Kyrie Irving’s; and fans loved him for it.
Statistically Thomas actually had a better season then Irving last year. Irving averaged 25.2 points and 5.8 assists per game last season while Thomas averaged 28.9 points and 5.9 assists per contest.
But what the numbers don’t take into account is who Thomas and Irving were playing with. Irving was playing with LeBron James, one of the most ball dominant small forwards ever. Kyrie did average more shots per game than James last season, but had the point guard been able to dictate the offense more he would likely have averaged closer to 30 points per game.
“Kyrie is one of the best scorers in the NBA. He has proven that on the biggest stage, the NBA Finals, the last three years,” Ainge told the Boston Globe. “He’s been n NBA champion, an Olympic gold medalist, and four-time All-Star.”
Irving is also much younger than Thomas. At 25 years-old Irving is just entering his prime while Thomas, at 28, may have shown fans the most he’s capable of last season. Even if Thomas returns from his hip injury and produces a couple more good seasons he still isn’t on the same career trajectory as Irving, who is capable of more.
“For all he’s accomplished, we think his best years are ahead of him,” Ainge said of Irving.