I must admit the first reaction I had when the push notification came to my phone was: huh? That's an interesting move and I didn't see that one coming.
But then the more and more I thought about it, I think it is actually a good trade on both sides. As a Bulls fan, this doesn't really impact my team right now, but I think it adds in an interesting dynamic for the future depending on what happens with LeBron James in the Summer of 2018.
The Celtics Side
In thinking of this on the Celtics side, I consistently went back to their "inability" to pull the trigger on a trade for Jimmy Butler or Paul George in the past. It seemed that Danny Ainge and his team was set up to be the ones that overvalued their assets for too long and got themselves capped out by it and couldn't make moves in the future. I have seen that story in Chicago, and while it turned out eventually fine, there was frustration along the way that Paxson never pulled the trigger and overvalued Deng. I sensed the same thing from reading the Boston fans on the Internet on their bucket of assets they fleeced from Brooklyn.
From the Boston perspective I see the following:
- They don't have to make the decision to tell Thomas they are not going to max him out, and that he isn't worth it. They obviously made the decision already and decided that he wasn't going to be their future. So they used him to get their future point guard in Kyrie.
- The trade of Jaw Crowder ends up removing the logjam they had at the forward position. Their recent drafting of two small forwards (Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum) along with the signing of Gordon Hayward meant if Crowder stayed on the roster they were going to have four small forwards on the roster. Sure some of them will end up playing small ball power forwards and others big ball shooting guards, but there was a glut at that position. Now it's cleared up.
- They may have given up their Brooklyn pick, but they didn't mortgage the future to get what they wanted. They still have a lot of assets and can still make moves if necessary.
All in all, I like this move from Boston's perspective and I didn't even mention that they got the best player in the trade. Kyrie for all his warts is still younger than Thomas and better than Thomas. They have definitely put themselves in an even better position to knock out the Cavs in the Eastern Conference Finals than they were before.
The Cavaliers Side
Altman and the Cavs were put in a no-win situation thanks to Kyrie's trade demand and LeBron's refusal (though I don't blame him one bit) to state whether or not he will remain in Cleveland after this year. They needed to make a win now trade and a build for the future without LeBron trade. That is nearly impossible to do. But I think they managed to pull it off.
In Thomas they are getting a guy that can score and handle the ball. He can play the role of Kyrie Irving and those lineups may not take a huge drop off in offensive capabilities. But in key crunch time situations, while Kyrie wasn't a good defender, Thomas is worse. Sure they have Derrick Rose, but right now I think he is a shell of his former self and not sure what he can give them. I would expect not much more than what Deron Williams gave them last year which wasn't much at all.
In Jae Crowder, they are getting a versatile defender that can guard any one on the floor. This is the "win now" aspect of the trade, and damn if he isn't on a very team-friendly contract to boot, signed through 2020 at under $8MM a year. Beautiful contract for a key player that will help by allowing LeBron to not have to guard opposing power forwards in small ball lineups.
And then Cleveland picked up Brooklyn's 2018 first round pick which could end up being Number One in a top-heavy draft.
So Koby Altman comes into the job and is saddled with Kyrie's trade demand. He then is saddled with the inability to know if LeBron is coming back, so the trade needs to both placate the "win now" portion of the job, and the "what happens if LeBron does leave?" and do it well. What does he do? He hits a home run. Sure next summer he will have to decide on Thomas' contract, but by then he will know if LeBron is coming back and also have just made what will likely be a high draft pick setting his team up in the future. A definite great move there for the new GM.
To me, this is one of those rare trades that is a definite win-win. Both teams got something they wanted and needed. And if I were fans of either team I would be happy and think I won the trade.