Celtics boss Danny Ainge is the ultimate NBA opportunist, so one would think he would be gauging interest right now in a trade for Cavs guard Kyrie Irving.
In the summers of 2011 and 2012, Ainge was enduring much of the same type of criticism that he’s dealing with now. Critics then said he was afraid to pull the trigger on a blockbuster trade, as Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett were getting long in the tooth. He waited out those summers and those trade deadlines, though, and finally found a team that panicked, in 2013, in the Brooklyn Nets.
Ainge has been waiting to find a team to once again panic in the past few months as the Celtics are currently in search of another A-list player, and it could be that Ainge has finally found his match in the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Cavs are a complete mess right now, and the latest is that LeBron James himself was the one who leaked the story that Irving wants to be traded.
Cavs owner Dan Gilbert could very well just throw his hands up in the air in the next few days or weeks, and punish LeBron by getting back nothing but future draft picks in exchange for Irving. Of course, the Celtics have the most appealing package of future picks of any team that would be legitimately interested in Irving. If picks are the only thing Gilbert is focused on, knowing that LeBron is gone to the Lakers next summer anyway, the Celtics could offer up players like Jae Crowder, Marcus Morris and Marcus Smart (to make the money work) and the 2018 Brooklyn pick.
If Gilbert and the Cavs actually want to make one more run at this thing in 2018, however, with LeBron as the focal point, they could look at an Irving – Isaiah Thomas swap. Thomas and LeBron would not stop praising one another during the playoffs this past spring, as the mutual respect is sky-high. That could work for one year in Cleveland, and it could work longterm in Boston.
The Celtics would likely have to relinquish one of their other potential lottery picks (2018 Lakers/2019 Kings or 2019 Memphis) in a Thomas for Kyrie swap, but that is certainly something that Ainge would entertain given that Thomas has requested the C’s “back up the Brinks truck” next offseason. Irving is under a team-friendly deal ($18.8 million in 2018, $20 million in 2019) for the next two seasons before a player option in the summer of 2019. In other words, Irving will likely make considerably less than Thomas will in the next two seasons. Someone is going to pay Thomas, it’s just not a certainty that it will be the Celtics just yet.
A Kyrie – IT duo?
Celtics fans have rightfully fallen in love with Thomas, so the first scenario above would be preferential for the green-teamers. Brad Stevens and Ainge are “position-less” basketball guys so they no doubt think that Irving and Thomas could play together.
And if the Celtics were to allow Thomas to walk out the door next summer, Irving could obviously slide into the point guard role himself moving forward. For one season, this could be the Celtics’ rotation:
F Al Horford
F Jaylen Brown
G Kyrie Irving
G Isaiah Thomas
G Jayson Tatum
F Ante Zizic
G Terry Rozier
F Aron Baynes
F Guerschon Yabusele
F Daniel Theis
G Semi Ojeleye
G Abdel Nader