One year ago today the Celtics and Cavaliers pulled off a blockbuster trade. Kyrie Irving requested a trade from Cleveland, and Danny Ainge pulled off another heist a few weeks later. The Celtics traded Jae Crowder, Isaiah Thomas, Ante Zizic, a 2018 1st round draft pick (Collin Sexton was later selected) and a 2020 2nd round draft pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Kyrie Irving. (2020 2nd-rd pick from BOS to CLE is MIA’s pick, and was added as compensation for Isaiah Thomas’s injury). Let’s take a look back at each player’s last 365 days.
Kyrie Irving did not disappoint in his first year in Boston. He averaged 24.4 points, 5.1 assists, shot 49.1% from the field and showed improvement on the defensive side of the floor. After Gordon Hayward went out on opening night, Irving proved that he can lead a team by himself. He was obviously the second option in Cleveland but shined as the man in control in Boston. He worked very well with Al Horford and did a great job getting Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown involved in the offense. These were simply things IT could not accomplish in Boston. He needed the ball in his hands and is not nearly as good of a facilitator as Irving.
However, everything took a turn for the worst on March 11th against the Pacers. He suffered a knee injury, which led to surgery that sidelined him for the remainder of the season. The Celtics ending up falling in seven games to the Cavs and the consensus opinion is that the Celtics would have won that series if Kyrie were playing. Kyrie will be back for the Celtics next year, but rumors about his upcoming free agency next summer are already swirling. The Celtics need to resign Irving next year to ensure that they win the trade.
Crowder averaged 8.6 points and 3.3 total rebounds per game with Cleveland. These numbers were a step down from his final season with the Celtics. The Cavs made the decision to flip Crowder to Utah before the trade deadline when they blew everything up and completely revamped their roster. Crowder ended up shining alongside Donovan Mitchell in Quin Snyder’s system. Crowder improved in points per game, rebounds, and assists while he was with the Jazz. However, the biggest knock on him is that he wasn’t very efficient. He got worse in field goal%, three-point%, two point%, and effective field goal%. In Boston, Crowder took a lot more shots than he should have which led to distaste between him and the fans.
It has been an interesting 365 days for Isaiah Thomas. He was on the Celtics, then traded to the Cavs, flipped to the Lakers, and signed the veteran minimum with Denver. After being out until January with a hip injury, IT played in just 15 games with the Cavs. It was a disaster. His style of play and personality just did not fit with LeBron’s. They are both egomaniacs and need the ball in their hands at all times. Thomas was hated by Cavs fans during that time, and clubhouse craziness was reported.
LeBron James, the former owner, coach, and general manager of the Cavs traded Thomas to the Lakers as part of the roster overhaul at the trade deadline. Thomas settled in nicely and played well off the bench. He averaged 15.6 points and exactly five assists in 17 games played. The offseason and free agency process were very frustrating for Thomas. After telling the Celtics to back up the Brinks truck, he ended up signing a one year, two million deal with Denver.
The biggest unknown in this deal is rookie guard Collin Sexton. He was selected eighth overall in this year’s draft. Sexton was a superstar at Alabama and single-handedly dragged Alabama to the round of 32 before they were stopped by eventual champion Villanova. Sexton is a rookie, so nobody really knows what the Cavs are getting. He could be a franchise-altering player or a bust. He is all the Cavs have left over from the trade, so it is up to him to save the deal. To make the deal a win for the Cavs, Sexton has to be better than Kyrie and win championships in Cleveland. He needs to fill the shoes that Kyrie left in Cleveland
So far, it is obvious that the Celtics won the trade. Irving was great in his first year. The Cavs got rid of two of the three main pieces of the deal, and now they are counting on Sexton. If Sexton is better than Kyrie, then the Cavs will win the trade. Should Kyrie stay in Boston and wins championships, the Celtics will remain winners of the trade. If Kyrie leaves in free agency and Sexton does not turn into a superstar, then the trade is a wash. It is possible that Ante Zizic or the second round pick turns into something, but that is extremely unlikely. If Crowder and Thomas shine on their new teams, Cleveland may regret shipping them out.