According to ESPN’s Zach Lowe, the Boston Celtics have spoken with the Cleveland Cavaliers about their asking price for disgruntled star Kyrie Irving, who recently requested a trade from the team to seek a role outside the shadow of Lebron James.
Most teams, including the asset-rich Celtics, have placed the obligatory call letting Cleveland know they would like to be kept in the loop, sources say. Boston could offer Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder and one of their golden picks -- Brooklyn's pick next season, or the Lakers/Kings pick they got from Philly in the Markelle Fultz deal. It's unclear if they would dangle all of that, but those picks could represent the young stud Cleveland needs. Regardless, a deal between the East's two best teams seems unlikely.
The Celtics curiosity on the Irving front will likely amount to much ado about nothing, but its worth noting nonetheless. Boston’s President of Basketball Operations, Danny Ainge, wouldn’t be doing his job if he didn’t at least look into things. He’s been collecting assets for years, partly in preparation for making a run at any superstar talent that might become available via trade.
Irving fits that bill, offensively at least. He’s an excellent shooter, an assassin in isolation, and a magician finishing near the hoop. He’s also a big minus on the defensive end. Boston already has a player that fits that description in All-Star Isaiah Thomas.
The question for the Celtics becomes whether or not Irving is enough of an upgrade (or an upgrade at all for that matter) over Thomas to surrender a significant portion of the team’s war chest of picks and players for. At age twenty-five, and with two years left on his contract, Irving is accompanied with less downside financial risk than Thomas will have entering contract negotiations next summer. That may be his main appeal here.
There are other, smaller arguments that can be made in Irving’s favor. The first being that he might still have another leap of growth left in him. Thomas, presumably, has reached his apex as a player. Irving may very well have as well, but his age leaves some window for hope.
Irving is also a substantially taller player than Thomas, which means he’s not as susceptible to being swallowed up by swarming, trapping defensive schemes, and has the frame to, theoretically, become a more passable defender.
Betting on further development from Irving, especially on the defensive end, seems like a flimsy foundation for making a deal, though, and we haven’t even touched on his demeanor. Thomas has built up a ton of goodwill with his gritty play in Boston, while Irving appears to have folded under the pressure of his time next to the greatest player on Earth.
That reality, paired with the fact that both the Cavs and Celtics will be hesitant to make a trade with one another unless they are certain they’re getting the better end of it, makes the likelihood of a deal fairly low.
It’s a fascinating theoretical regardless though, and one that Celtics fans will undoubtedly have a variety of opinions on. We’d love to hear yours in the comments section.