According to a report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Cleveland Cavaliers are beginning to evaluate potential Kyrie Irving trades under the assumption that their future won’t include LeBron James, beyond the current season. James has played coy with his long-term plans, and allowed speculation that he intends to leave for Los Angeles to continue to grow. In doing so, he’s forced Cleveland to consider how any personnel decisions might play into the vacuum his departure would inevitably create.
No decision is bigger than the Irving trade, and given the framework the Cavaliers have created for themselves, any deal they construct must yield the type of talent that can help them build for a bright future, and not simply re-tool around James. In Boston, flush with talent across the developmental spectrum and an array of future draft picks, they see a partner that could potentially provide both. Per Woj:
Boston has expressed interest in Irving and could offer the best combination of short-term (Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder) and long-term (Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, picks) assets. The Celtics have made no formal offer, and it is against Boston's front-office DNA to push out front with the most generous offer. Boston knows that Cleveland is mostly intrigued with Tatum, but the sides have not formally discussed that deal, league sources said.
We’ve touched on this before, but that kind of package (Thomas, Crowder, a young piece, and/or a pick) seems too much to surrender, and the fact of the matter is that the Celtics have too many players on good salaries to make the math work without giving up more than is palatable in a deal.
Unless Boston has reason to believe that Thomas’ production is about to fall off of a cliff due to age or injury, AND that any pick or prospect they ship out doesn’t have a ceiling close to Irving’s, then nothing makes sense.
That doesn’t mean Danny Ainge won’t stay abreast of any developments. He’s looking for every possible opportunity to improve the team, and a deal of this magnitude, holds the potential to re-shape the landscape of the entire conference. If Ainge feels he has a role to play in making it happen, or keeping it from happening for that matter, he won’t hesitate to do so.