Cleveland and Boston engaged in active trade discussions centered on Kyrie Irving and Isaiah Thomas, league sources tell The Vertical.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) August 22, 2017
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN later followed up with:
Cleveland and Boston have moved into serious talks on a trade centered on All-Star guard Kyrie Irving, league sources tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) August 22, 2017
Sources: Boston, Cleveland nearing deal on Kyrie Irving, but details still working to completion. Isaiah Thomas, Crowder, pick(s) in talks.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) August 22, 2017
Boston center Ante Zizic also expected to be part of a potential Cleveland deal for Kyrie Irving, league sources tell ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) August 22, 2017
Sources told CelticsBlog that a Kyrie Irving trade may happen this week. It appears that Boston is indeed a suitor for the All-Star guard.
Irving just completed his sixth season, his fourth as an Eastern Conference All-Star. He averaged a career-best 25.2 points per game on 47.3 percent shooting, also a career-high. In the playoffs, Irving upped his scoring to 25.9 points per game, as Cleveland ultimately fell to the Golden State Warriors in five games in the 2017 NBA Finals.
At just 25 years of age and under contract for the next two seasons at $18.9 and $20.1 million, Irving is seen as somewhat of a steal in league circles. He signed his current contract under the former collective bargaining agreement, prior to the salary cap spike that has inflated contracts for All-Star around the NBA.
Thomas also completed his sixth season and second full season with the Celtics, after being acquired by Boston at the 2015 Trade Deadline. Since joining the Celtics, Thomas has blossomed into an All-Star and All-NBA player and one of the NBA’s best fourth quarter weapons. Like Irving, he averaged career-highs in both scoring and shooting at 28.9 points per game and 46.3 shooting from the field.
Thomas is arguably the NBA’s best value, as he is due to be paid just $6.3 million in 2017-18, the final year of his contract. With pending unrestricted free agency and current health concerns related to his hip, there had been speculation Boston might consider dealing their All-Star point guard. In addition, the Celtics roster has become increasingly expensive over the last two seasons, as Boston has handed out maximum contracts to both Al Horford and Gordon Hayward. That means a new contract for Thomas is likely to push the team well past the Luxury Tax line.
While trading Thomas for Irving is a short term upgrade on the cap sheet, it may not be much of an upgrade, if any, on the court. In addition, the Celtics locker room is known to be quite tight and Thomas is one of the team leaders. With so many new faces this summer, the current state of team chemistry (and ability to create it) remains unknown, which could be further impetus to making a big move like this.
As both Charania and Wojnarowski stated, talks are termed “active” and “serious”. That does not mean a trade is imminent, as there are several hurdles to clear. The first of which is the salary imbalance between Thomas and Irving. With a difference of approximately $12.6 million, Boston would need to add salary to the trade. Each of the draftees the Celtics signed this summer are now eligible to be traded, as team’s must wait until 30 days after signing a draft pick to trade them. This opens up options for Boston that were previously unavailable.
Second, and no less of a concern in trade talks, is Cleveland’s direction post-trade. With LeBron James still in the fold, the Cavaliers are title contenders. Would they be willing to take back Thomas and young players? Or would they insist on Thomas and someone like Jae Crowder, which is more of a win-now approach? With James a likely free agent this summer, Cleveland has somewhat competing priorities to balance in any trade for Irving.
The middle to end of August is usually a dormant time on the NBA calendar, as teams take vacations prior to the long grind starting in September. With Irving’s trade demands being made public earlier in the month, everyone has remained on high alert. With the Celtics now jumping into the fray, eyes and ears need to be that much more open in Boston.