Although I predicted that Kyrie Irving would remain with the Cleveland Cavaliers for the duration of his contract, I was pleased to see the Boston Celtics made a move to get him just a few weeks before the season officially begins. Boston quietly waited out the Irving drama that has unfolded over the past few weeks only to deal their star point guard Isaiah Thomas in a move that left most NBA fans shocked and confused.
Boston has long been my favorite Eastern Conference team, and while I think that parting with the man who helped get them to the Eastern Conference Finals last season is a bold and risky move, I truly believe it was the right move. I know there are many who will disagree with me as the Celtics also sent Jae Crowder to Cleveland along with a first round draft pick in exchange for the 4 time All-Star and NBA Champion, but ultimately I think Boston got better heading into the 2017-2018 NBA season.
There are several reasons I believe that Boston is in a better position after acquiring Irving. First and foremost, he is an NBA Champion. Irving didn’t just happen upon a ring as a deep bench bystander. He was an integral part, if not THE integral part of the Cavaliers’ win over the Warriors just a couple of seasons ago. Winning an NBA title doesn’t happen by accident. The understanding and experience that comes from competing at such a high level is invaluable to an organization. Irving will be able to bring championship caliber insight to a team that is on the cusp of becoming something truly great. Top level strategy in the hands of Brad Stevens is the equivalent of dragon glass in a White Walker fight–this could be just the thing to dethrone the almighty Warriors in a couple seasons’ time.
In my opinion, Irving also has slightly better court vision than Thomas, and he’s able to move the ball better thereby making more efficient assists. This is not to say that Thomas doesn’t have good court vision, and that he can’t move the ball. I’m talking slight advantages here, but races are often won by hundredths of a second. Your point guard shouldn’t necessarily be the highest scorer on the team. If he’s doing his job the ball will be moving all around the court and his teammates will be bringing in more points.
Speaking in terms of slight advantages once again, Irving is more useful on defense than Thomas. Thomas has been teased for completely avoiding defense whatsoever, and he’s embraced the criticism stating that he has no issues leaving the defense up to the rest of his teammates. This won’t work in the Finals, Thomas. While the point guard will never be the rim protector, perimeter defense against teams with sharp shooters is key in preventing a three point massacre. This type of defense is absolutely crucial if any team wants to have a fighting change against the Warriors in the Finals.
When the Cavaliers beat the Warriors for the title, they did so primarily by crippling the Warriors’ three point game by either forcing them to try to get to the rim, or by forcing Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson into off-balance shots from distance that were ill-fated when the ball left their hands. Coach Stevens will have more to work with in developing a defensive strategy utilizing Irving, Gordon Hayward and Jaylen Brown to attempt to combat the Curry, Thompson, Kevin Durant regime.
Last, but certainly not least, Irving will likely be a better leader than Thomas. Again, this is not to discredit Thomas. Thomas showed exemplary leadership last season by continuing to show up to play in the midst of grieving his sister’s tragic death. He led his teammates from what looked like certain defeat all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals. This guy is a true leader, and the Cavaliers are going to also get better by acquiring him. However Boston is after a title, and working with LeBron James will have had a positive impact on Irving’s ability to take a team to that level. James is an outstanding team leader–one of the best the league has ever seen. Irving’s leadership skills will have been fine tuned under the tutelage of James, and he will have a keen ability to know what to say to get his teammates motivated in the heat of battle.
I hate the premise of a super team, but I believe Boston is growing theirs the right way. I am really excited to see what the Celtics can do with their revamped roster, and I’m equally eager to see what Cleveland makes of their new relationship with Thomas.
With a parting thought, I would like to implore Boston fans to stop burning Thomas’ jersey. That type of activity should never be condoned. In the case of a player who was traded it makes even less sense considering the player had no say in the matter. Wish Irving well and look forward to the upcoming season because if you’re a Boston fan it’s going to be good.