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Rebound & Rant: Uncle Drew IT Edition

Ken "K-Train" Crites

An early RotoWire contributor from the 90's, K-Train returns with the grace of Gheorghe Muresan and the wisdom of Joe Gibbs. Tweet him @KenCrites or e-mail him at Ken won the FSWA 2014 Humor Article Of The Year award. He's also the 2015-16 champion of the prestigious RW NBA Keeper League. Ken still owns a RotoNews shirt.

This Cavaliers Celtics trade is, for me, an emotional train wreck. For the past 14 years I’ve lived in New England and grown into a faithful Celtics fan. Before that, I spent six years in Cleveland, sympathizing with the plight of the Browns-Cavs-Tribe faithful. I was happy for them when LeBron finally brought home a title.

My first, gut reaction was that I hated this trade. I love IT (Isaiah Thomas) and the Bossman (Jae Crowder). Their heart and effort overcame physical limitations. Last year’s squad was a joy to watch. But the C’s were still a few steps away from a trophy.

After some quality venting, beverages, and a full night’s sleep, I’m realizing the deal could be good for both sides. Just in case you’ve been living in a cave, here are the trade details. Boston gets Kyrie Irving. Cleveland gets Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic (A2Z) and Brooklyn’s unprotected first-round 2018 draft pick. Let’s dive into it:

Why This Trade Could Work for Boston
Are they trying to win now or later or both? The answer seems to be now and later, which can be dangerous. Or amazing, depending on the results:

1.) Danny Has Earned the Benefit of the Doubt. Consider the amazing trades GM Danny Ainge has already conducted:

The man knows what he’s doing and has arguably orchestrated the greatest rebuild in recent history.

2.) The Celtics May Know Something About Thomas’ Hip Injury. Ainge admitted that Thomas’ hip injury played “some” of a factor in the trade. Big picture, one must wonder how much more of a beating can the 5’9” 28-year-old continue to absorb. IT has made it public he expects a max contract when his current deal expires next summer. I suspect that privately, Boston had concerns about giving a max deal to someone they view as future injury risk.

3.) Uncle Drew Decides to Resign with Boston. Irving has three more years on his current deal, but it’s assumed he’ll exercise his player option after two years. Uncle Drew is only 25 years old. If he does resign, he’ll be a Celtic for presumably all of his peak years. Woj and Boston apparently believe they have a chance at keeping him:

A two to three year core of Irving, Al Horford, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown is pretty darn appealing.

4.) Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum Develop with Playing Time. You can’t improve if you don’t play. And for all the intangibles Jae Crowder brought to the table, giving Crowder minutes means taking away floor time from Brown and Tatum. Both 3rd overall picks need time to shine. As we saw in Summer League, they both have very high ceilings. It’s time to see what they got.

5.) Rondo Doesn’t Hurt His Thumb. OK, I’m going back in time here, but hear me out. We all seem to forget that Boston was one Rondo thumb injury away from being eliminated in the first round by eigth-seeded Chicago. Had the Celtics bowed out early in last year’s playoffs, New England would have demanded a “blow up the team” trade like this one.

6.) The Lakers Stink. Thanks to trading down in this summer’s draft, Boston owns the Lakers protected first round pick. The pick has to land between 2nd and 5th for Boston to get it. If it falls elsewhere, Boston gets the better of Philadelphia’s two first-round picks in 2019. Have the Lakers improved? Yes. Are they a playoff team out West? Probably not. If the C's land a the 2nd or even 5th pick next year, they won't mind so much giving the Nets' pick to Cleveland.

7.) Boston Beats Cleveland in the Eastern Conference Finals. We can speculate all we want, but what really matters is who wins the East this year, next year and maybe even two years from now. If either team wins two trips to the Finals, they win the trade. Does anyone really think Toronto or Washington are legit threats to Boston and Cleveland?

Why This Trade Could Work for Cleveland
The threat of LeBron leaving after this season is a dark cloud hanging over the organization. Kudos to rookie GM Koby Altman for cleverly working his way out of a difficult trade demand by Irving. He could have done much worse. This deal has real upside potential:

1.) Cleveland Plays Better with Improved Depth. The weakness of the Cavalier bench was on clear display during last year’s playoffs. The Cavs limped out ancient warriors Kyle Korver, Deron Williams and Richard Jefferson with mixed results. Jae Crowder is an instant improvement, with the ability to help out at shooting guard or both forward sports. He’s a 3-and-D brickhouse that also rebounds. And the 27-year-old has a team friendly contract with three remaining years. Thomas clearly replaces Irving. And 20 year-old Ante Zizic could be the back-up center the team has desperately needed. A2Z brings rim protection, tough defense and young legs. He has upside.

2.) The Brooklyn Pick Gets Cleveland Another Star. Folks seem mildly pleased with Brooklyn’s improvements, but Vegas still has them winning ~22 games (per and BetOnline). That means lottery city and the chance for the Cavs to draft another stud in what’s regarded as a deep class. The threat of LeBron leaving after this season is real. Relations must be strained with awkward owner Dan Gilbert. If The King heads out west, the Cavs have a great draft pick and a cheap Crowder deal to build with. They let IT walk as a free agent and start the rebuild. Or James stays, they resign IT and add a young stud, continuing to win now.

3.) IT Stays Healthy. A healthy Isaiah Thomas is not much of a drop-off from a healthy Kyrie Irving. Neither play much defense. IT can catch and shoot, plus should enjoy not carrying the full scoring burden. In Boston, IT was always the number one focus of the opposing defense. And he got beat up. But in Cleveland, King James will always be the defense’s top priority. That should free up IT for some open looks with less wear and tear.

4.) Cleveland Beats Boston in the Eastern Conference Finals. Again, speculation is cheap. This debate will be settled on the court. Man, those games are going to be awesome.

Funny, but when it comes to fantasy implications, most of us at RotoWire agree this trade doesn’t really change things too much. Sure, IT may see a few less shots, but he also has a better chance of staying healthy, once his hip fully heals. Kyrie will get plenty of looks in Boston and still has many great options to pass to. Fantasy-wise, all is good.

Well, that’s it for my emotionally therapeutic Celtics Cavs rant. This fantasy train wreck has hit the END OF THE LINE! CHOO-CHOO!
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