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Cleveland Cavaliers 5 vs. 5: The Kyrie Irving trade post mortem

Five questions about the biggest move of the Cavs summer.

Cleveland Cavaliers v Boston Celtics - Game One Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

In which five Fear the Sword writers answer five questions about the Kyrie Irving trade

1. Grade the Kyrie Irving deal for the Cavs - did they get a good return?

Chris Manning (@cwmwrites): They get an A+. Maybe Isaiah Thomas makes them worse defensively and maybe Jae Crowder’s shooting won’t hold up. But the Cavs got everything they wanted in return for Kyrie. They’ve got some stuff for now and some stuff for later. Koby Altman’s first big move as GM is a winner.

Alex Raulli (@EVR1022): A+ from a trade value perspective. A near perfect now-and-later trade return: perhaps the most valuable draft pick floating around the NBA right now, a solid young prospect, a high-end three-and-d wing on a cheap contract and an expiring All-NBA point guard. B- from a fit perspective: if Kyrie and Kevin Love were a challenge defensively against the Warriors then Isaiah and Love will be even more so. But the Cavs have some flexibility to fix those fit problems because of the other assets included in the deal.

Akash Anavarathan (@akashanav): You know the saying “trading a star away, means you’ll only get 75 cents on the dollar back”? In this case, I think Koby Altman did a great job getting as close to full value as possible for Kyrie Irving. Isaiah Thomas brings a lot of what Irving does on the offensive end, while Jae Crowder will be the best backup LeBron James has ever had — sorry Richard Jefferson. The most valuable trade piece that the Cavaliers got was the Nets’ 2018 first round pick. They can dangle it out there to get a star in return to win now, or draft a top prospect and build for the future. Altman passes his first major test with flying colors.

Scott Recker (@scottmrecker): It’s not easy to trade a star player and protect your present and future simultaneously, but the Cavs did. Losing a 25-year-old blue chip scorer, who can ruin defenses from all three levels isn’t ideal, but filling that vacancy with a similar player (although older, smaller and with a lot less upside) helps replace all those points. Then add in a gritty small-ball four, a young big man and a golden ticket from the Nets, and I think you have a pretty savvy move from a young general manager. Maybe Dan Gilbert knew what he was doing all along.*

*I’m kidding. Of course he didn’t.

Brad Ward (@Brad_Ward12): The Cavs and new General Manager Koby Altman did a terrific job of holding their ground and waiting out the low-ball offers they received early in this process. I cannot imagine the Cavs getting a better return than they got in this deal. They were able to get an all-star point guard to replace Kyrie Irving and a sorely needed two-way player in Jae Crowder. Ante Zizic may help in the future but what makes this deal is Brooklyn’s 2018 first round pick. This is a pick that Boston wouldn’t part with for Jimmy Butler or Paul George. The pick gives them a number of options moving forward as it could be used as a central trade piece at the deadline or the cornerstone of their future moving forward. This kind of trade is usually difficult to grade until some time has passed but on the surface it certainly appears that the Cavs are the big winners in this deal.

2. Rank these assets in order of terms of value to the Cavs: Isaiah Thomas, the 2018 Nets pick, Jae Crowder and Ante Zizic.

CM: The 2018 Nets pick tops the list, followed by Crowder, Thomas and Zizic. But I think there’s a good chance that for next season pre-draft, Crowder has the biggest impact because the Shane Battier-type player the Cavs have been missing since LeBron James came back. And his contract is so easily flippable if things fall apart next summer.

AR: The Brooklyn pick is first, hands down. Jae Crowder with three years remaining at an AAV of $7.3 million is second. Isaiah Thomas on a cheap expiring contract is third. Ante Zizic on his rookie deal is fourth, but still a valuable asset.

AA: The most valuable asset is the Nets’ 2018 first-round pick. It can return a mega-star for a Finals’ run in 2018 or bring a high-end college player for the future. I’d say Jae Crowder’s next on this list. He’s under contract till 2020 on a very team-friendly deal. You don’t find very many two-way players at that kind of a yearly value. While Isaiah Thomas might be the best player on this list, he’s only under contract for just this season. I don’t think the Cavaliers will back up the Brinks Truck for him in free agency, so he doesn’t have much value past this season. Ante Zizic is the least valuable just because he’s such an unknown. Similar to Cavs’ Cedi Osman, there’s a lot of excitement to see how his game will translate to the NBA.

SR: The Brooklyn pick, since they can dangle that for the next 10 months or so in front of teams looking to rebuild, especially if the Nets look bad, and the top prospects look good. Or they can press the reset button. Then IT, since he inherits an instant scoring burden. Then Crowder, who’ll help against the Warriors after the Cavs beat the Celtics four games to one in the Eastern Conference Finals. Then Zizic, who someone called Baby Shaq, but I see as a more coordinated Timofey Mozgov.

BW: Brooklyn’s 2018 1st round pick is certainly the most valuable piece that the Cavs get back in the deal. Isaiah Thomas is second because he limits the loss of Kyrie Irving. They get back a player that provides comparable scoring at the same position. Getting an all-star to replace Irving allows the Cavs to maintain their status as the best team in the Eastern Conference. Crowder is a close third. Tyronne Lue was constantly in a give and take of offense for defense or vice versa in 2016-17. Crowder is a much needed two-way player, who brings an added element of toughness. Zizic brings up the rear, but he isn’t just a throw in. He has the potential to be a part of the Cavs future depending on how he is able to adjust to the NBA game.

3. Do you think this deal makes it more or less likely that LeBron James stays past next season?

CM: Hard to say — so much can and will happen in the next year. But I think this does help in that the Cavs are deeper and have more roster flexibility than they did a week ago. That matters a lot — remember how locked in the Cavs were when LeBron left the first time?

AR: More likely. The Cavaliers have more roster pliability than they’ve had since Wiggins was available as a trade chip. If LeBron stays they have the option to go out and get a player that will improve their odds of winning another ring. The current roster is already very good: Crowder is a young player that’s an excellent fit next to LeBron in small lineups, while Love remains an ideal fit next to LeBron in bigger lineups.

AA: A tad more likely. The Cavaliers didn’t have very many assets in the future to replenish their roster, but they’ve added a major chip with the Nets’ lottery pick. I doubt LeBron wants to play with an 18-year old, so I think if the Cavs can flip the pick for a secondary star, which in turn may help LeBron see a future in Cleveland. Adding Crowder improves the Cavaliers’ defense and toughness, something LeBron was yearning for all of last season.

SR: It’s hard to say, but I lean toward the side of more likely to stay, mainly because that Nets pick allows them a lot of flexibility. Even if the Cavs got worse, they’re suddenly holding a more interesting hand of cards. That situation is light years away by NBA standards, though.

BW: The trade helps with keeping Lebron James Cleveland. First of all and most obviously the Cavs successfully got Irving out of town without hurting the team's chance of going back to the NBA Finals. Moreover, they were able to create some flexibility moving forward. The Cavs were limited in what they could do with their roster before this trade. The draft pick really opens up multiple options, potentially ones that could help keep James in town.

4. Name the prospect at the top draft boards that you’re hoping the Cavs get.

CM: Inject Michael Porter highlight tapes into my veins. But Luka Doncic is loads of fun too. The draft, in general, is so much fun.

AR: I have no idea yet. Michael Porter is the player I’ve heard the most about. Luka Doncic seems intriguing. Honestly, though, my opinion on the 2018 draft is very uninformed at present. It will be exciting to have a reason to follow the top prospects again, though. All the more so because it won’t be accompanied by losing.

AA: Michael Porter is the name that I keep seeing all over my Twitter timeline, which means he’s definitely the prospect the Cavaliers should draft. (I’m kidding, of course) But the addition of the top draft pick gives me a reason to 1) root against the Brooklyn Nets and 2) pay attention to the top prospects throughout the college basketball season.

SR: I hope all of the college beat writers anoint some 18-year-old kid the next Jordan or Kobe or LeBron or Durant or whoever, and the Cavs get another star, so LeBron stays. Even if keeping LeBron cheats the Cavs out of a quick rebuild, I’d rather watch the once in a generation talent keep trying to topple a juggernaut.

BW: Michael Porter Jr. sounds like he has all the makings of the next big thing in NBA. The mobile seven-footer can score from the perimeter and is looking like he will be the best option in the 2018 draft, but it is very early. Along with all the talent, I love that Porter is a coach’s son.

5. True or False: The Cavs are better now than they were before the deal.

CM: I think they are better defensively and Thomas can do a lot of what Irving did on offense. So, I say true with a small bit of hesitation because Kyrie’s very, very good and has been so essential to the team’s success.

AR: True for the regular season, but false for the playoffs. That said, I doubt this is the finished product so it may be true of both by the season’s end.

AA: True — with a caveat. It makes Cleveland better in 2017-18, because they can replace Irving’s numbers with Thomas’ production, while adding a good defensive player in Crowder. For the long run, it’s all in LeBron’s hands come July 2018.

SR: False, but not by nearly as much as I expected when the news broke that Kyrie was demanding a trade.

BW: False...with the potential to be true. The Cavs lost a player that was tremendous against the Golden State Warriors and had the potential to take over a game at any time. At the same time, Crowder helps the roster and the Cavs are now better off the bench. Depending on what they do with the pick and what happens with a potential Dwyane Wade buyout, they could be better because of this trade later this season.