Column: Celtics spend too much for Kyrie

Jake Mendel

Special to the Banner

At the beginning of the 2016 NBA season, most fans had a pretty good idea of what was going to happen when the playoffs rolled around. Almost everyone expected a rematch in the NBA Finals between the Warriors and Cavaliers, with the Warriors expected to win the championship. Everyone was right.

It is safe to say the off-season that followed has been arguably more interesting than the actual season. Jimmy Butler moved from Chicago to Minnesota, Paul George is now a teammate with league MVP Russell Westbrook in Oklahoma City, and now Kyrie Irving is on the Celtics. How did we get here?

About a month ago, reports came out that Irving wasn't happy in Cleveland and wanted a trade. Less than three weeks later, new Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman sent the disgruntled Irving to the Celtics for Isaiah Thomas, Jay Crowder, Ante Zizic and Brooklyn's 2018 unprotected pick.

It is hard to think that Celtics GM Danny Ainge didn't overplay his hand. Not only did Ainge give away too much, the Celtics lose Crowder, considered one of the top defensive players in the league, something that will hurt going forward.

Now the team is hoping to lean on young players like Terry Rozier, Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, along with asking Al Horford to do exactly what caused him to leave Atlanta — play full-time minutes. The Celtics starting five looks fun on paper, but outside of that there are reasons to be concerned.

For the Celtics to compete against LeBron James, or the Warriors' Kevin Durant, they would need both Gordon Hayward and Crowder on the defensive end. Now, Marcus Morris, or even Tatum will be forced to guard elite players in the playoffs.

With the Cavaliers willing to take anything relatively close to a good deal, I don't think anyone expected them to get so much for Irving. Look at George and Butler, who got traded for pennies on the dollar, while Ainge paid full-price.

Suddenly Cleveland finds themselves in the perfect situation, to compete now and in the future.

Thomas for Irving is basically a wash. Crowder allows LeBron to finally get a rest against Golden State. Crowder can't stop Kevin Durant, (who can?) but he can help slow down any offense.

There has also been talk that this might be LeBron's last season in Cleveland. If that's true, they're already in the perfect position to rebuild. They can let Thomas walk (or even a sign-and-trade), and trade Kevin Love for draft picks. Add that to Brooklyn's pick, which is expected to in the lottery, and Cleveland's possible post-LeBron rebuild interesting.

For the Celtics, things aren't horrible, just a little tougher. But things get real compelling in 2018-19. The Celtics shouldn't have any trouble finding cheap vets willing to play for a contender. With that in mind, it will be Irving's last season under contract and Horford will be 32 and under a max contract until he is 34.

Before the trade, the Celtics had a huge window to succeed. Now, that window has closed a bit.


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