After wanting out of Cleveland and trade rumor after trade rumors swirling, the Cleveland Cavaliers finally gave what Kyrie Irving wanted, trading him to the Boston Celtics for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the Brooklyn Nets 2018 First Round pick. A true blockbuster of a trade to cap off a roller-coaster off-season.
This move clearly shakes up the Eastern Conference, Boston gets Kyrie Irving, one of the most talented young stars in the NBA who can create mismatches on almost every possession on offense, while Cleveland not only receives the “King of the 4th” in Isaiah Thomas, but additional depth as well, with Jae Crowder and Brooklyn’s pick for the future.
The change of the guard makes sense, yet does this move give Boston the clear cut edge over Cleveland? The Celtics were busy all summer long picking up pieces to reload for the Cavs after losing to them in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Celtics signed forwards Gordon Hayward and Marcus Morris to pair alongside Irving. With the team oriented play of Head Coach Brad Stevens, Boston is looking to take out LeBron and Co. On the other hand, the Cavaliers still have a deep roster loaded with shooters and rebounding that can help LeBron potentially reach his eighth straight NBA Finals.
Who truly has the edge in the East between Boston and Cleveland? Let’s go to the tale of the tape…
The Cavs offense features some interesting lineups that can light it up from anywhere on the court, many would think losing Irving would make LeBron’s job more challenging, but you might want reconsider. A point guard combo of Derrick Rose and Isaiah Thomas can be lethal together, with Rose averaging 18 ppg for the Knicks last season, while Isaiah Thomas finished as the third leading scorer in the NBA at nearly 29 ppg. The two headed monster of Rose and Thomas along with role players such as J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, Tristan Thompson, Jeff Green, and forgotten All-Star Kevin Love will create havoc for opposing defenses.
The Celtics and Cavaliers were just about equal on the defensive side of the ball last season, both squads can lock-down when needed, but lacked the defensive focus night in and night out. Each team has their share of good defenders in certain line-ups and match-ups. For Boston, Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown headline their defensive group since Avery Bradley’s departure to Detroit. While Cleveland has Iman Shumpert, Jae Crowder and Jeff Green. Unfortunately for both teams, both starting point guards are not really known for their defensive prowess.
Cleveland’s roster top to bottom has more players who can be a true X-factor and take over games compared to Boston. When a former league MVP is going to be the sixth man for your franchise and can create for others, there is a problem for opposing defenses. Not to knock the Celtics, players like Terry Rozier, Marcus Smart, and Jaylen Brown have come into their own, but compared to some of the weapons the Cavs can pull out of their bag, it will be hard to stop.
Closers- Cleveland (Slightly)
When down or when trying to seal the deal, the Cavs have the slight advantage over the Boston Celtics. Last season both Kyrie Irving and Isaiah Thomas closed out games for their respective teams. Players, coaches, and fans all know about “the King of the 4th” Isaiah Thomas who put up nearly 11 points a game during the 4th quarter last season, and of course Kyrie who has credited “Mamba Mentality” for a lot of his late game heroics. Enter the 2017 season, both guards obviously traded places, but what gives the edge to Cleveland is of course the greatness of LeBron James, although he has not been known for to be a “closer”, give credit where credit is due, the best player in the world today can be relied to seal a game.
Brad Stevens is the best coach in the Eastern Conference, leading his team last season to a number 1 seed in the playoffs. Steven’s schemes on both offense and defense are both extremely effective, and his development of players along with his theory of “position-less” basketball can help both Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward on both sides of the ball.
Cleveland still rules the East, but it will not be as easy to go through as it has been the past three seasons. It will be an entertaining season for both the Boston Celtics and the Cleveland Cavaliers to say the least.
Written By Daniel Malakismail