Breaking: Kyrie Irving traded to Celtics in Blockbuster Trade

Tuesday nights in late August are generally reserved for three things when it comes to the sports news cycle; Major League Baseball, Pre-Season NFL Football and the Little League World Series. However, in 2017, the NBA refused to be outdone as superstar point guard Kyrie Irving was granted his wish to be traded out of Cleveland. The lucky suitor? None other than Cleveland’s toughest competition in the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics. In a rare trade between inter-conference rivals, the Cavs sent Hoop Group alum Kyrie Irving to the Celtics in exchange for Isiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the Brooklyn Nets 2018 1st round pick (which figures to be a top 3-5 pick next summer). Let’s take a look at how each addition will add to their respective rosters, how this effects the Eastern Conference race and how the two teams now stack up against each other.

Boston Celtics

The Celtics added Kyrie Irving in Tuesday’s blockbuster trade. While he brings a lot of similar skills to the table as Isaiah Thomas, Irving is bigger, a better scorer and is someone Boston can solidify as the face of the franchise for the next decade. Irving will be a slight upgrade on defense from IT, mainly due to his size, and Marcus Smart will be a perfect compliment as a backup for Irving to help mask those defensive deficiencies that still plague Irving. With the acquisition of Irving the Celtics lineup will probably be the following:

Kyrie Irving
Gordon Hayward
Jaylen Brown
Marcus Morris
Al Horford

Marcus Smart, Jayson Tatum and Terry Rozier figure to play key roles off the bench. This lineup will be better offensively than the ’16-’17 outfit and slightly worse defensively across the board. The Celtics still did not address the glaring rebounding issues from last season. However, on sheer talent, this will be the toughest team LeBron has had to deal with in the East in a long time. It will be interesting to see how they mesh together under Brad Stevens. The Celtics also parted with a lot of assets to get Irving. Irving is a slight upgrade over Thomas, but Crowder will fit in perfectly with the Cavs and the Nets pick figures to be top 5 in what is shaping up to be a LOADED 2018 NBA draft. Irving will fit in seamlessly in Boston, but is it enough to dethrone the King? Only time will tell. Regardless, if they fall short in ’17-’18, Danny Ainge has set the Celtics up to be one of the premier teams in the East for the foreseeable future, and the conference favorites if LeBron bolts West next summer.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Cleveland picked up two impact roster pieces, a likely top 5 pick in June of 2018 and depth in the front court for parting with Irving. Isaiah Thomas will be able to pickup the scoring slack left behind by Irving and give LeBron a great 2nd option offensively. Thomas also allows Cleveland to limit the minutes of Derrick Rose in the hopes that he can stay healthy and effective, especially come playoff time. Thomas is a net negative defensively, and imaging Thomas/Rose chasing around the Warriors in the finals (if they make it) is a nightmare that will haunt Cavs fans come June 2018 (again if they beat the Celtics). Crowder is a perfect compliment to the Cavs offense, an upgrade over the current wing players on the roster and will toughen up the Cavs perimeter defense. Zizic was a 2016 1st round selection for the Celtics and has potential to become a solid piece for the Cavs well beyond the ’17-’18 campaign, as will the pick coming from the Nets for the 2018 draft. The Cavs lineup figures to be the following:

Isaiah Thomas
Jae Crowder
Lebron James
Kevin Love
Tristan Thompson

Rose, Smith, Shumpert, Green and Korver will all see minutes off of the bench for Cleveland, although it will be interesting to see if they make any deals towards the deadline and how they will tighten their rotations over the course of the season. Overall, I think this trade does not hurt the Cavs and does nothing to unseat them as the favorites in the East next year. They still have the best player on the planet, 2 other all-stars and a good crew of role players. LeBron is a year older and the Celtics are supremely talented, but I refuse to pick against the King in the Eastern Conference until someone dethrones him. However, this move does not make them a more dangerous threat to Golden State or whoever happens to come out of the West.

A month ago Kyrie bet on himself, requesting a trade to leave from under LeBron’s wing and join a team where he is the man. In Boston he will get the opportunity to do just that and dethrone the King along the way. While the NBA offseason is one of the best dramas going today, I, for one, cannot wait for this NBA season to tip-off as the Cavs and Celtics open up against each other in October. 2017-2018 is shaping up to be one of the best NBA seasons in a long time.

Jahvon Quinerly Heading to Arizona

The University of Arizona has long been regarded as Point Guard U by Arizona fans and college basketball fans alike. The list of Wildcat Floor Generals is long and illustrious. Mike Bibby, Jason Terry, Miles Simon, Jason Gardner, Damon and Salim Stoudamires,  and most recently, TJ McConnell. On Tuesday shortly before the tip of the Stephen Curry Select 30 game, coach Sean Miller, a good PG in his own right at Pittsburgh, picked up a commitment from one of the best PG’s in the ’18 class in Jahvon Quinerly. Quinerly is the second point guard commitment in the ’18 class, joining Brandon Williams who committed earlier this summer. Arizona pitched the idea of the two being able to coexist in the back court, with Williams playing off of the ball and Quinerly handling many of the point guard responsibilities. Quinerly could be the most talented prospect Miller has signed yet. He is certainly capable of helping get the Wildcats over the Final Four hump that has eluded them since Miller’s arrival in Tucson.

While Quinerly, a long time Hoop Group Alum, has been regarded as one of the best lead guards in the ’18 class, his play during the spring/summer Under Armour circuit for SportsU/Team IZOD  helped continue to boost his stock. Jahvon is a quick and athletic guard that can get to the rim at will. He also is able to keep defenses honest with his jumper, as evidence by shooting nearly 45% from 3 during the AAU season. Quinerly is seemingly in control at all times, which will be huge for an Arizona program that could be looking at a large roster turnover after the ’17-’18 college season. There was a lot of talk in the Spring and Summer of Quinerly teaming up in college with AAU teammate Nazi Reid. Attention will be turned to Reid now to see if he will commit to Miller and the Wildcats as well.

With his college decision out of the way before the start of his senior year, Quinerly can focus on trying to bring home a Tournament of Champions title to Hudson Catholic with top 100 teammates Louis King and Luther Muhammad. Quinerly will be a fan favorite from Day One in Tucson, and will keep the Wildcats atop the conference standings as the Jelly Fam movement extends its foot print to the “Conference of Champions.”

Kyrie Irving – A Superstar Taking a Gamble

kyrie irving

Shockwaves were sent throughout the basketball world just a few days ago when it was announced that Kyrie Irving is looking to be traded away from the Cleveland Cavaliers – furthermore, outside the large shadow of LeBron James.

Various reasons have been thrown out: a beef with James and trying to get ahead of the King’s exit in 2018 have been the prominent ones. The deeper you get into NBA Twitter, the thicker and foggier the smoke gets. Regardless of the reason, or the time-table in which that is discovered, this move signals that Irving is ready to go all in on himself as the man to deliver a franchise to the promise land. Kyrie was the man in Cleveland before LeBron, but asking a 19-22 year old to deliver a franchise deep into the postseason is an unfathomable weight to hoist onto the shoulders of any NBA player. Even Lebron himself could only do as well as a 4-0 sweep in Finals in his first stint in Cleveland.

Do Lebron and Kyrie Have Beef?

With LeBron, Kyrie has been a great sidekick for James, being able to shoulder scoring and ball handling duties that relieves pressure for the NBA’s best player. With one ring, three Finals appearances and a championship clinching shot, Kyrie has continued to blossom. Now he feels that he is ready to be the ball dominant player on a team, and lead said team to the postseason.

The rumors of his possible landing spots is a fairly decent list: San Antonio to team with Kawhi and a return home to New York seem to be the hottest two rumors of the last few days. Kyrie has also been mentioned as a candidate to land in Minnesota, Miami or even as a replacement for CP3 in LA . Regardless of where he lands, Kyrie has stepped up to the plate, and is going all in on himself to thrive away from Lebron. As Jason Concepcion notes in his article for The Ringer, “Kyrie is courting failure on a scale that should command our respect.” Regardless of where you see Kyrie in the pantheon of NBA players, specifically Point Guards, he is willing to potentially buck the trend of superstars joining super teams to preserve their legacies with rings.

While the results of Irving’s gamble remain to be seen, it takes a lot of guts for someone to bet on themselves. Salute to you Uncle Drew, I’ll always pull for the person who is willing to gamble on themselves.

Marc Gasol Rumors: A short term option, but not a long term solution for the Celtics

While the day after an extended holiday weekend is generally a slow one for most around the world, the NBA off-season rumor mill is showing no signs of stopping. Coincidentally, it looks as if Danny Ainge and the Celtics are not either. Early Wednesday AM it was reported that the Celtics are looking at targeting Memphis Grizzlies C Marc Gasol to add to their roster for next season. On the heels of the Gordon Hayward signing, landing Gasol would symbolize another step towards building a roster capable of dethroning the King out East. Gasol will definitely help with some of the C’s major weaknesses in the short term, but is he a long term solution as well?

Pros:

*Rim Protection:

Gasol, who was the NBA defensive player of the year in 2013, has been one of the premier defenders in the league for quite a while now. Gasol is particularly strong as a rim protector, which is something that the Celtics lacked this past season. While teams such as the Rockets, Warriors and Cavs have stockpiled versatile offensive threats and shooters, having a defensive anchor/rim protector is a huge step towards competing with these teams. Gasol took a minor step back defensively last season because he had to shoulder a bigger offensive role in Memphis, but with Thomas, Hayward and Horford as other key offensive options he will be able to get back to focusing his energy on being the rim protector that the Celtics need. Additionally, landing a rim protector such as Gasol helps with masking the fact that Isiah Thomas is one of the worst defenders in the NBA. The C’s biggest need this off-season was rim protection, landing Gasol would turn a huge weakness into a relative strength.

*Offensive Versatility:

Gasol has grown into one of the premier bigs in the league through his ability to score both in the post and as a pick and pop big man. With him the C’s can play a more traditional lineup of Thomas/Hayward/Crowder/Horford/Gasol, but can also play smaller with either Gasol or Horford playing with Thomas/Hayward/2 shooters, making them deeper and better offensively. Beyond his ability to score on the block or as a perimeter shooter, Gasol is a good passer with a tremendous feel for the game. Adding another all-star caliber player with a vast array of offensive skills is only going to take the Celtics offense to even greater heights.

Cons:

*Age:

While Gasol has been one of the premier defenders in the league for ages, he is also climbing up there in age, as he will turn 33 before the All-Star break next season. While Gasol still has 2-3 years of being an effective player of being an effective NBA big, 7 footers decline in terms of athletic ability at a pretty fast rate once they get into their 30’s. While he will still be an effective rim protector, as he mobility continues to decline he will become a liability on the perimeter defending pick and roll situations. As the NBA further falls in love with the 3 ball, pick and roll and small ball, a player who starts losing a step becomes a huge concern the deeper you get into the playoffs. Age comes for everyone eventually (except maybe LeBron sans hairline), but Gasol, who has already showed some signs of regressing athletic ability, is someone who won’t be a long term solution for the Celtics.

*Rebounding:

Gasol is a premier rim protector, but he has been just an average rebounder throughout the majority of his career. The Celtics got eaten alive by the likes of the Bulls and the Cavs in the playoffs on the boards, and Gasol, who is coming off of his worst rebounding season of his career (just over 6 per game), will not be a solo solution to this issue for the Celtics. A net positive over guys like Olynyk and Horford to be certain, but not someone who alone will fix the major hole on the boards that plagued the Celtics during the postseason. His rim protection is still a strength, but he is far from a dominant rebounder.

Overall, I think that this would be a solid addition for the Celtics in the short term, but is not a long term solution for the obvious Championship aspirations of a franchise such as the C’s. Pairing his rim protection and offensive versatility is enough to improve the Celtics and give them a better shot at competing with the Cavs out East. Is he enough to dethrone LeBron? I don’t think so, but he makes the Celtics better for the 2017-2018 season and is probably the best, short term name tied to rumors with Boston that fixes a huge need. However, how willing are the Grizzlies to give him up? And as someone who is not a long term solution and is not enough to dethrone LeBron, is it really worth parting with your assets to land Gasol? Ainge has shown a willingness to be patient and with 10 1st round draft picks over the next 3 seasons, a wealth of young talent and a solid roster already, I think that it is within their best interest to sit this one out and continue to be patient. Those assets can be used to lure a larger name next off-season in the form of a superstar (Anthony Davis, perhaps?) and or a younger rim protector with a longer peak ahead of him than Gasol. Danny Ainge has proven his worth time and time again, and C’s fans need to take some notes from the Sixers and continue to remain patient and “Trust The Process.” Ainge is bound to do something bigger than landing Marc Gasol with all the assets the Celtics have stockpiled recently.

NBA Draft Lottery Prediction: Detroit Pistons

 

Detroit Pistons – #12 Pick 2017 NBA Draft

Needs: Shooting, quality depth
The Pick: Luke Kennard – Duke
Other options: Donovan Mitchell (Louisville), Lauri Markkanen (Arizona), Zach Collins (Gonzaga)

The Pistons have been one of the worst outside shooting teams in the league over the last few seasons and they desperately need help. The two players who were considered to be cornerstones of the rebuild, Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond, have plateaued in their development over the past 12 months. Along with that, players like Jackson and Drummond make it easier for opposing defenses to game plan; “Pack the Paint.” The lack of shooting has suffocated spacing and in turn the offense has struggled to get to the next level and secure the Pistons as a playoff team in the Eastern Conference. Falling below expectations during the 2016-2017 season has led to rumors of Detroit dealing the pick. Stan Van Gundy has been clear that virtually no one is safe from being moved this off-season via trade. All moves are being considered to get the Pistons to the next level.

If they keep the pick the Pistons need to select the best shooter in the draft to help address the lack of shooting, and that is why I have them taking Luke Kennard. Kennard’s ability to shoot and score the basketball will help give the Pistons another offensive weapon, and also could set them up with a long term replacement for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (or KCP as he is known to us here in Detroit) should he explore other options in Free Agency this summer. I can see Detroit taking a long look at guys like Zach Collins and Lauri Markkanen if they are still available, but that would also serve as a strong signal that they have given up on Henry Ellenson. If a guy like Dennis Smith Jr or Donovan Mitchell falls the Pistons should take a look at both because of their upside, but the Pistons need shooting and at 12 will address this issue by selecting Kennard.