Isaiah Thomas Out until All-Star Break? Derrick Rose Gains More Importance

The Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics recently completed a blockbuster trade, where Kyrie Irving is going to the Celtics, while Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, the Brooklyn Nets’ 2018 first-round pick, and a 2020 second-round pick go to the Cavs.

Some hailed this as a win for Cleveland because they got a lot after Irving demanded a trade. But the Cavaliers stalled before finalizing the deal due to Thomas’ hip injury.

Cleveland claims that the timetable for Thomas is longer than they expected. And according to The Athletic’s Jason Lloyd, the 5’8″ point guard may not be available until after the All-Star Break:

“No one is willing to put a timeline on when Thomas might return to the court. The fact he isn’t running yet certainly is not a good sign. One source with experience dealing with the type of hip problems Thomas is facing predicted it could be January or even the All-Star break before Thomas returns to game action. That doesn’t leave much time for a new player to establish chemistry and rhythm with a team trying to compete for a championship.”

Lloyd continued by stating that Isaiah Thomas wasn’t Cleveland’s main object because they’re unsure over LeBron James’ future with the team. Here’s more:

isaiah-thomas-celtics“Thomas was never the focal point of these negotiations from the Cavs’ perspective, one source with knowledge of the talks told The Athletic. From the start, the Cavs made clear to the Celtics that James’ uncertain status beyond this season left them prioritizing restocking the cupboards in the event he leaves again. Cavs owner Dan Gilbert remains fixated on James’ future, one source told The Athletic. Had he gotten James to commit beyond this season, this Irving trade might have looked drastically different.

“Instead, Gilbert and general manager Koby Altman focused on a future that might or might not include the best player in franchise history. Now they will have to explain to James why trading for a wounded and undersized point guard, a good wing defender in Jae Crowder, an unknown big man and a couple of draft picks makes them better positioned to compete for a championship this season than they were…”

Thomas Claims that He’s not “Damaged”

Thomas may not have been the focal point of the Irving trade, but he can certainly help the Cavs win now. After all, he averaged 28.9 points per game last season. But now he finds himself defending his ability to come back from this injury.

“I am not damaged,” Thomas told ESPN. “I’ll be back, and I’ll be the same player.”

kyrie-irving-isaiah-thomasOdds are that Cleveland had a fair idea on the extent of Thomas’ injury, given that it occurred during the Conference Finals against them. Many believe that they used the injury as leverage after the deal was announced to get more from the Boston Celtics. That said, it’s not impossible to see Thomas coming back and being a strong player again.

“There’s never been an indication that I wouldn’t be back, and there’s never been an indication that this is something messing up my career,” Thomas said. “Maybe I am not going to be back as soon this season as everyone wants me to be, but I’m going to be back, and I’m going to be the same player again. No doctor has told me anything different than that.”

The 28-year-old is in the final year of his current deal and wants to make over $100 million in the 2018 free agency period. He did everything to make this happen last year, leading the Boston Celtics to the Eastern Conference Finals and making All-NBA second team.

But now he must prove that he can still be the same impactful player after injuring his hip.

“[A doctor] told me, ‘I have seen hips worse than yours with guys who played at a high level and had great careers,'” Thomas explained. “At the moment, yes, I am injured, but I have made progress from May.”

Derrick Rose should Play an Important Role

derrick-rose-clevelandWhen Derrick Rose signed with the Cavaliers in July, it was looked at as a marginal deal that would give Cleveland depth.

He was set to back up Irving, who is coming off another stellar All-Star campaign. Now, Rose will be stepping into a starting point guard role for the defending Eastern Conference champions.

It’s unclear how Rose will mesh with the Cavs’ offense because he’s more of a scorer and rim-finisher. Cleveland has mostly surrounded LeBron with three-point shooters who are good at playing off the ball.

Rose is neither of these things, especially a three-point shooter. He shot a career-low 21.7% from beyond the three-point line.

Nevertheless, the former league MVP averaged 18.0 points and shot 47% from the field last year for the New York Knicks. And he’s a more-than-adequate fill-in while Thomas sits for an uncertain amount of time.

What does Thomas do for the Cavs’ 2018 Odds?

isaiah-thomas-celticsOn paper, there’s not a great disparity between Kyrie Irving and Isaiah Thomas. One could even make the argument that Thomas is better at rising to the challenge when considering Thomas’ fourth-quarter heroics.

But all of these arguments are a moot point when considering that Thomas is injured. Since he likely won’t play for months, Cleveland’s record will suffer.

When Thomas does return, it’ll take time to get him back to full speed. He’ll also need to mesh with his teammates on court so everybody is playing with good chemistry.

This may not happen in half a season. But Cleveland is still favored to win the East going into the 2018 campaign. The reason why is because LeBron is at the top of his game for the foreseeable future.

But as for if the Cavs are on pace to usurp the Golden State Warriors, nobody sees this happening any time soon. They were thoroughly handled by the Warriors in the NBA Finals and don’t look to be any better after the trade.

Celtics Odds: What does Kyrie Irving do for Boston Title Chances?

kyrie-isiah-thomas-celticsThe Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers pulled off the biggest trade of the 2017 NBA offseason. Kyrie Irving is going to the Boston Celtics, while Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, and the Brooklyn Nets’ 2018 first round pick are going to the Cavaliers.

The deal makes sense for both teams on paper. Crowder and Thomas help the Cavs compete for a championship in what may be LeBron’s final season in Cleveland. And Boston gets a taller point guard who’s somewhat better at defense – all while keeping their core assets.

Boston makes the biggest leap here from an immediate perspective. But is it enough to push the Celtics towards a title? Find out as we analyze the deal from Boston’s perspective. We’ll also cover how the trade affects the Cavaliers.

Boston Accomplishes 2 Things with Irving Trade

While the Celtics have a strong core, the one thing plaguing them is the lack of a true superstar. Thomas was the closest thing, averaging 28.9 PPG and 5.9 APG. However, he’s constantly critiqued for being too small (5’8″) on the defensive end.

They also have Gordon Hayward, Marcus Morris, Al Horford, and Marcus Smart, who are all quite good. But Hayward is a fringe All-Star while the other three are on an even lower tier.

This all changes with Irving, though, who has the ability to take over games with his driving ability. He averaged 25.2 PPG last season while playing alongside fellow All-Stars LeBron James and Kevin Love. Irving has also been to the NBA Finals three straight times, which is invaluable for a group that just made the conference finals last year.

Another thing that the Celtics accomplish is avoiding handing Thomas a max deal. The All-Star point guard has been great on the scoring end.

But it was a necessity to keep shooting guard Avery Bradley (now with Pistons) around to cover up Thomas’ defensive deficiencies. That said, many analysts have questioned whether giving Thomas a 5-year max deal was a smart decision. Now they don’t have to worry about it any longer.

Ainge Pulls the Trigger

jaylen-brown-bostonFour years ago, the Brooklyn Nets gifted Boston with a package of first-round picks that had other teams salivating. But Ainge had been reluctant to unload the picks, even using one this season to trade down to the No. 3 selection.

The result is that the Celtics have accumulated young talent like Jaylen Brown and Duke forward Jayson Tatum. Many wondered when Ainge would finally use these picks and/or young talent to land a superstar.

The good news is that it only took a single Nets pick, a player they didn’t want to re-sign anyways, and Crowder. The latter is a valuable two-way player. However, Crowder became more expendable when Hayward was signed this offseason.

The Celtics have dramatically changed their roster since losing 4-1 to Cleveland in the conference finals. Now, only Brown, Horford, Smart, and Terry Rozier remain from last year’s team.

Overall, Boston is a Better Team

kyrie-vs-jeff-teagueIrving wasn’t cheap, After all, Boston had to give up Crowder, Thomas, and the Nets’ 2018 first pick. But this is a worthy risk when considering what Kyrie can do for their team.

What’s more is that they still have young talent in Rozier, Tatum, and Brown to build around for years to come. If they can re-sign Irving in 2019, then the 25-year-old point guard will also play a pivotal role in their future.

Can they dethrone Cleveland in the East?

It’s not a given. But we can be sure that Boston is much closer than they were last week. Furthermore, they also have the impressive combination of scoring and long-limbed athletes who can compete with the Golden State Warriors.

How does the Trade Impact Cleveland?

jae-crowder-celticsThis has been far from a dream offseason for the Cavs. They started the summer by parting ways with general manager David Griffin. Then came the bombshell that Irving had requested a trade to a handful of successful teams.

Given the trade request, it was clear that Irving wanted to be elsewhere. But it wasn’t clear until now what value they could get from a player with only two years left on his contract.

In the end, things worked out pretty well for Cleveland because they got players that can help them complete now in Thomas and Crowder. Plus they received what figures to be a lottery pick in next summer’s draft.

The Cavs may opt not to sign Thomas to a max deal in the offseason. But Crowder is on a very team-friendly deal for the next three years. And they can either use the pick to build for the future, or trade it for a better chance to win now.

Yet another plus is that they’ll save lots of money in luxury tax payments after dealing Irving’s max contract. Additionally, Cleveland has some flexibility to put together a team, which is something that they just didn’t have entering the offseason as a capped-out franchise.

Does Cleveland Win the East in 2018?

Thomas certainly doesn’t help Cleveland’s defensive efforts. After all, he’s already one of the league’s worst defenders at his position. And he doesn’t figure to get any better coming off a surgically repaired hip.

isaiah-thomas-celticsBut Thomas offers plenty from an offensive perspective. He had a true shooting percentage of .625 and is better than anybody at getting to the free throw line.

He should pair well on offense with James, Love, and J.R. Smith. Thomas also shoots the three well (37.9%), which is important when playing with an excellent passer like James.

Crowder is one of the best values in the league for his contract size. He’s due $6.8 million this year, $7.3 million next season, and $7.8 million in the 2019-20 campaign. This is a major bargain when considering that Crowder is a good scorer (13.9 PPG), shooter (39.9% from three), and defender.

The last part is important because Cleveland needs another strong wing defender besides James. Moreover, he could cover Durant while James slides over to Draymond Green and conserves energy against the Warriors.

Many wonder if James will leave Cleveland in free agency after this season. If that happens, at least the Cavs have Brooklyn’s pick and a 2016 first-rounder in Zizic to accelerate their rebuild.