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:
“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.”
Odds 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
When 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?
On 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.