Will LeBron James Play in Cavs Season Opener Against Celtics?

lebron-james-top-heavy-rantLeBron James has missed several preseason games with a sprained ankle. This isn’t usually a big deal because many teams are cautious with players in the preseason. But what’s raised eyebrows is that King James is listed as questionable for the October 17 opening night game against Boston.

However, Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue seems pretty sure that James will play in the opening game. He told ESPN’s Dave McMenamin the following:

“I think he’ll be OK, though. That would be a tough one for him personally to miss. There’s a lot of hype behind the game but like I told him, we got to be smart about it. It’s just one game, but I think he’ll be OK.”

James said that he’s frustrated by the injury. But it’s important that he doesn’t push things because ankle injuries are delicate. If the ligament becomes looser, then a player can easily re-injure it later. James actually re-aggravated his injury just a few days ago.

Cavs vs Celtics Opening Night 2017

Both the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics have rosters that are quite different from the previous year.

The Cavs signed Dwayne Wade and Derrick Rose in the offseason. They also made a big trade with the Boston Celtics that sent star point guard Kyrie Irving for Jae Crowder and Isaiah Thomas. Thomas won’t be available until Christmas time, but Crowder will make an immediate impact.

lebron-james-bench-1Meanwhile, the Celtics signed Gordon Hayward, and traded for Marcus Morris and Irving. Taking all of the big moves into account, it’s hard to pinpoint what we can expect from both teams.

This is especially the case on opening night because both squads are trying to make their lineups gel. This is proving really hard for the Cavaliers because they haven’t won a preseason game. Furthermore, their starting lineup of Derrick Rose, Wade, James, Crowder, and Kevin Love has yet to find any consistenty together.

The preseason doesn’t always mean a lot. But in this case, I strongly believe that it indicates the Celtics are more ready than Cleveland right now.

Cavs 2017 Futures

Don’t read too much into my comments above because the Cavaliers are still favored by many to win the Eastern Conference. This is the case in our GTBets futures too because we have the Cavs at -140 for winning the East.

kyrie-irving-celticsThe Celtics have the next best odds at +220. While Boston injected some serious talent this off-season, the problem is that they also had to give up Thomas, Crowder, and Avery Bradley.

Boston was a gritty defensive team last year thanks to Crowder, Bradley, and Marcus Smart. This year, they’ll have to develop a new identity after adding offensive-minded players like Irving and Hayward.

The future looks bright for Boston. But they could be one year away from being favorites in the East. The primary reason why is because LeBron has now made 7 straight trips to the NBA Finals.

While he’s dealing with a new roster in Cleveland this year, LeBron is still considered the best player in the NBA. That said, don’t be surprised to see the Cavs win yet another Eastern Conference title and move on to the championship.

Cavs’ Starting Lineup could be a Disaster

dwyane-wade-cavs-2017The NBA regular season is drawing closer. And this means that we’ll finally get to see if the Cleveland Cavaliers’ re-tooled lineup is an improvement on last year’s team.

The Cavs have more all-around talent than they did last season after adding Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder through trades, and signing Derrick Rose and Dwyane Wade in the offseason. Cleveland had to give up All-Start point guard Kyrie Irving in the trade, but they still have a larger quantity of good players.

Will the Cavs truly be better than last year, when they finished runner-up to the Golden State Warriors? Or will their rotation be worse? I’m betting on the latter, and I’ll explain why below by looking at the Cavaliers’ starting lineup.

Cleveland Cavs 2017 Projected Starting Lineup

Point Guard: Derrick Rose (Isaiah Thomas injured)

derrick-rose-lebronDerrick Rose was the NBA MVP in 2011. Back in these days, he had the athleticism of Russell Westbrook and played with a relentless style that nobody could match. Rose was also a solid defender who could hang with most point guards.

Several knee injuries later, Rose isn’t this same player. I’m not saying that Rose is bad because he averaged 18 PPG for the dysfunctional New York Knicks last season. But a large part of his dominant offensive game relied on athleticism. He’s still athletic, but Rose doesn’t possess the same world-class quickness he once had.

New York was slightly better with Rose on the floor vs. when he was on the bench. However, they still got outscored by 3.9 points per 100 possessions with him in the lineup.

Another problem is that Rose is a bad 3-point shooter. In fact, he was absolutely terrible last season, hitting 21.7% from beyond the arc. Thomas will be an upgrade shooting-wise when he can overcome his hip injury.

Shooting Guard: Dwyane Wade

Dwyane Wade is one of the top five shooting guards in NBA history. He’s won three titles and is a 12-time All-Star. But like Rose, Wade isn’t the same player that he once was either,

Chicago was 2.5 points worse per 100 possessions when Wade was on the floor. He also used 29.3% of the Bulls’ possessions when he was in the lineup. This doesn’t bode well for a team that sees LeBron James handle the ball heavily.

Small Forward: LeBron James

lebron-james-benchDespite having the league’s worst shooting backcourt, the Cavs are still favored to win the East in our GTBets futures. But how is this the case?

Lebron James. He’s arguably the best basketball player ever, depending upon if you favor him or Michael Jordan. LeBron averaged a triple-double against the Warriors’ elite defense in the Finals last year, showing that he’s still at the top of his game.

The good news about King James is that he’s able to adapt to players around him. He’s made worse players look good, and he’s also excelled with high-usage players like Wade and Irving. However, the difficult thing this season will be that both Rose and Wade will be in the lineup next to James

Power Forward: Jae Crowder

jae-crowder-cavsWith Thomas sidelined for the next few months, Crowder is the most important part of the Celtics trade right now. He’s a very solid all-around player who averaged 14.6 PPG and shot 37.3% from three-point range last season. Additionally, Crowder is also one of the best defenders at the forward position too.

Yet another good thing about Crowder is that he’s versatile enough to play either forward spot. This is why the Cavs feel confident enough in starting the 6’6″ player at power forward so that James can play his natural point forward spot

Center: Kevin Love

kevin-love-knee-injury-impactThe strangest thing to see in the Cavs starting lineup is Kevin Love at center. Love has played center in the past, but never as the full-time starter. Meanwhile, Tristan Thompson, who started at center for the past five years, will come off the bench.

Love is a decent interior defender, but he’s certainly no shot blocker. Thompson is better suited to play center from a defensive standpoint because he can block shots. However, this move was primarily made because Love is the best three-point shooter on the team, and they need more space with Rose and Wade as starters.

How will this Starting Lineup Come Together?

I was actually quite surprised when the Cavs announced that Wade will start at shooting guard, while J.R. Smith comes off the bench. Both players can supply offense, but Smith is the better 3-point shooter, which seems important with Rose starting at the point.

jr-smith-clevelandLove might be the best 3-point shooting center in the league. Crowder Is also a good outside shooter for his position. However, James only seems on when his 3-point shooting is needed. And Rose and Wade are going to comprise the worst 3-point-shooting guard combo in the league.

Besides outside shooting, another problem will be Cleveland’s defense. This is something else that both Wade and Rose do poorly.

LeBron doesn’t turn up his defensive intensity until the playoffs. Love might struggle to play center on a nightly basis. Crowder will certainly help on the defensive end, but he’s only one of the five starters.

As for their overall offense, Cleveland plans to feature Love in a bigger role. And I’m assuming that the bigger role will be more three-pointers than he’s ever shot in his life. After all, he’ll be a difficult cover on the perimeter for other centers.

It’s hard to see how the other parts of this lineup fit, though, with three high-usage players. Are Crowder and Love just going to become spot-up players?

My guess is that Smith will be relied upon heavily to provide shooting and a spark off the bench. After all, he should be starting anyways at shooting guard. This brings me to another point in that both Smith and Thompson are unhappy with their demotions. Will this cause any drama?

Another question is the matter of when Thomas will be healthy. And when that happens, how long will it take the Cavs to integrate him into the starting lineup? Also, will he be the same player he was for the Celtics last year, when he averaged 29.3 points per game?

Cleveland Cavaliers 2017 Futures

lebron-james-bench-1Cleveland certainly has more questions than answers right now, and it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly how they’ll do this season. We at GTBets have them sitting at -140 odds of winning the Eastern Conference. This is a healthy lead over the next-closest team, the Boston Celtics, who have +220 odds.

As for the championship odds, Cleveland is sitting at +350. The Golden State Warriors have the best odds at -220, And deservedly so because they bring every key player back from last year’s championship squad.

Going back to the Cavs, I see them being good enough to eke out a conference championship. However, they’re not even going to be anywhere close to the Warriors – or any other team that could upset Golden State in the Western Conference Finals (i.e. Rockets or Spurs).

Cavs Kevin Love could Start at Center – Tristan Thompson would be on Bench

kevin-love-staying-clevelandKevin Love has spent the majority of his NBA career playing power forward. Tristan Thompson has started most of his Cleveland Cavaliers career at center. But Cavs head coach Tyronn Lue plans to change both of these things in the upcoming 2017-18 NBA season.

Cleveland now has more quality players than they know what to do with. This includes picking up Jae Crowder in an off-season trade for Kyrie Irving.

Crowder is a versatile 6’6″, 235-pound forward in the same mold as LeBron James. This means that Crowder can play both forward spots.

jae-crowder-celticsGiven that LeBron James often mans the small forward position for 36 to 40 minutes per game, putting Crowder at power forward would be the best way to keep him on the floor. But this also means that Love would have to slide over to center because he also plays around 30 minutes a night.

“We did a lot of that last training camp, but as far as how the sets are put together right now throughout training camp I am seeing a pretty significant amount of time there,” Love told Cleveland.com. “Depends on, now with so many guys on the team and so many lineups that we can throw out there it will probably change.”

Thompson will Come Off the Bench

With Love at center, Tristan Thompson will be forced to come off the bench for the first time in his career.

NBA: Indiana Pacers at Cleveland CavaliersThis makes sense from a numbers perspective because Love is a more versatile player.

He averaged 19.0 PPG and 11.1 RPG last season, while shooting 37.3% from the three-point line. Thompson, meanwhile, averaged 8.0 PPG, 9.2 RPG and 1.1 blocks.

The upside is that Love is a much better outside shooter than Thompson and can space the floor better. The downside is that Thompson is a better defender and one of the few shot-blocking presences on the Cavaliers. Going further, center is a more physically demanding position than power forward, meaning that Love could wear down faster during the season.

Of course, the other scenario would be playing Love and Thompson together like last year. Crowder would then have to come off the bench. But he’s become accustomed to starting in his previous four seasons with the Boston Celtics.

“Spacing opportunities, spacing the floor,” said Lue of the change. “Being able to play through the elbows with multiple guys.”

Coach Lue Hoping for a Different Look

Lue wasn’t really in the mood to talk much about his plan to start Love at center. But he did mention the team’s newfound depth with the acquisitions of Crowder, Dwayne Wade, Jeff Green, Derrick Rose, and Isaiah Thomas.

kevin-love-cavsLove was willing to talk more about the matter than his coach, offering some analysis on how people will be used this season.

“Tristan is a very dynamic roller, guy that plays a lot as a dunker,” Love explained. “Myself, I have to play inside-out, mix that up and really take what the defense gives you. But it gives us a different look.

“I mentioned different dynamics out there on the floor with different lineups and we’re so deep now that D-Wade (Dwyane Wade) and a lot of guys similar in size at that 4-5 spot, we’re going to see guys playing interchangeable. It’s not just going to be on the defensive end in that regard.”

Team Holding First Scrimmages

Cleveland had their first scrimmage this past week, which gave Lue a chance to experiment with his new lineup. Love was with the first unit at center, while Thompson played as the second unit’s big man.

The Cavs will hold their first public scrimmage on Monday at 6pm. However, Lue said that fans shouldn’t put too much stock into the lineups since Lebron James (ankle) won’t be playing.

“We’ve been definitely interchangeable in that respect, but also I think Ty likes to match Tristan and I against each other so I think I will see a lot time at the 5 in practices going against T-top,” said Love.

Lue Expects Big Season for Love

Milwaukee Bucks v Cleveland CavaliersLue told ESPN’s Zach Lowe earlier in December that he believes Kevin Love is set for one of his biggest season’s yet.

“Kevin is going to have the best year that he’s had here,” said Lue. “I thought he was great anyway. You keep bringing up [Chris] Bosh. What did Bosh average in Miami?

“Kevin averaged almost 20 [points] and 10 [rebounds] with two other All-Stars. If you are on a championship-caliber team, you have to sacrifice. But this year is going to be a big opportunity for him. We’re going to play through him more. He’s going to get those elbow touches again.”

Cavs Odds for 2017-18 Season

The Cleveland Cavaliers open at -140 in our Eastern Conference futures at GTBets. The next-closest competition is the Boston Celtics, who have +220 odds of winning the East.

The Cavs have certainly changed their roster from last season thanks to the Irving trade. They also picked up important free agents like Rose and Green over the summer. This is why some believe that Cleveland could be even better this year than last, when they made the NBA Finals.

isaiah-thomas-celticsWill the Cavs be able to top the defending champion Warriors? Odds are no because Golden State is a historic team. But there’s still a chance if their new parts quickly gel.

This includes Thomas, who will likely be out until Christmas with a hip injury. Thomas offers the same high offensive pedigree as Irving. But the key will be integrating him with James, Love, and the rest of the Cavs before the playoffs began.

It’ll also be interesting to see how Lue’s experiment with Love at center works out. I assume that Thompson will be starting some games at center just to reduce Love’s load. But we’ll see how things progress through the season.

Knicks 2017 Odds: Joakim Noah may be Greatly Improved

joakim-noah-knicksIt’s safe to say that Joakim Noah’s first season with the New York Knicks didn’t go well. Noah played just 46 games in an injury plagued season, where he only averaged 5.0 points and 8.8 rebounds per game.

That said, it’s little surprise that many NBA fans have already written off the former defensive player of the year. But if head coach Jeff Hornacek’s recent comments are any indication, Noah could definitely surprise some people this year and improve New York’s odds of winning.

Noah has been Playing Great in Training Camp

The New York Post recently chronicled Noah’s performance in the Knicks’ training camp. And they noted how the 32-year-old looked really strong running up and down the floor, hitting the boards, and playing smothering defense like he once did for the Chicago Bulls.

Hornacek noticed and quickly pointed out how the former All-Star is playing great basketball.

joakim-noah-2“Coming off those injuries, literally, I’m shocked of how well he’s played just because I didn’t think he was gonna be ready this early,” said Hornacek. “I’m extremely happy with how he’s playing. He’s playing the right way.

“He sets great screens, he rolls hard, which opens up other things for guys if he doesn’t get it. He’s been finishing with driving layups. He’s been playing great.”

The coach also mentioned that Noah is hoping to erase the disappointment of last year with a strong campaign in the 2017-18 season. Noah wants to justify the $72 million contract that he signed in the 2016 off-season.

“He wants to come back and show everybody what kind of player he is and he’s worked hard to do that over the summer,” Hornacek explained. “I give him a lot of credit so far.”

Noah Must Serve Suspension First

New York can certainly use a healthy Noah to improve upon last year’s losing campaign. The only drawback is that the center must sit out the first 11 games of the season for performance-enhancing drugs.

He is, however, eligible to play in the preseason. This will help Hornacek sort out minutes at a center position that includes Willy Hernangomez and the newly acquired Enes Kanter.

It’ll also help to the get some much-needed court time because he hasn’t seen the floor since February 4, when shoulder and knee injuries sidelined him.

“We’re probably gonna keep him limited, but we want to get him in and taste playing again,” said Hornacek. “He was out the last part of the season, so we want to get him some time, definitely.”

Veteran Leadership

10-time All-Star Carmelo Anthony has been the Knicks’ locker room leader for the past seven seasons. However, he was recently traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder.

joakim-noah-3This puts more emphasis on Noah, an 11-year veteran, providing a locker room presence. This is especially the case when considering how young the Knicks are.

“I just know that I have a lot of experience in this game, good and bad and I just want to use that to try and help some of these younger players,” Noah explained.

“When you go through what I went through and you have a lot of injuries and things like that, you just appreciate practice and competing and things like that. I’m just happy to be here.

“I want to compete. I know I have a suspension but I just want to be a good influence on the younger kids from now on.”

Knicks Odds in 2017-18

Here are our current futures on the New York Knicks for the upcoming season:

  • Knicks odds to win Eastern Conference: +20000
  • Knicks odds to win NBA Finals: +50000

It’s hard to have much faith in New York turning things around after a dismal 32-50 campaign.

Two of their top-3 scorers in Anthony (22.4 PPG) and Derrick Rose (18.0 PPG) are gone. But the Knicks did make some additions that could help them improve upon last season’s record.

They signed swingman Tim Hardaway Jr. this offseason. The former Atlanta Hawk averaged 14.5 points and shot 35.7% from the three-point line last season.

New York also brought in Michael Beasley on a veteran’s minimum contract. Beasley averaged 9.4 PPG on 53.2% shooting in just 16.7 minutes per game for Milwaukee last season.

Kanter and small forward Doug McDermott came over in the Anthony trade. Kanter averaged 14.3 points and 6.7 rebounds for OKC last year. McDermott scored 9.0 PPG and shot 37.0% from the three-point line for the Thunder.

New York also returns some important players in Kristaps Porzingis, Courtney Lee, and Lance Thomas. Porzingis, who averaged 18.1 points and 7.2 rebounds in his second season, is already a borderline All-Star. And the Latvian big man only figures to get better.

Add in an improved Noah, and this team could exceed expectations. But what are the current expectations?

CBS currently has New York ranked 28th out of 30 NBA teams. Obviously this doesn’t inspire much confidence. But on the other hand, the Knicks have nowhere to go but up.

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.