Kyrie Irving‘s trade request to the Cleveland Cavaliers on July 7 hijacked the summer for the Cavs franchise and, to some extent, the entire NBA, as front offices couldn’t close their books until Irving found a new home.
Now that Cleveland has settled on a swap with the Boston Celtics, sending out Irving in return for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the Brooklyn Nets‘ 2018 unprotected first-round pick, new Cavs general manager Koby Altman can finally get some rest with training camp just a month away.
“It’s nice to have something to smile about,” a Cavs source told ESPN a day after the Irving trade was consummated.
That sense of accomplishment is understandable after the Cavs had suffered a series of setbacks since losing the NBA Finals to the Golden State Warriors — from parting ways with GM David Griffin to having a trade for Paul George fall apart to failing to hire Chauncey Billups after courting him for a front-office position.
Securing an appropriate haul for Irving allows Altman to take a much-deserved vacation, but there are still some questions to be answered about his team when he returns.
WILL THOMAS BE READY FOR OPENING NIGHT?
After the trade, Thomas was in Los Angeles completing a shoot with Nickelodeon. He has seven days to report to the Cavs, whose highly regarded medical staff will be waiting to examine Thomas, who also will visit a renowned hip specialist at the Cleveland Clinic.
Celtics president Danny Ainge told reporters that Thomas’ hip injury, which caused him to miss the final three games of the Eastern Conference finals after having played on a torn labrum, would mean “probably a little bit of delay” as to when the All-Star point guard will be ready to suit up for the 2017-18 season.
If he is sidelined while rehabbing the hip, the Cavs will likely look to Derrick Rose to start. Like Thomas, Rose was acquired this offseason and in the final year of his contract, giving him every incentive to perform at his peak level to earn a new deal.
WHAT WILL THE CAVS DO WITH THE BROOKLYN PICK?
Talk to the Cavs’ decision-makers about the Irving trade and before they bring up the offense that Thomas brings or the defensive versatility of Crowder, they mention the Brooklyn pick as the crown jewel of the package they received from Boston. Quite simply, it opens up endless possibilities. It’s the type of chip that can be sent elsewhere to acquire a talent like DeMarcus Cousins should the New Orleans Pelicans give up on the Anthony Davis pairing, or be dangled to the Memphis Grizzlies should they make Marc Gasol available.
Cleveland can also keep the pick, of course, and hope that the Nets struggle again, thus increasing the odds of the pick being in the top two or three. Brooklyn’s success, or lack thereof, will be a variable that’s constantly monitored next season as the Cavs make plans for that asset. A Cavs source told ESPN that the Brooklyn pick has already pumped new blood into Cleveland’s scouting department. After coming off several seasons without a top-tier pick in their grasp (the Cavs didn’t even have a pick in the 2017 draft), the idea of traveling to big-time college games and tournaments overseas to scout top prospects has energized the organization.
ARE THEY DONE SETTLING THE ROSTER?
The Cavs currently have 17 players under contract for next season when the maximum roster size is only 15. The odd men out would appear to be guard Kay Felder and center Walter Tavares. Starting this season, teams can also sign players to two-way contracts that split those players’ time between the G League, in the Cavs’ case the Canton Charge, and the NBA team. The organization likes both Felder and Tavares, but it would need to waive them to re-sign them to two-way deals. While on waivers, either player could be picked up by another team.
Overall, those moves would be considered a minor tweak. The bigger question is whether there will be another major trade. As long as Carmelo Anthony is still on the New York Knicks, you cannot rule out the possibility of Cleveland being a potential landing point. And, as ESPN’s Nick Friedell reported this week, with Dwyane Wade‘s time in Chicago headed toward an inevitable buyout, Cleveland could plan to get the roster down to 14 to open a spot to sign Wade once he’s off the Bulls.
Lost in the attention surrounding Irving’s trade request is that Iman Shumpert also requested a trade after the season, multiple sources told ESPN. Cleveland was in talks to trade Shumpert and his $10.3 million contract to Minnesota or Houston, but both deals fell apart. Logic would tell you that the Cavs will remain motivated to find a team to take Shumpert.
A Cavs source told ESPN simply that the team is “not closing the door” on more trades before training camp opens in late September.