Cleveland Cavaliers: Kyrie Irving trade offers insurance for LeBron leaving in 2018

BOSTON, MA - MAY 25: Kyrie Irving
BOSTON, MA - MAY 25: Kyrie Irving /

Landing the Brooklyn pick in the Kyrie Irving trade was huge for the Cleveland Cavaliers with the possibility of LeBron leaving in 2018 looming

The Cleveland Cavaliers just made a blockbuster trade that sent Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and Brooklyn’s unprotected 2018 first-round pick. This is a trade that shakes up the Eastern Conference, with the two teams that met in the 2016 Conference Finals swapping big names and a very valuable draft pick.

The Cavs should remain competitive in the hope of convincing LeBron James to stay beyond next summer, when it’s been widely speculated that he’ll move on to greener pastures. There is simply no guarantee that The King will stay in Cleveland beyond 2017-18, and this trade accounts for that uncertainty.

If LeBron leaves town once again, the Cavs will almost assuredly let Thomas walk via free agency. IT has been vocal about his desire to get paid after playing on one of the league’s biggest bargain contracts over the last couple of years. Thomas will be 29 next summer, so he wouldn’t fit into the plans for a Cavaliers rebuilding project.

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Crowder will turn 28 next summer, but he’s on one of the NBA’s best contracts and could easily be moved to a plethora of teams should the Cavs enter a rebuilding phase. Trading Kevin Love could prove a bit tricky, but there should be at least be a few teams that would be interested in a 29-year-old player that averaged 26 and 12 just a few years ago.

The Tristan Thompson and J.R. Smith contracts would be challenging to move, but Smith may accept a buyout and Thompson will be just 27 next year.

If LeBron’s departure were to trigger a rebuilding effort in Cleveland, the Brooklyn pick received in this deal would become even more important than it already is. The Nets don’t figure to be very good this coming season, so the pick would be the first major building block for the next era of Cavaliers basketball.

A Top 5 pick in a talent-rich and top-heavy draft could yield the Cavs their next cornerstone. Players like Michael Porter Jr., Marvin Bagley III and Luka Doncic appear to be extremely promising prospects.

Cleveland does not currently have much in the way of young talent on their roster, so getting Boston to include Zizic in the deal was a nice sweetener. A draft-and-stash pick from 2016, Zizic looks like he could be a good fit for the modern NBA. Some scouts even believe this Croatian big man may have been selected in the Top 10 had he waited to enter the 2017 draft, a draft that was considered extremely strong throughout the lottery.

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Of course, Cleveland would prefer to get back to the NBA Finals this season and give the Warriors a real series, something that is definitely on the table with Crowder and a healthy Thomas on board. It may be enough to convince James to stay. However, in netting a coveted draft pick and a young big man with promise in this trade, the Cleveland Cavaliers have a contingency plan.