Fantasy Basketball Instant Reaction: Kyrie Irving joins Celtics, Isaiah Thomas joins LeBron James with Cavaliers in blockbuster trade
The names might be big, but the Fantasy impact might not be. Chris Towers runs down the ramifications of the huge Cavs-Celtics trade.
Oh, you thought the NBA offseason couldn't get any crazier? Is this your first time following the NBA?
In an offseason that has seen Jimmy Butler, Paul George, and Chris Paul get traded, the biggest move yet may have come down Tuesday, when the Celtics and Cavaliers agreed to a trade centering around All-Star point guards Kyrie Irving and Isaiah Thomas.
Let it sink in. The top two seeds in last year's Eastern Conference, who played to six games in the Eastern Conference Finals, just traded their All-Star point guards. This is a gargantuan trade, the kind we typically only see every few years – ignoring the fact that we see one every few months in today's NBA. This trade rocks the NBA landscape, and given the names involved, it is certain to have plenty of Fantasy ramifications too. Right?
Well, not exactly. You see, while Irving and Thomas are bonafide stars in both Fantasy and real life, they are pretty similar players overall. Both derive much of their value from their ability to shoot efficiently at a high volume and score, with just okay playmaking numbers overall.
Thomas was the better player last season, and he benefited statistically from a larger role – Irving playing next to LeBron James didn't help much in that regard. However, with the addition of Gordon Hayward, Thomas was likely to take a step back in his production anyway. A step back right into Irving's range as a player.
I would put them right next to each other in Fantasy rankings next season. Expect scoring totals in the low- to-mid-20's, with right around six assists per game, and plenty of 3's. I'll let one of my twitter followers sum up my thoughts:
They're not the same exact guy. Irving is taller, and has publicly rejected Aristotle's work proving the Earth is a 3-dimensional sphere, to start with. But, for Fantasy purposes, this doesn't change much for either. Plan on targeting both in the late-second, early-third-round range. The best advice I can give is, wait until one gets drafted, and pounce on the other. You can't lose.
It is worth noting, a lot of this could hinge on the health of Thomas' hip. The Celtics were confident he would be ready for the start of the season, after it was determined he would not require surgery. We should find out more about his status upon completion of a physical, though the fact that the deal went through seems to be a good sign for Thomas' value. If he isn't a full-go for training camp, downgrade him a round or two; if healthy, he could be a steal in the fourth.
Irving and Thomas aren't the only players in this trade, obviously. There are sure to be plenty of Fantasy ramifications beyond them, even if they are the headliners. So, let's quickly run down the ramifications for the other key players.
|LeBron James||LeBron James is going to get whatever he wants. He is impervious to Fantasy change. You know this.||1st||--|
|Gordon Hayward||If Thomas and Irving are the same guy, there's little change in store for Hayward.||2nd||--|
|Kevin Love||It wouldn't be a total shock to see Love benefit here, if James and the Cavs are less invested in making Thomas a true co-star than they were with Irving.||4th|
|Al Horford||You may see more playmaking fall on Horford's shoulders, with he and Irving potentially posting similar playmaking numbers.||5th|
|Jae Crowder||He will likely back LeBron up, and though minutes shouldn't be hard to come by, they may be less plentiful in Cleveland than they were in Boston. A solid Roto option, Crowder just needs to hit his 3's and get his defensive numbers to be a solid low-end starter.||8th|
|Jaylen Brown||Brown didn't do much to open Fantasy players' eyes, but there's a chance for him to start now. Of course, it could be Jayson Tatum who ultimately turns into the contributor here. Both are worth late-round fliers, but no more.||12th|
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