Have you had a chance to catch your breath yet?
This NBA offseason has thrown one haymaker after another, with hardly enough time to process one blockbuster move before the next hits us square in the chin. Paul George to the Thunder, Chris Paul to the Rockets, Jimmy Butler to the Timberwolves and, most recently, the Great Eastern Conference Point Guard Swap of 2017 which sent Kyrie Irving to the Celtics in exchange for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and that juicy 2018 Brooklyn Nets first-round pick.
CBS NBA writers Brad Botkin, Colin Ward-Henninger and Jack Maloney to put together a 3-man weave to talk about the wild 2017 offseason, which could potentially get even more wild.
What's the most interesting part of the Irving trade?
Brad Botkin: What the Cavs will do with that 2018 Nets pick. Will they keep it and use it as a building block in the event that LeBron James leaves? Or will they move it in a package for another star to put next to James this season, and thus entice him to stay next summer? It's a tough call, because the Cavs could move it for a win-now player and James could leave anyway. But that's still a good problem to have.
There is a chance Brooklyn improves in the East this season. There's an assumption those Brooklyn picks almost automatically equate to a top-three selection, but if that pick falls to later in the lottery it would clearly cost the Cavs a lot of leverage. So do they move it sooner rather than later to avoid such a scenario? Do they hold it until they get a better feel from James about which way he's leaning? That is a big-time asset that right now still has a chance of being a No. 1 overall pick, and Cleveland has a very interesting decision to make.
Colin Ward-Henninger: One thing that isn't getting enough play is how Irving will be received in Boston. Fans were basically ready to erect a statue of Isaiah Thomas outside of the TD Garden after what he did last season, so it's not hard to imagine them being a bit reluctant to accept their new franchise point guard. Thomas was a constant overachiever and that was visible on the court because of his size. He was one of the worst defenders in NBA history last season, but fans didn't care because the Celtics were already playing with house money.
Irving, on the other hand, comes in with the loftiest expectations imaginable. The Celtics went all-in on Irving, trading the pick they reportedly refused to give up for George or Butler, along with Thomas, Crowder and Zizic. Add in the fact that Irving has been known to have a -- how to put this -- quirky personality (he said), and things could get weird in Boston. Fans are going to expect him to deliver right away, and he probably will. But if Boston starts slowly (they have a lot of new pieces that need time to meld), it will be interesting to see if the fans jump on Irving ... and how he'll react.
Jack Maloney: The most interesting part of this deal is the fact that the two best teams in the Eastern Conference, who faced each other in the Eastern Conference finals last season and likely will again this season, made a deal of this magnitude with each other. I certainly can't think of another time something like this has happened, where two rival squads swapped All-Star starting point guards. Cavs-Celtics on opening night was already going to be fun, but now it's going to be amazing with all the added drama and storylines.
Rank summer deals by impact in 2017-18
Botkin: The addition of George makes the Thunder perhaps the best-equipped team to defend the Warriors because of all that perimeter versatility (they also re-signed Andre Roberson and added Patrick Patterson) and the back-line support of Steven Adams. It would not be surprising if this team wins 55-plus games, which would be a huge jump from the 47 last year. My list would go like this:
- Paul George to Thunder
- Kyrie Irving/Gordon Hayward to Celtics
- Chris Paul to Rockets
- Jimmy Butler to Wolves
The reason I don't put the other half of the Kyrie trade (the Cavs' side) on this list is because ultimately I don't see them changing much next year. Crowder gives them an added defensive element against Golden State, and Thomas can theoretically replace Irving, but if they become a vastly different team in terms of wins next regular season it won't be because of this trade, it will be because LeBron decided to take the regular season super seriously.
As far as what they've done in the postseason the last three years, how much can this trade change their fortunes? They were a Finals team before the deal,and they could, at best, be a Finals team after it. Unless they move that 2018 Nets pick for another star (which of course is a possibility, but right now we're answering this question with what we know for sure) they'd lose to the Warriors again anyway. This trade doesn't really change that one bit.
It's a tough call between the Celtics' summer and the Rockets' summer. If Houston finds a way to land Carmelo Anthony, these rankings would change, but Boston looks like a much different team that last season with a legit one-two scoring punch in Irving and Hayward. If Thomas isn't exactly right after his hip injury and things just don't click in Cleveland, Boston could challenge for the Eastern crown.
Ward-Henninger: The Cavs. The Cavs. The Cavs. The Cavs. All the offseason moves were surprising and exciting, but what are we really talking about here? We're trying to find a team that can beat the Warriors. George joining the Thunder doesn't make them better than the Warriors. Butler on the Wolves? Same thing. The Rockets will be fun, but can't be considered a real contender yet. The Celtics with Kyrie and Hayward may not be as good as last season.
So it really comes down to Cleveland, who reloaded with Thomas and Crowder, two pieces that instantly make them better than last season. Thomas averaged an efficient 28.9 points last season as basically the only player teams had to worry about defensively. People seem to forget that James makes everyone around him better, especially players who know what they're doing, so Thomas can easily replace the 25.2 points and 5.8 assists that Kyrie gave them last season. Crowder is a two-way player better equipped to have an impact against the position-less Warriors, and there's always a potential trade deadline acquisition the Cavs could exchange for the Brooklyn pick Brad mentioned earlier. Overall, the Cavs are closer to beating the Warriors than they were in June, so they clearly made the most important move of the offseason.
Maloney: The Cavs-Celtics trade has to be the most impactful. After looking overmatched last season in the Finals, struggling through a lackluster offseason without a GM for awhile -- their best signing was an over-the-hill Derrick Rose -- and facing the prospect of losing their second-best player, the Cavs suddenly have a better squad than last season. Thomas and Irving are basically the same guy, and they added Crowder, a tough, versatile player who will greatly improve their wing depth. The Warriors will end up being too dominant, but the Cavaliers have a better chance at beating them in the Finals this season than they did before the trade.
After the Cavs-Celtics trade, it's Paul to the Rockets, George to the Thunder, and then Butler to the Wolves. The Paul and George moves are similar because they'll make playoff teams better and more competitive against the Warriors, but not enough to beat Golden State. Butler was an awesome pickup by the Wolves, but that team is still a few years away from doing any real damage in a loaded Western Conference.
Will we see another big move before the season starts?
Botkin: Yes. Anthony will be traded, and depending on how big a move you think it would be for Dwyane Wade to hook back up with James, that has a real chance of happening, too. The presence of the Warriors has everyone on alert, and power moves seem to be the only way to get in the game. After this summer, the only thing that would be surprising is if something else big doesn't happen.
Ward-Henninger: Houston GM Daryl Morey will tell anyone who will listen that the Rockets aren't done making moves, so there's reason to believe he's got something brewing. Whether it's Anthony, or something else we haven't even thought about, Houston isn't done dealing. That being said, he and the other front offices around the league may want to wait until they see what they have this season before making more moves. Given the ridiculous crop of potential 2018 free agents (James, Thomas, Russell Westbrook, George, Paul, DeMarcus Cousins), teams could get anxious and start wheeling and dealing as the season progresses. The 2018 trade deadline could be just as crazy as this offseason.
Maloney: Yeah, an Anthony trade gets done before the season starts. Even though Phil Jackson is gone, the relationship between Anthony and the Knicks seems too frayed to keep him around. If he's still with the team in training camp and when the season begins, every day would be a referendum on the situation, which is drama the Knicks do not need. Plus, he really doesn't fit with the direction of the team anymore. Get what you can for Anthony, turn the keys over to Kristaps Porzingis, and try to build something with him, Frank Ntilikina and Willy Hernangomez. Oh, and Ron "No Trade Clause" Baker, of course.