Cavs, Celtics finalise Irving-Thomas trade

Extra draft pick tilts the scales; biggest NBA trade of the year is sealed as clock ticks down

Isaiah Thomas suffered a hip injury in March, but has said he will be back on court and will be just as good a player as he was last season.
Isaiah Thomas suffered a hip injury in March, but has said he will be back on court and will be just as good a player as he was last season.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

WASHINGTON • The blockbuster deal between the Boston Celtics and the Cleveland Cavaliers involving two of the Eastern Conference's biggest stars is finally official.

The Celtics and Cavaliers completed the trade - first announced on Tuesday last week - to send point guard Isaiah Thomas to Cleveland in exchange for point guard Kyrie Irving on Wednesday, within hours of yesterday's 10am deadline (10pm Wednesday, Singapore).

Boston agreed to add a 2020 second-round pick to the already agreed-upon package.

The Cavaliers, who are also set to receive forward Jae Crowder, centre Ante Zizic and the Brooklyn Nets' 2018 first-round pick, had been baulking after conducting a physical examination of Thomas.

The third-leading scorer in the National Basketball Association (NBA) regular season last term (28.9 points per game) behind Russell Westbrook and James Harden, Thomas suffered a hip injury that ultimately forced him out of May's Eastern Conference Finals.

Because his recovery will possibly linger into the upcoming season, Cleveland reportedly sought further compensation in the deal, in the form of one of Boston's talented young players or one of the several first-round picks the team hold for the next few years.

The Eastern Conference champions settled for a lesser addition but most basketball observers felt they had already secured a very advantageous deal, particularly in the wake of Irving's trade demand.

The four-time All Star, who helped Cleveland reach three straight NBA Finals and win their first title last year, was said to have grown weary of playing in LeBron James' shadow. When his request to be dealt was made public, Cleveland lost much of their leverage in negotiations with other teams. But with a bevy of assets at their disposal, Boston were able to make a compelling offer.

They held the Brooklyn Nets' 2018 first-round pick that the Cavs craved as it offered Cleveland the potential to rebuild even in the event of the scenario that James and Thomas leave as unrestricted free agents after next season.

Thomas entering the final year of his contract gave the Celtics their own difficult decision to make over the 1.75m dynamo who had become a fan favourite, as well as a two-time All Star, since joining the team in 2015.

In Irving, Boston get a former No. 1 overall pick who posted career-highs in points (25.2) and field-goal percentage (47.3) last season.

At 25, he is three years younger than Thomas and his contract is set to pay him about US$60 million (S$81 million) over the next three seasons. Irving has an opt-out clause he can exercise in two years, but he has indicated that he might be willing to stay in Boston.

For this season - which opens with the Cavs hosting Boston - Thomas, as well as Crowder, should help James keep Cleveland in contention for another NBA Finals appearance.

Crowder is a solid perimeter defender who is coming off a season where he averaged 13.9 points, 4.8 rebounds and 32.4 minutes per game. The 27-year-old also posted career-highs in field-goal percentage (46.3) and three-point percentage (39.8). His ability to improve Cleveland's defence and provide a threat from behind the arc makes him a good fit for the Cavs, who have received plenty in this trade.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 01, 2017, with the headline 'Cavs, Celtics finalise Irving-Thomas trade'. Subscribe