CLEVELAND, OHIO — Scribbles in my Cleveland Cavaliers notebook after the huge Kyrie Irving deal with the Boston Celtics:
1. I’ve spoken to some NBA people about the Cavs big trade. Over and over again, the Cavs were praised for convincing Boston to add the draft pick to the deal. The pick originally belonged to Brooklyn. The Nets are expected to be awful again, and the pick is in 2018. So it could be in the top five … maybe the top three. Who knows?
2. The pick is “unprotected.” The last time the Cavs traded for an “unprotected” pick was in 2011. That was a deal with the L.A. Clippers. That pick came up at No. 1 in the lottery. The player drafted by the Cavs? Kyrie Irving.
3. The draft pick means the Cavs have two selections in the 2018 first round: Their own and Boston/Brooklyn pick. That means they can trade one of those picks — probably their own — for a player at mid-season if they need to bolster the roster.
4. I’m told Boston refused to trade the Brooklyn pick when they were attempting to deal for Indiana’s Paul George and Chicago’s Jimmy Butler. So they considered Irving more valuable. Probably because Irving is only 25 and is under contract for two more years.
5. I’m guarded about Isaiah Thomas. He is not a franchise-changing player in terms of winning a title. Neither is Irving, regardless of what he thinks or what his people tell him. Both guards are great fits with a superstar such as LeBron James or Kevin Durant.
6. Thomas is in the final year of his contract. By NBA standards, it’s a modest $6.3 million. He will then be a free agent. Assuming he plays reasonably well, he’ll want a maximum contract. He’s 5-foot-9 and is 28 years old. He also is dealing with a hip injury, and that bothers me.
7. Boston GM Danny Ainge indicated Thomas may not be ready for the opening of the season. Talking to some people for the Cavs, they are more upbeat about Thomas and his hip. But they’ll know more when Thomas is in town and examined by the Cavs doctors at Cleveland Clinic.
8. This trade is not just about Thomas-for-Irving. The pick mattered a lot to the Cavs. The fact is Irving also has an injury history, including a fractured kneecap in the 2015 NBA Finals. Small guards (Irving is listed at 6-foot-3) who drive to the rim a lot tend to pick up a lot of bruises, sprains and strains.
9. Irving played 72 games last season. That’s the second most of his career. He played 75 in 2014-15. Thomas played all 82 regular season games. He was injured in the Cavs-Boston Eastern Conference Finals. A healthy Thomas is like Irving in terms of scoring in the clutch. Thomas led all NBA players in fourth-quarter scoring. But is he healthy?
10. Jae Crowder is a significant part of the trade. He is under contract for three more seasons at a total of $22 million. At 6-foot-6 and 235 pounds, he is a physical shooting guard/forward. He averaged 13.9 points and 5.8 rebounds. He’s only 27. Fans will like him. He plays hard, especially on defense.
11. It’s hard to judge the Irving deal. I’m told the Cavs talked to about 20 teams. Phoenix was not willing to part with newly-drafted Josh Jackson or some quality future picks as part of a package with Eric Bledsoe to secure Irving. The Cavs couldn’t get much going with Minnesota for Andrew Wiggins. The Wolves wanted to keep him.
12. They kept going back to Boston, and Boston kept coming to the Cavs. There was a fit with Crowder and Thomas for Irving. The Celtics also were willing to throw in 6-foot-10 Ante Zizic. I’ve seen him listed at 7-foot, but an NBA person who has seen him play said 6-foot-10 is more realistic. He is only 20 years old. He is not ready for NBA prime time, but could help in a few years.
13. So the draft pick sealed the deal for both teams. Questions loom about the health of Thomas. Crowder is an excellent addition. Irving now is the “focal point” of his team, something he wanted. Suddenly, this trade made the Eastern Conference far more interesting for both teams.