Boston Celtics: 3 reasons Ainge should hold firm on Irving-Thomas deal

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports the Cleveland Cavaliers “plan to seek additional compensation” from the Boston Celtics to complete the Kyrie Irving trade. Regardless what is asked, however, Celtics’ GM Danny Ainge should just say no.

When the Cavaliers announced the return for Irving—All-NBA second team point guard Isaiah Thomas, forward Jae Crowder, center Ante Zizic and, most importantly, Brooklyn’s unprotected 2018 first round draft pick—many NBA writers applauded GM Koby Altman’s  impressive haul from the Boston Celtics.

Cleveland, however, now has concerns about the condition of Thomas’ hip, with ESPN’s Jeff Goodman suggesting Cavaliers’ doctors believe he could miss the entire season. Some outlets now report that Altman may ask for one of Boston’s former first round picks, Jaylen Brown or Jayson Tatum, to complete the deal. Others suggest no such request has yet been made.

Let’s assume for a moment that Altman will, at least, ask Ainge to sweeten the deal. Should the Boston Celtics surrender any additional assets to ensure Kyrie Irving winds up in Celtics’ green?

Like Nancy Reagan implored us children of the Eighties, Danny Ainge should just say no.

Already the best deal?

The fact is, the Cavs aren’t’ going to best this return elsewhere, regardless of the condition of Thomas’ hip. The inclusion of the unprotected Nets’ pick, which will likely slot into the top five, all but ensures that.

If Cleveland traded with another team, the draft compensation they receive is likely to fall outside the lottery. This is especially true given Irving’s expected impact on his new team.

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Let’s also not forget that Zizic, the forgotten man in this trade, is also a former first round pick, with The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor even suggesting he might have gone in the top 10 of the most recent draft.

That’s two valuable prospects plus a quality 3-and-D wing in Crowder before even considering Thomas. By comparison, Oklahoma City and Minnesota arguably gave up less to acquire Paul George and Jimmy Butler respectively.

Injury apparent

Besides, it isn’t as though Cleveland had no idea that Thomas might have a bum hip. Thomas is one of the league’s fiercest competitors—the tragic death of his sister and oral surgery could not keep him off the court—but this hip injury was severe enough to force him to into street clothes for the duration of the Eastern Conference Finals.

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Sitting out the biggest games of Thomas’ career made clear, more than anything a doctor might find, that his hip problems were a very big deal. The Celtics did not, and could not, hide that fact from Cleveland even if they wanted to.

Something to prove

How would the Celtics mend their relationship with Thomas and Crowder if Cleveland voided the deal? Simple. Ainge could look them in the eye and say “you think I was wrong that Irving would make us better? Fine. Prove it. Prove me wrong.”

As if Thomas and Crowder needed additional motivation, proving that they’re the better players and that the Boston Celtics are the better team than Cleveland might well stoke their flame from a slow burn to a roaring competitive fire.

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Ultimately, the acquisition of Kyrie Irving positions the Boston Celtics as a championship contender both now and into the future. But if Cleveland wants to play games off the court, Ainge should walk away with confidence, knowing he already has a team that will soon be able to beat them on it.