Could Celtics-Cavs Game 5 Outcome Have ‘Ripple Effect’ Across NBA?


May 25, 2017

Perhaps more hinges on Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals than meets the eye.

On the surface, Thursday night’s showdown between the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers at TD Garden looks like nothing more than the final hurdle LeBron James and Co. must clear to reach the NBA Finals for the third straight season. If the Celtics are fortunate, they’ll live to see another day. But even then, the Cavs still would be in the driver’s seat, up 3-2 in the best-of-seven series.

That said, Colin Cowherd isn’t glossing over Game 5. Because according to Cowherd, while the game might seem somewhat meaningless — the Cavs, after all, are heavy favorites and lead the series 3-1 — there’s a chance it could have a “ripple effect” across the NBA if the Celtics pull off an upset.

Cowherd suggested Thursday afternoon on FOX Sports 1 that another Boston win in the series could persuade Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge to trade point guard Isaiah Thomas this offseason. Thomas has been Boston’s best player the last two seasons, but the Celtics actually have looked better without the two-time All-Star, who hasn’t played since leaving Game 2 with a hip injury.

It’s no secret Thomas is a defensive liability despite being a premier scorer. And although he’s become a fan favorite in Boston, Thomas can become an unrestricted free agent after next season, at which point he’ll undoubtedly seek a max contract that could cost the Celtics roughly $200 million.

That’s a lot of dough for a 5-foot-9 point guard who struggles at one end of the floor. It looks like even more when you consider the Celtics could wind up drafting a point guard in this year’s NBA draft, whether it’s Washington’s Markelle Fultz or UCLA product Lonzo Ball.

Perhaps it’s a leap to suggest the Celtics will base their decision regarding Thomas’ future on one game, especially when he’s been such a dynamic scorer over the last two years. It’s an option Ainge must at least consider, though.

Just like Ainge must consider whether to draft Ball over Fultz, whether to shift some pieces around to sign Gordon Hayward and/or whether to trade for a superstar like Jimmy Butler or Paul George — all of which Cowherd outlined, and all of which could be impacted by Game 5.

Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images

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