The Boston Celtics will feature terrific point guard play in the upcoming season, but it won’t be from point guard C’s fans have grown to love over the past few seasons.
Kyrie Irving now will be running the show in Boston, as the Celtics acquired four-time NBA All-Star in a blockbuster deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday. The Celtics paid a hefty price for Irving’s services, sending Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the Brooklyn Nets’ 2018 unprotected first-round draft pick back to the Cavs in return.
Boston especially will miss Thomas, as the exciting guard captivated fans with his big heart and stellar play. Emotions aside, though, Thomas’ future with the Celtics was up in the air, to say the least.
Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge touched on a few factors that attributed to this uncertainty when discussing the recent trade. Ainge admitted that Thomas’ nagging hip injury, which kept the guard out of the final three games of last year’s Eastern Conference finals, played “some” part in the Irving deal, per ESPN’s Jeff Goodman.
But much more pressing than the hip ailment was Thomas’ expiring contract. The 5-foot-9 guard will become an unrestricted free agent next summer, and as a result of how he has played in the past few seasons, he’ll be demanding a max contract. Irving, on the other hand, will be under the Celtics’ control for at least the next two seasons before being eligible for a player option ahead of the 2019-20 campaign.
Addressing the media after the trade was announced, Ainge acknowledged that the difference in contract situations between Irving and Thomas had a role in the transaction.
“I think that contracts do play a part in trades,” Ainge said, per Sam Amick of USA Today Sports. “No question about it.”
Boston’s willingness to deal Thomas is telling, as it signals that the team likely wasn’t going to give IT the max he coveted. Thomas and Irving had comparable numbers last season, but Irving is three years younger than Thomas with a stronger and more versatile offensive skill set.
The Celtics likely will have to splurge on a max contract for Irving in two years, but if the star point guard lives up to expectations, we have a feeling Ainge and Co. will be happy to do it.
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images
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