The biggest deal from Thursday’s NBA Trade Deadline had nothing — yet everything — to do with the Boston Celtics.
The Cleveland Cavaliers dropped a massive Woj-bomb on their roster, obliterating much of what’s been an extremely disappointing cast of NBA veterans. No deal was bigger, though, than the one that sent Isaiah Thomas (and other stuff) to the Los Angeles Lakers for Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr.
The trade, which reportedly “clears a path” for the Lakers to pursue LeBron James and Paul George this summer, also infuses the Cavs with some much-needed youth. As the kids say: The deal was a win-win.
But as far as the Celtics are concerned, the move could be both very good and, well, very bad.
So, let’s start with the bad — because this is Boston, where cynicism almost always is served before optimism.
Prior to Thursday’s fireworks, the Cavs looked like a team that, outside of having James, was ill-equipped to emerge from the Eastern Conference. The Celtics, still without Gordon Hayward, had a relatively clear path to the NBA Finals if they could remain healthy. But then the Cavs traded underachievers, poor attitudes and aging non-contributors for youth, talent and energy.
Are the Cavs a better team now than they were before the deadline? Only time will tell, but it’s hard to look at Cleveland and not think it did exactly what it needed to do. If you ask us, Boston’s road to the Finals once again runs through Ohio.
Now, let’s talk about the good — which, given what happened in Super Bowl LII, is a precious resource in New England these days.
The Celtics own the Lakers’ 2018 first-round draft pick, should it fall between No. 2 and No. 5. And just a few weeks ago, it seemed as if the pick was destined to fall between the magic range, as the Lakers looked terrible.
But now L.A. has won 10 of its last 14 games, and currently has the ninth-worst record in the NBA at 22-31. The Phoenix Suns, the owners of the fifth-worst record, are 18-38. To state the obvious: The Celtics need the Lakers to start losing some ballgames.
And while some might think a player as talented as Thomas will do nothing but help the Lakers continue winning, we’re not so sure.
First of all, Thomas, who clearly isn’t all the way back from his hip injury, has flat-out stunk since returning. His defense was predictably atrocious with the Cavs, and he averaged just 14.7 points and 4.5 assists in 15 games. Furthermore, Thomas shot just 36 percent from the field and 25 percent from deep, major drop-offs for a player who shot 46 percent inside the arc and 38 percent outside it last season with Boston.
(Thomas has been so bad that some have said he should be in the G League)
So, we’re not sold that Thomas is going to be an asset for L.A., because he certainly wasn’t one for Cleveland. Plus, Clarkson (14.5 points, 3.3 assists) and Nance (8.6 points, 6.8 rebounds) were key contributors on a surprisingly spunky Lakers squad.
Boston needed this to happen to L.A. for it to have any shot at landing a top-five pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.
At the end of the day, the Celtics need to worry about themselves and their goals, not what other teams are doing. And, judging by the fact they did absolutely nothing at the deadline, the C’s must be pretty confident with the team they have.
Still, we might look back at this latest Thomas trade as one that punished the Celtics as much as it rewarded them.
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