Kyrie Irving packed his bags and fled the Eastern Conference following the first blockbuster swap ahead of the NBA trade deadline between the Brooklyn Nets and Dallas Mavericks.
Now paired alongside Luka Doncic in the West, Irving is no longer a problem for the Boston Celtics. In fact, his demolition-triggering deal, coupled with Kevin Durant’s trade to the Phoenix Suns, evidently put the nail in the coffin of the 2022-23 Nets. From a once convincing playoff contender, Brooklyn is left stranded in the dust with hopes quickly diminished in the blink of an eye.
Meanwhile, all remains fine and dandy in Boston.
The Celtics made their deadline move, acquiring big man Mike Muscala from the Oklahoma City Thunder just before Thursday’s 3 p.m. ET deadline. Boston flipped Justin Jackson — an ineffective backup piece who served no role with the C’s — into a potentially valuable depth addition. All while the Celtics still remain atop the NBA standings at 39-16 with 6.5-game (for now) cushion over the Nets for the top seed.
Yet, thanks to Irving’s departure from Brooklyn, the Celtics’ road to the NBA Finals became a bit easier.
Here’s an updated outlook on the East’s one seed odds, courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook:
Boston Celtics: -310
Milwaukee Bucks: +265
Philadelphia 76ers: +2000
Cleveland Cavaliers: +3500
Brooklyn Nets: +100000
Brooklyn’s chances at the top seed in the East plummeted like stock in a crypto scam. Before the season tipped off in October, the Nets’ chances at finishing atop the East were projected at +700, according to PointsBet. While that placed their chances at fifth-best among fellow rival teams, it was a massive improvement from where they stand following the Nets’ fire sale and most likely down the road.
Prior to Irving’s salty stance with Brooklyn, he and the Nets were taking care of business considering all they had endured throughout the season, dating back to the firing of ex-head coach Steve Nash in November. Durant, who last played on Jan. 8 due to an MCL strain, quickly became a major blow the Brooklyn’s offensive efficiency. As Irving attempted to keep the ship afloat, he too was on pace for one of the stronger campaigns throughout the All-Star guards career.
In 40 games played with the Nets, Irving averaged 27.1 points with four rebounds and five assists and shot 48.6% from the field and 37.4% from beyond the arc — which marked his second-highest point total and field goal percentage in a Nets uniform. That level of All-Star-caliber production, coupled with the year Durant was en route for, kept the Nets interesting and certainly worthy of attention.
Now, that’s not so much the case.
Ben Simmons, who is in the midst of a career-worst season, is left to keep Brooklyn’s hopes alive. And if history is any indicator, those chances can be flushed down the toilet. The former No. 1 draft pick is averaging just 7.2 points, 6.4 rebounds and 6.4 assists while attempting 5.8 shots per game — all career lows. He also recorded his lowest-scoring month of 5.2 points in January through 11 games.
As long as the Celtics maintain their dominant momentum, the Nets should quickly fizzle out of sight in Boston’s rearview mirror in a matter of weeks.