The Cavaliers and Celtics pulled off one of the biggest NBA trades in years, if not decades, on Tuesday night, one that features two All-Star point guards in Kyrie Irving and Isaiah Thomas, a very good player in Jae Crowder, a 2016 first round pick in Ante Zizic and an unprotected 2018 Nets first round pick that could be the key to Cleveland's dreaded life after LeBron James.
Boston and Cleveland entered this offseason as the top two teams in the Eastern Conference, so naturally this should affect the Wizards and other teams in the Eastern Conference a great deal, right? Maybe not.
In fact, this could have little effect on the rest of the East whatsoever, at least in the short-term. That's because both teams got good value back for 2017-18, but neither made a significant leap when it comes to their chances of winning the title next June.
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Yes, All-Star point guards in Irving and Thomas switched sides, and in Crowder the Cavs now have a physical defender who gives opponents fits on the perimeter. That could help the Cavs in the East and if they match up with the Warriors in the NBA Finals once again.
But the Cavs were already going to be very good and before this trade remained the odds-on favorites to win the East. They now remain the favorites and may have taken a slight step forward, as long as Thomas recovers well from the hip injury that ended his 2016-17 season.
In Irving, the Celtics get a guy with an extra year on his contract. He's four years younger than Thomas and isn't currently dealing with an injury. They have to feel good about that, plus they don't lose much in Crowder, given he plays small forward. Even without Crowder, they could have the most depth at that position in the NBA when you factor in Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, Jalen Brown and Marcus Morris. As good as Crowder is, he could have been fighting for minutes in that group.
If the Wizards are to take a step forward or backward in the East, it will likely have nothing to do with this trade. They are counting on improving from within with a core of young players now signed to long-term contracts.
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Overall, the Wizards' odds against the Cavs and Celtics will probably be determined by other things unrelated to this trade, like if LeBron James truly begins his decline or if the Celtics losing Avery Bradley in a previous deal will hurt their ability to stop John Wall and Bradley Beal.
That last point could be the determining factor in whether the Wizards can leapfrog either the Cavs or Celtics. Boston lost their best answer to what is arguably the best backcourt in the East.
This trade could, if anything, just make things more interesting for Washington fans. Now the Wizards-Celtics rivalry can center around the debate about which All-Star point guard and former No. 1 pick is better: Wall or Irving? And with the Cavs, the Wizards now have a guy in Crowder who has been a true enemy for years. That matchup just got more intriguing.
The East could be more fun next year due to this trade, but don't expect the odds in Vegas to change much at all because of it.
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