Five reasons why the Celtics are the best fit for Kyrie Irving
BOSTON – Kyrie Irving is coming to Boston, the kind of news that many Celtics fans are still letting sink in.
The four-time All-Star was the centerpiece of a blockbuster trade Tuesday night with the Celtics that sent two-time All-Star Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the rights to Brooklyn’s 2018 first round pick, to Cleveland in exchange for the 25-year-old Irving.
Irving’s availability came about when he asked for a trade on July 21, setting off a slew of teams lining up to make sure the Cavs knew of their interest.
And while Cleveland’s preference was to deal him to a team out West (in fact, ESPN's Marc Spears reported that the Warriors turned down an Irving-for-Klay Thompson deal), the Cavs eventually realized that the Celtics were the only team that could provide them with an All-Star (Thomas), a solid hit-the-ground running contributor (Crowder), young talent (Zizic) and a good draft pick (the Nets pick could potentially be the top overall selection in a strong draft).
All those pieces mentioned make for a great fit for the Cavaliers, who will look to advance to the NBA Finals for a fourth consecutive season.
But what about the Celtics?
How does Irving’s arrival mesh with what this franchise has done under coach Brad Stevens?
Here are five reasons why the Celtics are a better fit for Irving.
5. New opportunity
Irving wanted to be an unquestioned leader of a quality team with a legit shot at making a deep playoff run and competing for an NBA title. Boston, which had the best record in the East last season and advanced to the Eastern Conference finals, meet all those needs. And with only four players returning who have a combined seven seasons in Boston, there is a very clear path for Irving to come in and lead the way, which has been reported was at the heart of why he wanted out in Cleveland.
Even though the Celtics have a lot of new faces, don’t think for a minute that their emphasis on great ball movement will disappear now that Irving is in town. The Celtics benefited heavily from Isaiah Thomas’ ability to break down defenders off the dribble. But in adding Irving, the Celtics have arguably the league’s best player at getting to the rim past opponents off the dribble. That skill, combined with a roster built on sharing the ball, will keep defenses guessing as to how the Celtics will attack.
3. Celtics’ present, future
If Irving had kept quiet about wanting to be out of Cleveland, the Cavaliers future would still be a murky one. LeBron James is expected to hit the free agent market next summer and has given Cleveland no indication as to what he wants to do beyond this season. In leaving Cleveland, Irving now finds himself on another team that has legitimate visions of making a deep playoff run. Still, unlike Cleveland, Irving is now on a roster that’s built to compete now as well as into the near future with a core of Irving, Gordon Hayward and Al Horford locked up for at least two more seasons, not to mention promising young players like Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum.
2. Celtics front office
When Cavs owner Dan Gilbert parted ways with then-GM David Griffin, it spelled the end of what was a promising relationship. In three seasons with Griffin as the orchestrator of the roster, Cleveland won an NBA title and advanced to the Finals in the other two seasons. To send a league executive with that track record for success packing certainly has to raise a few eyebrows. In Boston, Danny Ainge has a small but effective group of executives who have shown the ability to build a title winner and rebuild it to the point where they’re back in the chase just four years later with a completely revamped roster. Irving knows he’s part of an organization that’s not only about winning but allowing folks to do what they do best in order to keep the train of success rolling along.
1. Coach Brad Stevens
Brad Stevens was instrumental in helping the Celtics land Gordon Hayward, and his role will be paramount to Irving’s success with the Celtics. Stevens has been high on ball movement and strong defense since taking over in 2013 – neither of which necessarily plays to Irving’s strengths. But Stevens has proven himself capable of winning over players in large part because of his consistency both in his words, actions and presence. And it is that presence, more than anything else, that will help smooth the transition for Irving to Boston. In six seasons, Irving has had four different coaches, and that doesn’t include Mike Brown serving two separate stints as the Cavs' head man. Stevens isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon. For a player with Irving’s talent, having that kind of stability on the sideline will go far in him figuring out sooner rather than later what Stevens will need from him to be successful.