Two years after Celtics-Cavs blockbuster trade: Where are they now?
BOSTON -- It’s hard to believe that Thursday marks the two-year anniversary of the Celtics trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers that netted them perennial All-Star Kyrie Irving.
It was a deal that the Celtics thought would position them to contend for the Larry O’Brien Trophy for many years to come, while the Cavs were getting great value - and a coveted draft pick - for Irving, who had demanded a trade.
Well, let’s just say things didn’t quite work out as either team had planned.
Here’s a “where are they now?” look at the players from the blockbuster:
TO BOSTON: KYRIE IRVING
The 6-foot-3 guard was an All-Star in both seasons in Boston, although his first one ended prematurely due to a knee infection. He bounced back with a strong season, and at one point in October of last year declared he wanted to re-sign with Boston.
Still, just a couple months later, he was singing a much different tune that led many to believe that he was starting to tune out Celtics management and his teammates with plans to move on to the Big Apple.
New York was the team being discussed most of this season as a landing spot for Irving, but the Brooklyn Nets gradually crept their way into the conversation.
And as we got closer to free agency, the Nets emerged as the team to beat and would ultimately be the team that Irving, as well as former Golden State star Kevin Durant, would sign with heading into the 2019-20 season.
TO CLEVELAND: ISAIAH THOMAS
After a hip injury forced him out in the 2017 Eastern Conference finals, against Kyrie Irving and the Cavs of all teams, Thomas soon found himself moved on to Cleveland.
Thomas was upset at the trade, feeling as though he had done all he could for Boston and that by trading him away, the Celtics showed a lack of respect for the time and work he put to help the franchise rebound from some down seasons.
The best revenge is to get it done on the floor, but that hip injury turned out to be worse than anyone thought.
Boston wound up giving the Cavs added compensation (a second-round pick via Miami) to soften the blow for Cleveland when the injured Thomas wouldn't get to play for a while.
I.T. did not play his first game with Cleveland until Jan. 2, 2018 when he checked in at the 4:33 mark against the Portland Trail Blazers.
He had 17 points on 6-for-12 shooting, with three assists and zero turnovers in Cleveland’s 127-110 win.
Still, the good times in Cleveland did not last long with Thomas later that same season being traded to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Thomas had his share of struggles there as well, finishing the season averaging 15.2 points, 4.8 assists and 2.1 rebounds and the Cavs and Lakers went a combined 15-17 when he appeared in games.
He hit the free agency market but didn’t get the kind of attention the former two-time All-Star was seeking and eventually signed with the Denver Nuggets and their head coach Mike Malone who coached Thomas when he was a rookie in Sacramento.
That connection certainly gave Thomas a sense that he would play.
Thomas again found himself fighting to get minutes even under his old coach. He still found himself buried on the bench.
With the Nuggets he appeared in just 12 games. Many of those games, he was a DNP-CD (coaches decision).
Thomas is on the move again with this latest stop being the Washington Wizards, where he will compete for a starting job in the backcourt, alongside Bradley Beal.
Washington’s John Wall continues to recover from a torn Achilles injury that according to Wizards owner Ted Leonis, will likely keep Wall out for the season.
That means for the first time since his days in Boston, Thomas will go into camp with a chance to be a starter after pit stops in Cleveland, Los Angeles, Denver and now Washington.
TO CLEVELAND: JAE CROWDER
Trading of Jae Crowder was an inevitable reality based on the direction the Celtics were going relative to the talent they had.
In back-to-back drafts, the Celtics used the No. 3 pick to draft a wing player, first Jaylen Brown in 2016 and then Jayson Tatum in 2017.
At the time of the trade, Brown had already shown growth to be a potential starter in this league.
And with Tatum’s potential, along with Gordon Hayward, who is also a wing, there just wasn’t going to be room for minutes for Crowder.
Like Thomas, Crowder didn’t exactly have a seamless meshing of talent following the trade to Cleveland.
It wasn’t long before Crowder was on the move out West when he was traded to the Utah Jazz - the same team his father Corey Crowder played for in 1991-92.
Crowder had a solid two-year run in Utah before being included in another blockbuster deal, this one sent him to the Memphis Grizzlies, who in turn shipped out Mike Conley Jr. to Utah.
TO CLEVELAND: ANTE ZIZIC
Drafted by the Celtics with the 23rd pick in the 2016 draft, Zizic would spend a year playing overseas before he brought his talent to the NBA.
After a strong showing in summer league for the Celtics, Zizic looked very much like a young, promising big man who could potentially contribute for Boston.
But when an opportunity came to land Irving, the Celtics did not hesitate to include the 7-foot big man in the deal.
He has spent the past two seasons with Cleveland, seeing more time from one season to the next.
The Cavs are in rebuilding mode, for sure.
By no means is Zizic a star, but rather a solid role player who is far more helpful than someone who hurts their chances at success.
TO CLEVELAND: UNPROTECTED 2018 BROOKLYN FIRST-ROUND PICK
Boston had been stockpiling assets with the goal to use them when a player who could be a major difference-maker became available.
Irving fit the profile perfectly.
A perennial All-Star despite being just 25 at the time, Irving met the eye test for sure. So, the only thing left to decide on Boston’s part, was whether they were willing to part with Brooklyn’s unprotected first-round pick.
The Celtics were getting the pick from the Nets courtesy of the 2013 trade Boston pulled off with the Brooklyn Nets.
It had the potential to be the top overall selection, but fortunately for the Celtics - and not so much for Cleveland - the Nets played hard night in and night out, which led to them winning more than most expected.
And that had a major impact on that unprotected pick, which ultimately wound up being the eighth overall selection that was used to draft Alabama point guard Collin Sexton.
Sexton played in all 82 games as a rookie last season, averaging 16.7 points, 3.0 assists and 2.9 rebounds per game.