Kyrie Irving is no longer a Cavalier, while Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder will now go to Cleveland and battle alongside LeBron James. Tuesday, Oct. 17 is the start of the NBA season and it just got a whole lot more interesting. The Celtics visit the Cavaliers at 8 p.m. that night to kick off the season. It was already going to be a fun night of hoops, as two of the East’s best teams were set to do battle, but now the added drama of LeBron vs. Kyrie, and the addition of Gordon Hayward to the Celtics makes the opening of the NBA season must-see TV.
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On a seemingly quiet Tuesday night, point guard Irving was officially traded to the Celtics for point guard Thomas, forward Crowder, center Ante Zizic and Brooklyn’s first-round pick in 2018. That Brooklyn pick could end up being a big deal and might have tipped the trade in Cleveland’s favor. Then again, the Celtics feel like they got the face of their franchise in Irving, and he’s under contract for the next two seasons. Additionally, Boston believes he’ll sign on for the long haul as well. Irving wanted out of Cleveland in order to be the Alpha dog and he got his wish, so the potential production he’ll put up for Boston should be highly intriguing to fantasy players. Taking him anywhere from the 10th to the 20th pick in 12-team drafts makes sense at this point. Both Irving and LeBron should be as motivated as any players in the league this season, especially on opening night.
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Here’s how some of the other players on both teams should fare;
Isaiah Thomas - Cavs – Thomas is now the point guard for LeBron James and the Cavs, as soon as he’s healthy. We still don’t know exactly when Thomas will be ready to play due to a hip injury, and he wants a max deal in 2018, so the Celtics weren’t all that sad to lose him and gain Irving. If healthy for Game 1 of the season, Thomas is going to have another big year, although he may have trouble matching last season’s numbers when LeBron wasn’t his teammate. He still looks like a 2nd- or 3rd-round pick, if his scan on his hip in the next couple weeks comes back clean.
LeBron James – Cavs - James is the point forward for the Cavs, regardless of who is playing point guard. He’s also likely to be possessed after Irving’s trade demand and we could see one of the greatest seasons of his career coming in Cleveland. Late rest is always a fantasy factor to consider with LeBron, but I like his situation after last season’s success, and he’s still a first-round pick in my book.
Kevin Love – Cavs – Love shouldn’t be too impacted by the absence of Irving and arrival of Thomas. Thomas is going to do his best to fit in and not make waves, which means he should continue to feed Bron and Love the rock as much as they want it.
Jae Crowder – Cavs – Crowder just took a hit, as he now goes from probable starter for the Celtics to reserve for the Cavs, who happen to feature LeBron and Love at Crowder’s two positions. Jeff Green and Richard Jefferson are also around to eat into Crowder’s role, but he’s a solid player and is too good to sit on their bench. He should still be able to find enough minutes regardless of his role to have fantasy value, but I’m not going to be targeting him until the later rounds. If the Cavs decided to bench Tristan Thompson and start Love at center with Bron and Crowder at the forward spots, that would obviously help Crowder’s fantasy value. But I don’t think that’s happening.
Derrick Rose – Cavs – If Thomas’ hip injury isn’t healed by the start of the season, Rose is going to be a popular draft-night safety pick, but as soon as Thomas is ready to go, it’s hard to imagine him allowing Rose to get more than a handful of minutes a night.
Gordon Hayward – Celtics – Hayward shouldn’t be impacted too much by the trade, although Irving wanting to be ‘the man’ does add some intrigue with Hayward. But Irving will need Hayward to take some pressure off of him, and Hayward’s value really doesn’t change much, whether he’s playing with Thomas or Irving. They’re both high-volume shooters, while Irving should be looking forward to showing off his passing skills (to Hayward) with LeBron out of the way.
Marcus Morris – Celtics – Morris suddenly looks like the starting power forward for the Celtics with Crowder gone and he shouldn’t face much competition for minutes or the job. That qualifies him for sleeper status after he averaged 14 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.7 steals and 1.5 3-pointers on 42 percent shooting in 79 games for the Pistons last year.
Another crazy offseason is almost in the books, as soon as we find out where Carmelo Anthony will be playing this season. Stay tuned!