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The Basketball Gods are in the Details: An Analysis of the Cavaliers/Celtics Trade

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It has been a relatively quiet August, even for an NBA offseason. That all changed last night, when it was reported that the Cleveland Cavaliers had traded disgruntled point guard Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics for a neat little package of Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, and the 2018 unprotected Brooklyn Nets first round pick.

Just by reading that brief summary, one would think the Cavs are getting the better end of the deal. Though perhaps initially true, this trade is multi-layered in its complexity, making it almost impossible to truly decide who’s come out on top.

Before diving in, it’s imperative for us to establish that this is not a bad trade for anyone. There are significant pros for both teams, some of which might not reveal themselves for several months. Got it, reactionary NBA Twitter? Now, let’s go deep.

On Isaiah vs Kyrie:

Statistically, the two are comparable. Last season, Kyrie was averaging 25.2 points per game to IT’s 28.9. Kyrie shot 40 per cent from the three-point line, while Thomas hit 37.9 per cent of his threes.

It’s unorthodox to trade players that read so similarly on paper. Irving and Thomas are the first players in NBA history who averaged over 25 points the previous season to ever be traded for each other. The nuances of this are truly in the details.

The chances of the Celtics backing up the Brinks truck for Thomas, who turned 28 in February, was unlikely. The point guard had essentially announced that he would be seeking the max upon his contract ending and it just didn’t make sense to award it to him. Age is a huge factor in that, as well as the hip injury that he struggled with through the playoffs. It’s too tough to say if IT would’ve aged well in Boston, and frankly, I don’t even want to entertain the concept. The emotional ramifications of trading a player like Isaiah has already reduced half the Boston fanbase to tears, myself included.

In mourning the loss of Thomas, he is still one of the better point guards and passers in the league. He’ll work well with LeBron and Kevin Love, despite his defensive weaknesses. A huge factor will be his health going forward. The hip injury he struggled with through the playoffs played a role in the trade and could turn into a major downside for the Cavs if it continues. Should he stay healthy, don’t expect the Cavs to be worse this season. They’re probably still a lock for The Finals.

Irving solves the issue of youth and also gives the Celtics a valuable weapon who can score off the dribble at will. Irving will get a chance to be a true leader on offense, instead of being overshadowed by LeBron. If Brad Stevens can get him to buy into the system, Kyrie will be immensely dangerous, especially with Gordon Hayward spotting up on the perimeter and Al Horford on the block. Just typing that gives me chills.

The only issue with Irving is why he left Cleveland. His desire to be the go-to guy could clash immensely with the team-first culture that the Celtics have strived to build. Had Boston retained their motley crew of dependable role players, Kyrie would’ve gotten exactly the kind of situation he wanted. Instead, Boston traded guys like Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder, and signed another superstar in Gordon Hayward. The potential for Kyrie is so high, but it will depend on how he feels about sharing the spotlight with Hayward. In this case, I feel as if Brad Stevens will play a huge role in maintaining the identity of his team, which is virtually unrecognizable from last season.

On Crowder & Zizic:

Losing Jae Crowder is a huge loss for the Cs. Crowder was arguably the most reliable of the Celtics role players, providing a tenacious defensive presence on the wing and hitting 40 per cent of his threes. His passion and energy was a huge part of the Celtics culture and the idea of him and Tristan Thompson on the same team is exciting. Both players are physical presences that allow an aging LeBron a bit of a break, while still giving him options both on the block and from the perimeter.

Speaking of physical, Ante Zizic will also be an interesting prospect to watch as he goes into his first NBA season. It’s almost impossible to decide if he’s a true asset yet, but he has the potential to do some damage as a rookie. He looked hungry in Summer League and the Cavs could definitely use another big who isn’t afraid to be a presence in the post. Too soon to say, but Zizic could definitely turn into an unexpected bonus for the Cavs.

On the Pick:

Personally, I was attached to this pick. The 2018 Nets first round pick is unprotected and almost 110 per cent guarantees its owner a talented player. The class of 2018 is crazy. Marvin Bagley and Canadian wunderkind R.J. Barrett have both reclassified, adding even more talent to an already stacked draft. There was a reason Danny Ainge clung so fiercely to this pick. Cleveland now has the opportunity to sustain their success, while building for a potentially LeBron-less future.

Final Thoughts:

Cleveland has done an admirable job here considering that a month ago they were without a GM. They will do well in the Eastern Conference this year, but that could be affected by Thomas’ health. Ultimately, they’ve begun to set themselves up for the future without blowing it up entirely.

When it comes to the Celtics, “young” is the key word here. Expect Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown to stir up buzz and mesh well with their older counterparts. Marcus Morris is a valuable addition that people seem to have forgotten about. The Cavs may be building for the future, but the Celtics have already built theirs. Now, it’s just a matter of watching it all play out.

Maddy is a Canadian sports media student who does not like the Raptors. Growing up in a hockey family, she decided to be rebellious and play basketball. She lives in Toronto and considers herself the defensive specialist of her pick-up league. When not writing, she does colour commentary for the Ryerson University women's team.

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Year 15 | A Mini Documentary

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What’s to come for the man on top, and what got him here?

It’s Year 15 of a man’s career, but it’s also Year 15 of a legacy…

Created by Tristan Laughton | Twitter: @Ctrice

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Editorial

Something Out of Nothing

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It’s March 2016, and I’m driving with Alan Shane Lewis to Montreal to meet with Marc Griffin and Phil Boileau. We’re meeting to speak about this exciting new idea I pitched to them. We were tired of spinning the wheels on our own individual internet shows, and I told them that it was time we stopped waiting for a network and became the network.

We spoke that weekend about creating a community of content creators that all loved ball and came together to make unique content with unique voices – voices we felt were never heard in the mainstream. This community was the base of Press and we’d continue to push forward from that spot. We spoke about some amazing show ideas, article ideas, social media plan. It was truly an exciting time, and still one of the best weekends of my life.

Two years later and that group is a lot smaller, and that idea is Press Basketball.

It caught fire at the beginning and we had people joining our bright shiny new plaything left, right, and center. It was exciting, but now I kind of realize that a lot of it was just that we were that “bright shiny new thing”.

We ended up with a lot of Press Basketball “members” but when I stepped back and looked at what was happening… it wasn’t what I’d imagined. The fire burned out. The idea was gone. We had just become another thing trying to stay alive, waiting for some deus ex machina to show up with money and make everything okay.

I’ve gone through most of my life making something out of nothing. It’s never easy, but when it happens it’s always worth it… ALWAYS. Press made me feel alive at a point. It was literally all I could think about, and while it still is on my mind, it doesn’t make me feel alive. This hurts more than I can ever explain.

Changes are coming my friends. We’re not laying down and dying, and if we do it’s not going to be like this.

The core of Press will be setting fire to a lot over the next few weeks and I personally can’t wait for this to start. From the ashes something new will rise (I watched a lot of XMEN growing up).

Stay tuned, because it’s not over.

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Lonzo Ball: The New Face of the Lakers

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Lonzo Ball is the new face of the Los Angeles Lakers franchise. The new savior. The Big Baller Brand is now here to stay and LaVar Ball’s family’s future is set. But is that enough?

Lonzo Ball is a great kid and athlete who knows his talent will take him to another level. The major question mark that remains is whether or not he will take the Lakers there as well. He has the platform and skillset to do so, but with that comes the added pressure from the city and league to basically become part of the next version of Kobe and Shaq. It’s too strainful for a young kid—a rookie—to achieve.  

Magic Johnson, the recently named President of Basketball of Operations for the Lakers, is taking an aggressive approach to get this team back into playoff contention his first year in. One of his first moves was sending D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov to the Brooklyn Nets for Brook Lopez and the 27th overall pick. Brook Lopez is definitely an upgrade at center, but has a couple of years already under his belt.   

Lopez will provide a much needed veteran presence with a great IQ for the game at his position. The only downfall is that a couple of years under his belt doesn’t really transfer to great experience, but simply wasted miles on his body. He isn’t as quick as he used to be and doesn’t even rank in the top 10 centers in the league. In fact, Bleacher Report had him last season at exactly 15 out of the top 30 centers in the NBA. While he is has improved by adding the three-point range to his arsenal, there is no doubt that he is nearly past his prime, and although he can still contribute on a nightly basis, who knows how much and what effect it will have with Lonzo Ball running the point.  

Ball has great court vision that has been often compared to that of LeBron James. Combined with his passing skills, he is a true PG with tremendous upside in the backcourt. With that being said, he will only reach a certain extent. His full potential is years from being maximized and people are buying into it early on. In fact, the pressure for him to lift a sub .500 team to the playoffs for the first time in five years is daunting. 

These are Lonzo Ball’s stats during his rookie—and only—year at UCLA: 

  • 14.6 Points
  • 7.6 Assists
  • 6.0  Rebounds
  • 1.8 Steals
  • 0.8 Blocks
  • 55.1 FG%
  • 41.2 3P%

He did a tremendous job maintaining that statline and even added a triple-double in the NBA Summer League, earning him the Summer League MVP.  

Don’t get me wrong, Ball seems ready for the challenge and is definitely a one-of-a-kind talent mirroring that of Steve Nash and Jason Kidd, but he is not an All-Star or MVP—at least, not yet. These way-too-early predictions that he is the Lakers’ new savior are farfetched. He has yet to face the elite NBA offensive threats and superstars that have been at it for 10-plus years. Defensively speaking he will not be able to keep up. Not in his first year. He still needs NBA experience and a more rounded roster to be able to reach the playoffs.  

He is off to a good start, but being named NBA Summer League MVP doesn’t necessarily mean a spectacular season is coming as some think it does. Especially if you consider the previous Summer League MVP winners.

Year Nat. Player Pos. Team
2012 Damian Lillard (co-MVPs) PG Portland Trail Blazers
Josh Selby (co-MVPs) PG Memphis Grizzlies
2013 Jonas Valančiūnas C Toronto Raptors
2014 Glen Rice Jr. SG Washington Wizards
2015 Kyle Anderson SF San Antonio Spurs
2016 Tyus Jones PG Minnesota Timberwolves
2017 Lonzo Ball PG Los Angeles Lakers

With the exceptions of Damian Lillard in 2012 and Jonas Valanciunas in 2013, the past five Summer League MVP winners have gone on to produce very mediocre NBA careers. All I’m saying is, don’t read too much into NBA Summer League. It’s the pre-preseason that no one really watches or cares about.  

The NBA season is nearing—exactly a month away—and my somewhat harsh criticism of Lonzo Ball isn’t too cruel. I am just not ready to jump on the Ball bandwagon following LaVar’s prophecies of his son being the Lakers prodigal son. He won’t be. Again, at least not yet. He needs to earn his spot and the transition will surprise him his first year in. It will hit him hard, but, despite my concerns, eventually Lonzo Ball will become a future NBA All-Star and a daring NBA point guard.  

Not yet though, and until then all we can do is prepare for his official NBA debut. Until then, we can enjoy and bask in his newly released rap single paying tribute to his little brother LaMelo Ball.  

If the NBA doesn’t end up being his calling in life, at least he has a back up career in mind.

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