The Best and Worst Case Scenario for Each Team in the Kyrie Isaiah Deal

By Connor Pignatello

The Boston Celtics and the Cleveland Cavaliers shocked the NBA world on August 22nd when Cleveland sent wantaway All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving to their biggest competition, the Boston Celtics. In return, the Cavaliers received All-Star Isaiah Thomas, defensive-minded wing Jae Crowder, European import Ante Zizic, and Brooklyn’s unprotected pick in next year’s draft.

At the surface, this trade looks like a fair swap, with both teams receiving upgrades to their respective squads. But both teams mortgaged their present and future in this trade, creating an enormous range of outcomes. This article will explore each team’s best and worst case scenarios after the blockbuster deal.

What if Jae Crowder is the final piece of the defensive puzzle that Cleveland desperately needs to defeat Golden State?

What if Kyrie, now the best player on his team, transforms into a different beast, and leads the Celtics to the Finals?

These are just some of the questions that will be answered before the NBA season concludes next June.

Cavaliers best-case scenario

Isaiah Thomas accepts a secondary role to Lebron James in Cleveland’s system. He becomes more efficient, and his percentages rise across the board, thanks to Lebron’s pinpoint passes. While James is resting, Isaiah transforms back into his Boston ways, dominating the ball and drilling shots from all over the court. Thomas turns 29 in February, and as his body starts to break down, a secondary role on the Cavs will help him play for many more years.

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Jae Crowder returns to the team that drafted him in 2012 after multiple trades and demotions to the D-League. With the help of Lebron’s excellent passing, Crowder improves his three-point percentage, transforming himself into a sniper on the wing. Crowder’s defensive versatility enables the Cavaliers to defend the wing-heavy lineups that are now prevalent in today’s NBA.

Ante Zizic takes a reserve role on the Cavs, but is a much-needed source of bench rebounding.

Brooklyn’s draft pick lands at number one for the second year in a row. The Cavaliers draft a young star like forward Michael Porter Jr. or guard Luka Doncic. The promise of a great young player compels Thomas and James to resign, continuing Cleveland’s dominance in the East.

Cavaliers worst-case scenario

Thomas’s hip, which he injured in last year’s Eastern Conference Finals, never heals correctly and he is unable to return to his 2016 self. He can’t mesh with Lebron James, as he needs to be the primary ball handler to be effective. Unsatisfied with his secondary role on the Cavs, Thomas leaves the team in free agency after just one year in Cleveland.

Jae Crowder can’t rectify Cleveland’s mediocre defense all by himself. He is also unable to produce off the bench, a place he hasn’t played from since 2014. He sees the Cavaliers as an offense-only team, and notices that they don’t play with the kind of defensive grit that his Celtic teammates played with.
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Ante Zizic’s zero career three-point makes hinder him in today’s pace-and-space game. Zizic is labeled as a bust.

Brooklyn, with the additions of D’Angelo Russell, Allen Crabbe, and DeMarre Carroll, becomes semi-competitive. They almost reach the Playoffs in an extremely weak Eastern Conference and their pick falls out of the top ten.

Lebron James realizes that Thomas is no better than his old teammate Irving, and after losing to the Warriors in the Finals for the third time in four years, he decides to call it quits in Cleveland and head for the golden hills of Hollywood.

As you can see, there is an enormous range of outcomes that could occur. If the Cavs mesh well together, they will have a great chance of dethroning the Warriors. They will be able to persuade Lebron James and Isaiah Thomas to resign, as well as having a top draft pick.

However, if the Cavs don’t develop good chemistry, they stand no chance of beating the Celtics, let alone the Warriors. Cleveland faces the distinct possibility that both James and Thomas leave in free agency next summer.

Celtics best-case scenario

Kyrie blossoms in Boston and shows his ability to lead a team where he is the primary star. Now in the spotlight, he transforms into a different beast, and leads the Celtics to the Finals. His passing improves as he leaves the confines of Cleveland’s Lebron-dominated offense. He finds Gordon Hayward on the wing for three point bombs, Al Horford in the post for layups, and Jaylen Brown streaking down the court for fastbreak dunks.

Irving flourishes in Boston, leading the Celtics to a win in the Eastern Conference Finals over his former team, the Cavaliers. He shows that, yes, he can be the best player on a contending team.

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With Irving, the Celtics now have the star they’ve been searching for for years. Boston also has great talent surrounding Irving. They have veteran talent like All-Stars Gordon Hayward and Al Horford. And they have young, athletic wings like Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum.

The Cavaliers are a much older team than the Celtics. Their two best players, Thomas and James, are free agents next summer. The Celtics are better equipped than the Cavs to contend with the Warriors in the years to come. They have lots of young talent, in addition to one of the top selections in next year’s draft, courtesy of the Lakers.

Celtics worst-case scenario

Kyrie struggles without Lebron, and the Celtics realize that, although Irving is a great sidekick, he’s not good enough to be the best player on a championship team. Kyrie finds it’s extremely difficult to be a team’s primary star. The fulltime ball handling duties, the sensational Boston media, the new leadership expectations, and all of the pressure of being the Celtics best player get to him.
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Now out of Lebron’s shadow, people realize Kyrie’s weaknesses. His passing, defense, and leadership abilities are scrutinized, and he’s unable to get past Lebron James in the Eastern Conference Finals.

After trading away their best scorer in Thomas and their best defender in Crowder, the Celtics aren’t able to pass the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference. Even after adding Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, the Celtics still don’t have enough firepower to beat the immovable force in the East: Lebron James.

After completely remodeling their team this offseason, the Celtics could either fly to the top of the Eastern Conference, or flop and flame out in the second round of the playoffs.

The combination of young players, veteran players, superstars, and role players that the Celtics have make them a great pick to emerge out of the Eastern Conference.

But the Celtics have lost a great deal of their identity this offseason, bidding farewell to 4/5ths of their starting lineup. If the Celtics can’t come together and form chemistry, they’ll be just another team with loads of potential but no results.

The Cavaliers will host the Celtics on the opening night of the NBA season, October 17th. The teams also figure to meet in the Eastern Conference Finals, where the winner of this blockbuster trade will be decided. Because of this trade and many others, the NBA will be a very interesting place next year.

Special thanks to Basketball Reference for these helpful stats.

Kyrie Irving picture credit: By Keith Allison from Hanover, MD, USA – Kyrie Irving, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36918818

The Arm Sleeve: Now a component in America’s three favorite sports

By Connor Pignatello

Iverson

On January 21st, 2001, Allen Iverson was experiencing soreness in his right elbow. He had bursitis, inflammation that would require offseason surgery. So, the 76ers trainer cut out part of a tube bandage and suggested Iverson wear it to ease the swelling. Iverson scored 51 points that night, and by the time the year was over, he had attained his second scoring title and his only NBA Finals appearance.

‘The Answer’ would don his signature accessory, the arm sleeve, for the rest of his distinguished career, while racking up 4 scoring titles, 8 All-NBA selections, and the MVP award in 2001.

Arm Sleeves

It is said arm sleeves can help keep the muscles in the shooter’s arm warm and stop inflammation. However, lots of players wear sleeves just for fashion, and their impact is doubted by many. Also, wearing an arm sleeve on your non-shooting elbow has been found to have zero impact, so players like Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony who wear two arm sleeves are not helping themselves at all.

These sleeves also help players because of the ‘placebo effect’. The player feels as if the sleeve is improving his play and also decreasing his chance of injury. Therefore, he plays with more confidence, even though the accessory that he is wearing has no proven benefits.

Arm sleeves also can help a player become more confident, as Deion Sanders once said, “If you look good you feel good, and if you feel good you play good”. For example, former Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III — who wears one on his non-throwing arm — stated that he feels more confident when he is wearing the stylish arm sleeve.

Another reason that athletes wear arm sleeves is because of superstition. Athletes are notoriously superstitious, so if they try out an arm sleeve and have a great game, they will keep it on as a good luck charm.

Influence

Iverson was a cultural icon and many NBA players and fans imitated him. He was a fan favorite because, at just 6’ and 165 pounds, fans could see themselves in his size 11 shoes. Kids grew up idolizing Iverson because they could relate to him, and they could root for the underdog — the skinny kid from the projects who drove fearlessly through the lane against players that might be a foot taller and 100 pounds heavier. Fans could not relate to behemoth centers and athletic freaks like Shaquille O’Neal — the MVP winner in 2000 — because there was no way that they could grow up to be 7’1” and 325 pounds.

Iverson influenced millions of people, and after his jersey retirement ceremony, Lebron James thanked Iverson in an Instagram post, “U (sic.) the reason why I got tattoos, wore a headband and arm sleeve. Thanks for everything!!” When Steph Curry was asked about why he wore an arm sleeve for a portion of Game 1 of the NBA Finals, he replied, “As a little kid I always wanted to be like Allen Iverson and that was the only way I could really come close.” A.I. was so revered by fans that twice in the late stages of his career he made the All-Star team while only playing 3 games.  

I estimate that almost half of the players in the NBA now wear an arm sleeve, and this is all attributable to Iverson. Stars like Lebron James, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade, Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving, and Paul George all wear this fashionable accessory.

Iverson was such an idol in the 2000s that his use of the arm sleeve has spread to baseball, football, and even tennis — Serena Williams wore two arm sleeves during her U.S. Open win in 2016.

Many baseball players wear the accessory on their throwing arm now, to keep their muscles warm. All-Stars like Bryce Harper, Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, Carlos Correa, Kris Bryant, and Manny Machado all wear compression sleeves.

Arm sleeves are also common in the NFL. Actually, I think they make more sense in football than any other sport, because the sleeves prevent players from getting turf burn. However, I suspect that arm sleeves are more of a fashion statement than a safety feature. Cornerbacks like Richard Sherman and Josh Norman, running backs such as Ezekiel Elliott and Le’Veon Bell, and quarterbacks like Carson Wentz and Robert Griffin III all wear arm sleeves.

Other Sports Fashion

Compression pants, like arm sleeves, have no confirmed benefit, but most basketball players now wear them. Some players have knee pads inside the pants, but many don’t, meaning that they wear compression pants for fashion purposes. Out of the 11 players who received an MVP vote this year, 10 of them wear some type of compression on their legs.

Football players have begun to wear tights as well. Some NFL players are ditching knee-high socks and wearing compression pants underneath their uniform shorts. And many college players are wearing tights to cover up their bare legs.

The arm sleeve is one of the singular accessories in American sports that does not have a proven benefit, but is widespread in its usage. This decoration is still popular years after Iverson retired, and it has been ingrained in sports fashion forever. The era of accessorizing is upon us, and the arm sleeve is here to stay.

 

Special thanks to Jay Caspian King’s New Yorker article “Object of Interest: The History of the Allen Iverson sleeve”. http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/object-of-interest-the-history-of-the-allen-iverson-sleeve

Special thanks also to iMSportsBlog for teaching me about arm sleeves. http://blog.imsportsteam.com/sports-compression-sleeves-do-they-really-work/

All stats via Basketball Reference