Boston Did Just As Good As Cleveland In Getting Kyrie

Trades like the one that occurred Tuesday night don’t come around very often.  In 2012, it was James Harden, a future superstar in everyone’s book besides Oklahoma City’s who was moved.  Prior to that, it was Carmelo Anthony.  It’s very rare that a top 15 player is ever moved.  Usually the circumstances surrounding it are pretty stupid.  In this case, they were pretty reasonable.

My theory on Kyrie’s trade request: He was secretly tired of being in LeBron’s shadow for some time and kept it quiet.  Then he heard about June’s nixed mega-trade (Who’s involved parts are still being questioned) and thought “I don’t wanna be here and they see me as expendable.  Get me out.”   And so Cleveland went to work on a deal.

As for why the relationship between Kyrie and LeBron got so bad?  Maybe there was some behind the scenes stuff?  Maybe the on-court relationship was a really tough chemistry thing for the two to work out?  Maybe LeBron took offense to the fact that Kyrie didn’t want to play with him?  Maybe LeBron’s advocation for a Paul George trade wasn’t supported by Kyrie because of Kyrie and PG sharing the same ex-girlfriend (Callie Rivers)?  That’s my favorite theory.  What if she dumped one for the other?  At the same time, she’s now dating Seth Curry, so theoretically they could both talk crap about her.

Anyways, Kyrie’s trade to Boston completely realigns the Eastern Conference.  Most people believe Cleveland got the better end of it, but I have my doubts.

Celtics get: Kyrie Irving

Cavaliers get: Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, 2018 Nets 1st round pick

Ever since the reports of Cleveland being active in trade talks this Summer have been out, I had been saying that the Cavs had to upgrade their defensive versatility.  LeBron couldn’t handle Kevin Durant in the Finals, and Cleveland’s poor team defense was the nail in the coffin.  If I were Cleveland, I would have tried to flip Kevin Love into two 3-and-D guys.

That however was before Kyrie’s trade request.  Even though the Cavs were gonna send one of the league’s best 15 players out the door, it also provided them a great opportunity improve on the other side of the floor.

The Cavaliers failed to do that.

Value wise the trade wasn’t as bad AS I make it out to be.  Isaiah Thomas is one of the 20 best players in the league, but couldn’t have been dealt straight up due to age and his upcoming contract.  Jae Crowder is a decent 3-and-D player.  Ante Zizic has some promise, and the Nets’ pick is a great asset.

But how exactly did Cleveland close the gap on Golden State?  They somehow downgraded defensively from Irving to Thomas.  Jae Crowder missed a ton of shots and was not the defensive player he has been in the past during the playoffs; he’s not locking down KD or Klay Thompson.  And the Cavs still have Kevin Love, who’s a great player in the right system, but is being used as a wing who can’t defend the likes of a Draymond Green-type player.

The Nets pick could find them that versatile athletic wing, but the 2018 draft surely isn’t the 2017 one (2017 was 15 players deep and will go down as one of the best ever).  Plus, Brooklyn actually has some competent basketball players now.  That pick could very well end up in the 4-5-6-7 range rather than in the top three.

Even if the Cavs do get that guy next June, LeBron James will be a free agent three weeks afterward.  The whole city of Cleveland is gonna be pissing their pants wondering if he’ll leave again.

The demand for the Nets pick revealed this to me: That Dan Gilbert actually and finally realizes that LeBron might be a Laker a year from now.  This wasn’t evident in June, when David Griffin was the still the GM, and wanted to hold on to Kyrie instead sending him elsewhere because of the threat of LeBron leaving in the Summer of 2018.  Had Gilbert realized this in June, maybe Kyrie isn’t as upset, and maybe things smooth over with LeBron and he’s still a Cavalier.

The Nets pick could yield the Cavs a future building block, but it still may not be as lucrative as we think.  Plus, it was only Boston’s 3rd strongest asset.

I thought the Celtics were extremely smart about the way they constructed this deal.  Sure, letting go of Isaiah Thomas is kinda crappy.  They brought him in, gave him the keys, instilled his confidence and he blossomed.  Then eight months after the blossom they let him go.  But sports is a business, and the math/money behind it all made too much sense.

There was no way Boston was going to pay him a max contract next Summer.  $120 million-something is a huge gamble for a 5’9, 29 year old point guard who has a hip problem.  And when you have a choice to make between two better assets (In this case, Markelle Fultz and Kyrie Irving), the decision to trade Thomas was an easy one.

Shipping out Isaiah saves them money (Irving’s contract is considerbly less), gives them more stability (Kyrie’s up in the Summer of 2019 and will probably re-sign), instills youth (Kyrie is still 26!!) and overall just makes them better.  Kyrie was a baller in the playoffs.  As much of a efficiency-freak as I am, you still need someone who can hit a big shot off an iso when it really matters.  Kyrie is that dude.  I mean, he kinda hit a NBA Finals-winning shot in 2016.

Getting rid of Jae Crowder frees up minutes for Jaylen Brown-who was really good late in the postseason defensively- Jayson Tatum, who I’m still a little skeptical on but is another scorer who’s effective on-or-off the ball, and even the rookie Semi Ojeleye, who’s an athletic wing out of SMU.

Zizic was a draft-and-stash guy of Boston’s from a year ago.  He seems very raw, but he’s only 20, so he’s got time to improve.  It was unlikely for him to see major minutes this season with Marcus Morris, Al Horford, Aron Baynes and Guerschon Yabusele already in the front court.

The pick is the real bigey, but even it has its pros to being traded.  It’s the least valuable of all of the Nets’ picks, because even though it’s worth more than Jaylen Brown or Jayson Tatum, it comes in the worst of the three drafts.  And if this trade went through without its inclusion, what type of player could Boston possibly pick?  What would be their need?

That takes us into how Kyrie fits in with Boston.  The Celtics are looking at a starting lineup of Irving-Gordon Hayward-Brown-Morris-Horford; Brown starting over Tatum because he’s earned a minutes upgrade and is much better on the defensive end then Tatum.

Part of Irving’s trade demand had to do with him wanting to expand his playmaking abilities.  I’ve always thought of Irving as a two-guard; a scorer first and a passer second.  But if Irving is willing to work on his passing, my concern about him dominating the ball is lowered.  It doesn’t sound like a Russell Westbrook situation.

The main thing Boston needed was shot-makers: Dudes who you can trust to get you a bucket.  The Celtics added two of them this offseason in Irving and Hayward, and have a 3rd off the bench in Tatum.

With this kind of star-power, the Celtics have a new array of plays they could run, and with Brad Stevens on the sideline, that’s a very scary thought for opposing teams.  Stevens could have Irving drive and dish, drive and score, or find a slasher.  Hayward is a great catch and shoot scorer and also has crafty ball-handling ability.  He can also be run off screens.  There might even be a play where Irving comes off a screen.  It’s not like the ball isn’t going in.

Jaylen Brown isn’t there offensively yet, but his scoring mostly came off of kick-out threes last season.  With Irving being one of the best ever at getting to the rim, Brown will be launching.

Defensively the Celtics didn’t get too much better.  Irving is only better than Thomas due to his height; you don’t have to completely hide him.  But the Celtics might be so good that it doesn’t really matter, and even when matchups do get harder, Irving’s offense could make up for it.

As for how this trade affects Cleveland, it doesn’t change too much.  You have to wonder how any point guard will fit with LeBron, but Isaiah is much better off-the-ball than Kyrie; the Celtics ran him off screens when Marcus Smart was in the game last season.  Thomas is also extremely underrated when it comes to getting to the rim, so the change of style at the point guard spot won’t be much different.  Defensively though, Isaiah’s gonna have to be hidden, and that will be a major problem if the Warriors and Cavaliers meet in the Finals once again.

Jae Crowder probably finds himself coming off the bench unless Love is flipped for wings before the season; you can’t sit $85 million+ men.  Depending on the matchup he’ll be useful, but he’s not a crunch time defender, and is probably hid in the corner on offense.

Zizic will hopefully be a nice backup center for Tristan Thompson, and the pressure during the regular season won’t be too high on him since the Cavaliers are still so talented.

Cleveland got the return they wanted, so congratulations to them.  But in trading Kyrie to Boston not only did they not close the gap on Golden State, but they helped the Celtics become more equipped to beat them.

Even if Boston had given up more, say Jaylen Brown or Terry Rozier, the Cavs are still trading away Kyrie, who has the capability to be the best player on a championship team.  That’s not the case for every team; Phoenix probably isn’t a title contender with Irving, but with a roster already as loaded as Boston’s, the Cavs practically said “Here’s a huge increase in your NBA Finals odds!”

That, coupled with Cleveland not getting enough in the first place, is why I loved this trade for Boston.  Sure LeBron is gonna be pissed off as ever, but their path to the Finals only presumably runs through him for one more year.  After that, Boston’s reign in the East is foreseeable for quite some time.

Did The NFL Actually Get Ezekiel Elliot’s Suspension Right?

Usually, the beginning of the preseason doesn’t bring too much.  A couple quarterback battles form, guys get hurt, too many teams get smoke blown up their rear end.  It’s a time full of questions.

But last Friday, the NFL dropped a load.  Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliot was suspended six games by the league, a move that was touted and criticized by fans.  The Bills also made two pretty major trades, sending Sammy Watkins to the Rams and Ronald Darby to the Eagles.  It was the biggest day the NFL had since the free agency period, and with the NBA’s dominance of headlines throughout August, Friday was a day the league office had probably coveted for months.

On Ezekiel Elliot’s suspension…

Zeke’s suspension didn’t come as a shock.  We all knew there was a chance a ban was coming, and the Cowboys pretended to act like they didn’t know, a trend that’s pretty common in the league when it comes to domestic violence.

But hey, the NFL actually did something partially right this time.  Zeke got six games, the heaviest domestic violence ban since I’ve launched this site.  Under the new policy, it’s six games for the first incident, and a lifetime banishment for the second.

That’s the way it always should have been.  We can argue all we want about whether six games is the right amount; some might say it should vary based on the incident (which, I’d hope not, because clearly the NFL can’t handle that), some might say beating women should be an automatic banishment, and then there’s the idiotic crowd of “Six games is too much!”.

This is the NFL’s first attempt at consistency, which is why a certain take that circulated on Twitter is a bad one.

When the Josh Brown and Ray Rice “suspensions” were handed down, the NFL was completely incompetent at determining what the punishment should be and how to evaluate the evidence presented to them.  The Zeke suspension is like the first day of a new job for them, and, if the NFL made the correct call (which, if Zeke is appealing, it means he’s either lying or the NFL shockingly screwed up yet another investigation), then they did pretty good for their first day.

That’s why the tweet above is a false argument.  Yes, it’s ridiculous that the NFL has gone so back and forth on this stuff.  But Zeke’s suspension, for now, seems to be a step in the right direction.

From the football aspect, this is a huge loss for Dallas.  In my preseason research, I’ve already identified Dallas as a candidate for a down season.  That doesn’t mean they’ll be bad, but I’m not sure they’ll be as good as last year.  Zeke’s suspension certainly doesn’t help that.

The Cowboys have nice depth behind Elliot, with Alfred Morris and Darren McFadden, but neither are the workhorse backs like Elliot is, and McFadden always has trouble staying on the field.  This puts immense pressure on Dak Prescott, who I have always been a big fan of, and who I think is the one guy who can barrel through it.  That said, the sophomore slump is always a concern, and even if it’s not a “slump”, it seems a tad unrealistic that Prescott can have the exact or better year that he did last year.  Part of what made Prescott so good was his reliance on Zeke, so that when it was his time to pass, he was rested and ready to make a good throw.  Dallas loved the play-action in 2016-2017.  They used it 23.6% of the time per Pro Football Focus.  Zeke’s absence hinders their ability to rely on it greatly.

The Cowboys’ defense is a mess, with multiple guys suspended for PEDs and/or drug offenses.  It wasn’t great to start, but with the added absences, Dallas’ D could very well be one of the worst three in the league.

If this much goes wrong for Dallas, the division could slip out of their grasp.  The NFC East is just as mediocre as it is every year, where you could see each team winning 11 games and each team finishing 8-8, yet no one winning less than seven games.

As you’ll read in upcoming weeks, I am very high on Philadelphia, and think with Zeke’s suspension that they are the best team in the division.  Dallas, with everyone healthy and back on the field, should reclaim that title.  But a rough start out of the gate and a surprise performance from a division foe could leave the Cowboys in bad shape.

On the Bills’ trades…

Essentially, here’s what the Bills did:

Bills get: Jordan Matthews, EJ Gains, 2nd round pick, 3rd round pick 

Eagles get: Ronald Darby

Rams get: Sammy Watkins, 6th round pick

There were sides I liked to it and sides I didn’t.  The value they got for Sammy Watkins was incredible.  Yeah, he’s a No.1 receiver when healthy, but thats been a huge question over the years.  To get a 2nd round pick for a banged up wide-out was a total steal.  Swapping out Watkins for Matthews may seem like a downgrade talent wise, but Matthews is solid, and the Bills need consistency in a wide receiver corps that is pretty thin.  They’re counting on big things from 2nd round pick Zay Jones and need Anquan Boldin to catch 60-or-so balls this season.

Matthews isn’t fantastic, but he’ll be a nice target, and when you factor the return on Watkins, it makes the trade pretty equal.

On the other hand, I thought the Bills gave up on Ronald Darby too early.  He was awesome in his rookie year, and only struggled with injuries last season.  Plus, it’s not like Rob and Rex Ryan’s defensive system helped him or anyone out.

Buffalo got good value back, but their secondary is pretty weak, and Philadelphia’s is even worse.  The Bills should have been able to squeeze a little more out of Philly since Darby will contribute much more to them than he would in Buffalo.

As for St. Louis, I mean, anything to help Jared Goff I guess?  Watkins is fine when healthy, but you know he’s gonna miss at least three games.  The Rams receiving core isn’t the strongest either.  If you’re gonna cough up a 2nd round pick, then at least make a move for someone more consistent.

The Eagles won these moves.  Though acquiring the least known name, Darby means more to the Eagles than Watkins will to LA or Matthews to Buffalo.  He gives the Eagles an answer to the only question on their defense.

MLB Trade Deadline Wrap

2017’s trade deadline was an eventful yet expected ordeal.  A lot of the guys we thought would be traded were, and the deals came in boatloads.  The last hour had a flurry of action, with Sonny Gray, Yu Darvish and Brandon Kintzler all being moved at the buzzer.  The deadline also featured dugout selfies of hot names, an unexpected but delightful twist as Twitter exploded over trade after trade.

The dugout selfies got exponentially better when, just minutes after he posted the tweet, thinking he’d stay with the team, Yu Darvish tweeted the photo above.  It was Dwight Howard all over again.

To recap the deadline, we’re gonna group the active teams based on their moves and their current positioning in the standings.

The categories are…

  • “We’re In This Thing”
  • Plugging Holes

Lets go!

“We’re In This Thing”: New York Yankees, Kansas City Royals, Baltimore Orioles (LOL)

We’ll start with the Yankees.  With Boston’s recent swoon and the AL East a stunning display of mediocrity (Sorry Tampa!  If you keep this up another week I’ll maybe consider you.), the Yankees saw an opportunity.  In all, New York picked up Todd Frazier, Sonny Gray, Jaime Garcia, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle.  The cost was heavy: Blake Rutherford, Dustin Fowler, Jorge Mateo,  James Kaprielian and Zack Littel are all gone.

The Yankees plugged their corner infield hole with Todd Frazier, who’s batting average isn’t much better than Chris Carter’s but can at least drive runs in (OPS is .751) and contribute some productive at-bats.  They added two starters to a rotation that desperately needed upgrades; three ERA’s in the Yanks’ rotation was 4.00 plus.  Sonny Gray is an ace who’s only 27 and is having an excellent bounce back season (123 ERA+, up from 71 last season).  Jaime Garcia doesn’t statically help them, but a change of scenery might lead to an uptick in performance, and at this point it’s anything it takes to get Masahiro Tanaka more rest and less starts.

The bullpen, the best in baseball by Fangraphs WAR, got even better (A common trend of the deadline… More on that later).  David Robertson is back and is having a great year.  Tommy Kahnle is the young (ish) breakout star of the last two seasons and has been even more dominant than Robertson.

However, I’m not sure the Yankees’ moves are gonna live up to the hype.  The “Yankees to the World Series” crowd is in full flock,  and I don’t buy it yet.  Secondly, there’s no way all those prospects (All quality ones by the way.  Rutherford is a stud and I really like Mateo and Littel) are equal value to the players they traded for.  There’s a chance this year is a flameout.  Then what?

The Yankees have a great bullpen, a bunch of good bench guys and decent-enough pitching.  But I don’t think this is a World Series lineup.  Chase Headley and Matt Holiday are still out there batting.  Half the time it’s been Aaron Hicks or Jacob Ellsbury in the outfield.  I love numbers, and baseball’s the one sport where it’s almost all numbers, but at the end of the day, you need guys that are gonna get big hits and be able to play in World Series.  Aaron Judge is a beast, but he can’t do it all.  New York might pull a stunner and win the division, but it’s hard for me to see these trades really pay off.

The Royals followed a similar path, but have even longer odds to overcome.  A run after the All-Star Break has vaulted them into 2nd in the AL Central and places them only two games back of Cleveland.

Kansas City added Melky Cabrera, Trevor Cahill, Brandon Maurer, and Ryan Buchter at the cost of practically nothing (I am not an AJ Puckett fan).  Cabrera can help out in the outfield as Alex Gordon has been horrendous, plus can be a good DH and take Brandon Moss out of the lineup (Which is needed desperately).  Trevor Cahill is the 5th starter they’ve needed all year as Nate Karns and Jake Junis have not gotten it done.  Maurer’s been bad, but Ryan Buchter is a young bullpen arm having a great season.

KC’s addition were good value, but are they enough?  I still don’t think this team is on Cleveland’s level.  I trust two starters (Jason Hammel and Danny Duffy) on the mound in the postseason.  There’s too many offensive holes.  They still feel very average.  Then again, it’s not much different than the team that won the 2015 Word Series.  Still, it’s not a very talented team.  I just can’t hop on yet.

The 3rd team in this category is just here so I can make fun of them.  The Orioles currently sit in 4th place in the AL East, possess a terrible rotation and a couple nice trade chips like Seth Smith, Zach Britton and Brad Brach.  Baltimore should have been featured in firesale mode, but instead decided to attempt to redeem their season by acquiring Jeremy Hellickson and Tim Beckham.  It wasn’t too surprising, since Dan Duquette was spewing nonsense like this a little over a week ago.

Congrats on Jeremy Hellickson Dan!  His ERA is 4.73!  Which is the best in your rotation behind Dylan Bundy, who’s getting shut down anyways.

The trade itself was a disaster.  Though already 29 in his second season, Hyun Soo Kim should have some years left.  His numbers are down dramatically, but did you really expect him to bat .302 again?

Baltimore could have made this deadline extremely profitable, but instead bought into a flawed belief that this roster is capable of doing things.

The teams that decided to go all in at the deadline all have my doubts.  If the Indians or Red Sox choke in October, maybe New York can make a run.  But pound for pound, these teams are still a tier below.

Plugging Holes: Los Angeles Dodgers, Washington Nationals, Arizona Diamondbacks, Cleveland Indians, Houston Astros, Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee Brewers

It’s the contender’s row.  This is the cream of the crop in baseball right now, and all were extremely active on Monday, and for good reason too.

We’ll start with the Dodgers, who probably made bigger splashes than anyone.  While acquiring guys like Luke Farrell, Tony Watson and Tony Cingrani, the Dodgers also stuck their middle finger to the rest of baseball, pulling the trigger on Yu Darvish to make their rotation even better.

The Darvish trade was masterful.  Though seemingly a tad unnecessary, Los Angeles gave up 60% of what I thought it’d take.  Willie Calhoun is really good and very intriguing, but isn’t close to the value Darvish will give the Dodgers come October (Texas received two other top 30 prospects.  Both are very raw though).

The Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw are infamous for their postseason chokes, but Darvish’s presence gives them insurance (I don’t trust Alex Wood on the mound in a big game) incase Kershaw is his postseason self.

In the meantime, Darvish is the ace of the staff with Kershaw out.  The Dodgers were gonna be fine either way, but Yu is a massive addition, and makes the Dodgers practically unhittable, now or in the playoffs.

The Tony Watson addition is the only other trade worth mentioning.  Watson, who’s been very solid this season, adds to an already stacked Dodgers bullpen.  As you’ll see with these next teams, this deadline was all about relievers.

Washington’s main hole was the hottest commodity.  In all prior to Monday, the Nationals traded for Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson and Brandon Kintzler, plus acquired Howie Kendrick for a reason that I’m still trying to figure out.   But Washington’s deadline was very positive.  Ryan Madson has a top 20 WAR total for relievers and has postseason experience.  Doolittle has pitched less this year, but will be in an expanded role as the Nats’ new closer.  Brandon Kintzler has also been sneakily great, and was the Twins’ No.1 asset.

Washington’s bullpen has been completely redone.  It went from a collection of old, over-the-hill guys and unknowns to an array of star relievers.

The Kendrick trade was weird, but Washington has experienced a ton of injuries in the outfield this season, and Kendrick’s bat has actually been pretty productive.  It’s a fine move, but Jayson Werth will be back soon, and it’s not like backup Brian Goodwin has been terrible.

The Diamondbacks’ biggest move happened two weeks ago with the JD Martinez trade, but that didn’t stop them from getting involved in the reliever market.  David Hernandez is back in the desert, a move I couldn’t be more excited about.  He’s in the top 30 in reliever WAR per Fangraphs, and his cost was extremely low.  When two teams with farm systems like the Angels and Diamondbacks are trading with each other, it’s essentially one team asking “What piece of crap are you choosing today?”.

The Adam Rosales trade was a minor one, and was much more a reaction to Chris Owings’ injury than making a run for the World Series.

Cleveland attempted to dip their feet into some of the talks involving big names, but eventually settled on Joe Smith, another quality reliever who gives this stacked bullpen another arm.

Houston ended up in a similar situation as Cleveland, making only one trade for Francisco Liriano.  It’s been a rough year for Liriano, but he won’t be starting games like he did in Toronto.  Perhaps the lessened pressure and lower amount of innings he will face can turn his season around.

Boston’s biggest move occurred around a week ago, but like Arizona, they too joined in on the reliever frenzy.  Addison Reed won’t show in the top 30 on Fangraphs, but his numbers have been ridiculous: 2.57 ERA, 166 ERA+, 8.8 SO/9.  Reed is an underrated menace on the mound (Even with the mammoth home run he gave up in his Sox debut in that crazy Boston-Cleveland game last night), and will give Boston a powerful one-two punch late in games.

The Eduardo Nunez trade plugged 3rd base, which was plugged (negatively and literally considering his size) previously by Pablo Sandoval.  Nunez has hit the ball very well this season, and is an excellent defender for his position.

I view the Reed trade as worth it.  Though it was another two top 30 prospects out the door for the Red Sox, Reed is criminally undervalued and relieves worry at the end of games.  We’ll see whether they pull out of this slump (Last night’s game should help), but for now the value checks out.

The Cubs are similar to Boston: A team that’s probably underperforming, that doesn’t care about giving up prospects, and who made big and small acquisitions at the deadline.

I already wrote about the Jose Quintana trade here…

The Justin Wilson trade was another of those “Why do they need him too?” deals, but in the playoffs you need as many arms as possible, starters or relievers combined.  Wilson’s value has been decremented by his team, but by digging deeper you’ll realize that he’s actually been fantastic.  He’s striking out 12.3 guys per nine innings, and gives up almost no contact compared to others.

It came at a heavy price, as 3rd baseman prospect Jeimer Candelario was sent to Detroit along with one other.  Candelario is more important for Detroit than Chicago though, as the Tigers are trying to get younger and Chicago has their infield set for the future.

The last “contender” to make moves was Milwaukee, who I’ve been very skeptical of this season and who’s also starting to prove me right.  Their bullpen additions consisted of Jeremy Jeffries, who they took right back from Texas after last year’s Jonathan Lucroy trade and Anthony Swarzak, one of the league’s best late-inning pitchers.  Though I’m not sure they can get there, Jeffries and Swarzak would be huge in the playoffs.  The Brewers might be falling apart, but Jeffries and Swarzak are two nice additions if the Brew Crew can get back on track.