Last year was rare in that the NBA dominated headlines in the world of sports well into August thanks to the Kyrie Irving saga in Cleveland after his trade request became public knowledge in late July.
A month worth of speculation culminated in the Cavs dealing Irving to the Celtics in a blockbuster trade that began the shift in power in the East away from Cleveland, cemented by LeBron James’ departure this summer. That deal went down on August 22, 2017, and exactly one year later the two teams that executed the deal and the players and pieces involved find themselves in very different scenarios than most would have anticipated at the time.
The chief participant in the trade, Kyrie Irving, is of course still in Boston. His first season with the Celtics was going great until his persistent knee pain caused him to finally have surgery, where they found an infection and removed the pins from a previous knee operation, ending his season prematurely. The good news for Irving is that he’s expected to make a full recovery and, hopefully, no longer deal with nagging knee pain going forward. He will take the Celtics’ starting point guard role back at the start of the 2018-19 season at the helm of an Eastern Conference favorite once again, now that his old running mate LeBron has left for L.A.
Ante Zizic and Collin Sexton (the end result of the 2018 Brooklyn pick) are the two pieces of the trade that remain in Cleveland, with Sexton serving as the presumptive long-term replacement for Irving at point guard in Cleveland. The two main players involved in the deal famously didn’t pan out in Cleveland and were dealt in separate deadline deals back in February.
Isaiah Thomas was battling his way back from a hip injury when he was blindsided by being traded by Boston, and upon returning to the court he was never able to find a rhythm in Cleveland. He was eventually traded again, along with Channing Frye and the Cavs’ first round pick, to the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance. Thomas, who once proclaimed he would need the Celtics to “back up the Brinks truck” in free agency, struggled to find a market after a rough 2017-18 campaign and just generally a soft free agent market this summer, and took a minimum deal with the Denver Nuggets to try and bring his value up for next season on a contender.
Jae Crowder was the other primary player the Cavs acquired, and he was likewise dealt at the trade deadline, getting sent to Utah along with Derrick Rose, while Iman Shumpert went to Sacramento in a three-team deal that netted Cleveland George Hill and Rodney Hood. Crowder, while he struggled to find his role with the Cavs, seemed very comfortable in Utah and will be back with the Jazz for 2018-19 as they look to improve on a trip to the second round of the playoffs last year.
In total, the Kyrie Irving trade, when broken down to include deals the Cavs made at the deadline (and the players they had to package to move those pieces), looks like this as we enter the 2018-19 season:
Celtics get: Kyrie Irving
Cavaliers get: Collin Sexton, Larry Nance Jr., George Hill, Jordan Clarkson, Ante Zizic, Rodney Hood, and Channing Frye (re-signed as a FA)
Lakers get: Mo Wagner
Jazz get: Jae Crowder
Kings get: Iman Shumpert
Nuggets get: Isaiah Thomas (signed as FA this summer)
Timberwolves get: Derrick Rose (signed after Utah waived him, re-signed as FA this summer)