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Sunday, December 16, 2018

Basketball

Grading every NBA team’s offseason

Gordon Hayward

Just when it seems the NBA is giving you a break … whew! This league truly never rests. It’s a 365-day-a-year entertainment factory, as evidenced by the news of last week’s stunning trade between the Cavaliers and Celtics, which was completed on Wednesday night.

The Cavaliers received Thomas, the 5-foot-9 warrior, in addition to Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, the Nets’ 2018 first-round pick, and a 2020 second-round pick via Miami. The Celtics received Irving, one of the most skilled and clutch players in the league. The trade will dramatically change the league.

So, are you ready for actual basketball games to be played again? It’s hard to believe — didn’t Golden State just win the title last week? — but the 2017-18 NBA season is only one month away. And though the level of preseason basketball is a far cry from the game-in-game-out intensity that’s on display in the playoffs, it’s still NBA basketball, and thank goodness it’s back, because I’m not sure fans’ hearts can handle many more transactions before seeing what their teams actually look like.

This offseason was hectic. Some of the league’s contenders bolstered their title chances during the summer months, while others appear to have taken a step back. Some teams went into full rebuild mode, while others went from fringe-playoff teams to conference semifinal contenders.

Below are our evaluations of each team’s transactions this offseason.

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Kyrie Irving said to be ‘ecstatic’ about trade

Kyrie Irving

Kyrie Irving is said to be thrilled about joining his new team in Boston.

After being held up for over a week, the Celtics-Cavs trade involving Irving and Isaiah Thomas finally went through. Cleveland was able to squeeze a 2020 second-round pick out of Boston in addition to the previously agreed upon compensation in order to finalize the deal.

The Boston Globe’s Gary Washburn says Irving is “ecstatic” about the trade.

And why wouldn’t Irving be thrilled? He already has won a championship and been to three straight NBA Finals, all while supplementing LeBron James on the Cavs. He wanted to lead his own team and demanded a trade, and now he joins a great situation.

The big question for the Celtics — aside from how the team will fare with all their new pieces — is whether they’ll be able to retain Irving long-term. Kyrie is under contract for two more seasons before he can opt out. If he opts out and leaves Boston in free agency, the Celtics will have sacrificed a ton of assets to have him for two years. But if they get him for several years, it will all have been worthwhile.

Report: Celtics send Cavs 2nd-round pick to complete Irving-Thomas trade

Kyrie Irving

After several days of a holdup, the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers finally reached an agreement on the terms of the Kyrie Irving-Isaiah Thomas trade.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Celtics have agreed to send a 2020 second-round pick (via Miami) to Cleveland to complete the deal.

News came out last Tuesday that the teams agreed to a blockbuster deal that was sending Kyrie Irving to Boston in exchange for Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, and the 2018 Brookyln first-round pick. The trade hit a snag after the Cavs examined Thomas for his physical and had concerns about the guard’s hip injury. Thomas is not expected to be ready for the start of the season as he recovers from a labrum tear.

The Celtics maintained they were open about Thomas’ condition, while the Cavs began seeking additional compensation from Boston to complete the trade. The Celtics finally relented, allowing the deal to now go through.

The teams faced a Thursday morning deadline to complete the trade. Boston was able to complete the trade while holding onto their two first-round picks in 2018 and four first-round picks in 2019.

Cavs, Celtics reportedly face Thursday deadline on trade

Isaiah Thomas

The Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics are working towards a resolution in the Isaiah Thomas-Kyrie Irving trade as the teams are on a clock.

Various media outlets have reported there is a deadline for the two sides to complete the trade. Cleveland.com reported over the weekend that the two sides needed to agree to a deal by Wednesday night or mutually agree to extend the deadline.

On Tuesday, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski provided more clarity about the deadline.

Per Woj:

The deadline to report and submit to a physical for the players involved in the trade is 10 a.m. ET Wednesday, and the deadline to pass the physical is 10 a.m. ET Thursday, per league rules.

News of the trade was first reported last Tuesday evening, over a week ago. Then on Friday night came rumblings that the Cavaliers were seeking additional compensation after having issues with Isaiah Thomas’ physical. A report on Wednesday said there was a slight chance Thomas could miss the season if his hip recovery doesn’t go as well as hoped.

Boston has reportedly been taking a hard-line stance in negotiations, but they may end up kicking in additional trade compensation to seal the deal.

Sixers to offer Joel Embiid $100 million extension?

Joel Embiid

It is extension season for the 2014 NBA draft class, and one of the more fascinating storylines is that of Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid.

According to a report by Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders on Wednesday, the Sixers may offer Embiid an extension similar to the four-year, $100 million one Giannis Antetokounmpo got from the Milwaukee Bucks last year.

More from Kyler:

League sources said recently there’s a growing sense the 76ers would indeed extend Embiid and that a deal structured something like Antetokounmpo’s four-year $100 million pact would make sense given the injury history. The problem with getting a deal done at less than max is that many in Embiid’s world believe he could get a max offer in restricted free agency next year, especially if he plays at the level he did for 31 games last season.

Embiid’s case is truly an enigma — his chronic injury risk goes without saying, but he’s nothing short of a transformative two-way monstrosity whenever he’s on the court. Kyler also notes that Embiid is eligible for a five-year max or up to $117 million over four years, so talks of an extension (something the Sixers have been vocal about their desire for) will be worth monitoring closely between now and the October 31 deadline.

Report: Celtics had concerns about Gordon Hayward and Jimmy Butler’s fit together

Jimmy Butler

The Boston Celtics had more than enough assets to swing a trade from Jimmy Butler this summer, but now we’re getting a better idea of why they didn’t.

ESPN’s Zach Lowe reported Wednesday that the Celtics had concerns about how Butler would fit together with Gordon Hayward, both from an on-court standpoint and from a personality standpoint.

Of course, Butler was traded to Minnesota before Hayward signed with the Celtics in free agency. But such concerns very well could have shaped Boston’s offseason gameplan from the start, and they definitely seemed legitimate as Butler and Hayward indeed have significant positional and skillset overlap.

We know that the Celtics were at least involved in trade talks for the All-Star swingman before he was ultimately dealt, but apparently they believe Kyrie Irving will be a better complement to Hayward than Butler would have been.

Bucks could reportedly up Kyrie Irving trade offer if he agrees to sign long-term

The Cleveland Cavaliers have suddenly hit the brakes with their trade that would send Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics, and one line of thinking is that they could have a better offer from another team. That team could be the Milwaukee Bucks.

ESPN’s Zach Lowe reports that the Bucks are willing to offer Cleveland a package centered around reigning NBA Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon and shooting guard Khris Middleton. While Milwaukee has not yet offered a first-round draft pick, Lowe believes they would be willing to add one if Irving showed interest in signing a long-term deal.

For starters, Irving was reportedly thrilled to be traded to Boston, so he could — and should — make life difficult on the Cavs by refusing to agree to stay with any other team long term. And even if he was willing to commit to the Bucks, is their offer really any better than Boston’s?

The biggest asset the Cavs would be getting from the Celtics is the Brooklyn Nets’ 2018 first-round pick, which has a legitimate chance at being No. 1 overall. They’d also be getting an All-Star point guard in Isaiah Thomas and excellent role player with an even better contract in Jae Crowder. It’s unlikely any other team will beat that deal, otherwise Cleveland wouldn’t have agreed to the trade in the first place.

The Cavs are concerned about Thomas’ injured hip, and one report about the point guard’s recovery could help explain why. However, the Celtics insist they were forthcoming about the injury from the start. If Cleveland wasn’t negotiating in good faith in an attempt to get a better offer from another team, the NBA should step in.