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Roundtable: A Milwaukee Perspective on the Irving-Thomas Trade

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The top two Eastern Conference teams just swapped their point guards. (How) does this affect the Milwaukee Bucks?

NBA: Boston Celtics at Cleveland Cavaliers Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

In yet another installment of “The NBA Is Seriously The Best League,” the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers agreed on a resolution to one of the more head-scratching trading block stories of the summer (and this summer has been FULL of them).

The top two Eastern Conference teams did more than just swap their point guards this evening. Cleveland acquired an unprotected first round pick (originally from the Brooklyn Nets), an über-cheap 3&D wing, and a frontcourt prospect, while Boston was able to simultaneously add a bonafide star while getting out from under the massive payday looming for their diminutive lead scorer.

But this is not a Cavs or Celts site; this is a Bucks site. What do our Bucks experts think of the trade, especially from the Milwaukee point of view?


Cleveland just got Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, and Brooklyn’s 2018 pick! Was that a good return for Kyrie Irving?

Greg: Sure was! The Cavs are still the favorites to take home the Eastern Conference title with this move, and they get to prep for a post-LeBron world by getting that Nets pick. They could pay IT, but they very well could just go on and blow the dang thing up if LeBron does leave. Crowder’s arrival will help the Cavs contain the Golden State offense, but probably not so much that it’s a scale-tipping addition.

Riley: It is always widely assumed that, as soon as a star player makes it known he wants out of his current situation, his trade value tanks. Well, the Cavaliers got a heck of a return for a disgruntled player in Kyrie Irving, and they've set themselves up to take a multitude of different paths. Cleveland could stand pat and win the East while preparing for a LeBron James-less future, or they could parlay the Brooklyn pick for a final reload with another piece.

Gabe: I absolutely think this is a great return for Cleveland. The only possible downside is Isaiah wanting max money, but that is arguably ironed out by the fact that they were able to nab Danny Ainge’s unprotected pick from Brooklyn, something that seemed like would never happen just 24 hours ago. If I was a Cavs fan that wasn’t sure about the move, I’d just look what GarPax got for Jimmy Butler and immediately be happy.

Mitchell: Considering their tumultuous summer (getting handled in the Finals, cutting Dan Gilbert loose while actively pursuing a Paul George trade, the LeBron James rumors), I’m surprised that Cleveland was able to extract this much value from the Kyrie situation. The Brooklyn pick is what really does it for me; after years of jettisoning picks to find help for LeBron, Cleveland now finds itself equipped with what might be a high-value pick in a loaded draft, and they can use that pick to make another interesting trade...or draft a potential star to pair with/try and fill the void left by LeBron James.

Kyle: Cleveland did well, in my opinion. The key was getting Brooklyn’s pick, which looks to be at least top-10 pick and is a great rebuilding piece in a post-Lebron Cleveland. Crowder will give the Cavs someone that can attempt to slow down Kevin Durant and give LeBron a breather.

Boston just got Kyrie Irving! Was that a good return for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, and Brooklyn’s 2018 pick?

Greg: Maybe, probably, yes? I’m not sold on Kyrie as “The Guy” and I do not think he’ll mesh well in Stevens’ scheme. The Celtics have him under contract for a few more seasons so their window probably stays open longer than the Cavs’ does, barring Kyrie and Gordon Hayward playing nice with each other.

Gabe: In the grand scheme of things, I’d say so. This is definitely their strongest chance of ever making the Finals since the Big Three era. Ainge is definitely preparing for LeBron to leave Cleveland, and it appears that Cleveland (could) be doing the same thing. It’ll be interesting to see how Kyrie and Hayward play with each other out on the floor. The same goes for LeBron and IT. However, two things might make this a miss. Will Kyrie’s defense neutralize the strength of the deal? That was obviously something Thomas lacked, and it could be a problem once again in Boston’s backcourt this year. Also, I think people are severely underestimating what Jae Crowder brings to the floor. Cleveland gains a vital defender that they lacked last season, and the C’s might just regret giving him up.

Riley: Count me in as a non-believer in Isaiah Thomas as a guy you want to pay large sums of money heading forward at age 29, so to flip that into Irving is a positive. Boston had to make something of those Brooklyn picks eventually, so bringing in a younger star in Kyrie for a run at the Finals not only this year but next as well seems worthwhile. You seldom get the chance to fight for a championship in the NBA; if you have to sacrifice a lot to have one damned good shot of reaching that stage, wouldn't you do it?

Mitchell: Boston did as well as anyone could hope in this scenario: they got the best player in the trade (Kyrie) while giving up assets they could afford to lose. Crowder might be a fantastic contract, but moving him clears the way for Jaylen Brown. Zizic is an unknown quantity in the NBA, and you’d think moving the Nets pick hurts...except the Celtics already have the equally-valuable Lakers pick. Boston’s biggest win by far is replacing an older player with a huge payday on the way and a nagging injury (Thomas) with a younger, equally productive, possibly more talented player who’s on a market-level contract for two more years.

Kyle: It’s a great short term move for Boston, while Kyrie isn’t particularly known for his defense, it will be a significant upgrade compared to IT. You have two years of Kyrie before his contract runs out, and Boston has some firepower to play along Gordon Hayward while also not losing Brown or Tatum. I’m not sure if trading the 2018 Nets pick is the right choice but if it means Boston can topple Cleveland, then it’s considered a win.

Hot Take #1: How does Milwaukee match up against Cleveland now?

Greg: Better I think. Malcolm Brogdon will improve his game while the Cavs got worse defensively at PG. Crowder will be a nuisance for Milwaukee’s wings and positionless guys and LeBron is LeBron. The Bucks should be better overall anyhow, so the scales tipping slightly closer in Milwaukee’s favor was inevitable.

Gabe: Honestly, I have no idea. These are always so tough to depict. I’m just happy Middleton and Brogdon didn’t go to Cleveland for Kyrie. I think Cleveland will still be ahead of the Bucks in the Eastern Conference though.

Riley: They've still got LeBron James and even at age 32 you can't count against that. What will be more important will be the impact on how these teams structure themselves in the playoffs. Will Milwaukee, heading forward, have enough in its starting lineup to match Cleveland at most positions in their starting fives? I have to imagine they're getting much closer than we realize.

Mitchell: The Bucks could be slightly better against the Cavaliers now. Isaiah Thomas is one of the few NBA guards who’s worse on defense than Kyrie, and even the good-but-not-great defense of Jae Crowder can’t make up for that. Crowder’s presence will give LeBron a break, Kevin Love (and his injury history) will likely be a higher priority for Tyronn Lue, and there’s no way to know just how well IT and LeBron will coalesce on the floor. Cleveland will have problems this season; different problems than they’ve had before, but problems nonetheless. Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks have prioritized internal development and chemistry this summer, which could help them capitalize on Cleveland’s hypothetical woes.

Kyle: This might help Milwaukee’s chances in a 7 game series, but Cleveland still has LeBron so that is still an issue. This does, however, help Brogdon a tad but also hurts Middleton as I imagine Crowder will be the one guarding him.

Hot Take #2: How do the Bucks match up against Boston now?

Greg: Better, but also, probably the same as they matched up last year. This is incredibly dependent on how Kyrie and Hayward work together. If Stevens wants Hayward to be option number one, Kyrie won’t be having it and could force some things to flow through him offensively. The offensive forcing will play into the hands of the long Bucks youngsters.

Gabe: Again, I don’t really have a clue. I don’t think the Bucks will finish No. 1 or 2 in the East. I could see them finishing around the No. 4 spot, or somewhere near there. I think Hayward and Kyrie could give them some fits, but maybe Brogdon can go off the rails at Boston again and help the good guys win a playoff series there. But it really is so tough to decipher. The NBA offseason is so crazy, man.

Riley: Unlike Cleveland, I'm still concerned about the Celtics being a staying force for a few years to come. On the downside (for them), Boston has a sizable amount of money tied up in the likes of Al Horford and there's no guarantee Kyrie sticks around (though paying him is a better prospect than paying Thomas). The Celtics can offset a lot of that with Gordon Hayward and their recent draft picks (if they come close to working out). They're a team as awash in decisions and possibilities as any in the NBA, and one who may prove to be a thorn in Milwaukee's side for a while.

Mitchell: The Bucks were a good matchup on paper with the Celtics last year, and I don’t think that their defensive “upgrade” at point guard (yes, Thomas was that bad on D) will make up for the loss of both Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder. However, Gordon Hayward gave the Bucks serious problems last year, and Jaylen Brown’s reported improvement could present different issues as well. Like Lue in Cleveland, head coach Brad Stevens will need time and reps to find the ideal balance of their reworked roster, while Milwaukee’s players have gotten to know one another that much better.

Kyle: I don’t think it changes, I always thought Milwaukee matched well against Boston. Milwaukee’s length will still cause Boston issues and while Boston did upgrade offensively from Bradley/Crowder/Thomas to Hayward/Kyrie but defensively Boston doesn’t have someone to cover Giannis and Khris for a full 48 minutes.

What final thoughts (if any) do you want to share on this trade?

Greg: That unprotected first could be one of the better, “what-ifs” of the future. I am excited to see how this timeline plays out.

Gabe: I’m glad the Bucks didn’t trade for Kyrie Irving.

Mitchell: I disagree with Gabe; I maintain that pushing for a deal for Irving would have been a net-positive for the Bucks, and that even the pain of losing Khris Middleton and/or Malcolm Brogdon would be mitigated by the advantages presented by adding another star player to your single-star roster. To be clear, I’m not upset that the Bucks didn’t try to outbid Boston for Irving’s services. I am simply in favor of adding a star when that star becomes available.

Riley: I'm disappointed that we won't be able to mock Danny Ainge for always playing off-season and trade deadline footsie, only to get cold feet and have yet another “deal” swiped from under him by another franchise. It was a helluva run, though.

Kyle: NBA Twitter is the best Twitter.