Should the Celtics make this deal for Kyrie?
There are three main questions to ask in evaluating this sign-and-trade for the Celtics. The first is whether Boston wants Kyrie Irving on their team. The way his time in Boston ended would seem to say no, but players and teams bury the hatchet all the time; just look at Chris Paul joining the Warriors as an example from this very offseason.
Irving is still one of the best offensive players in the league. Last season he shot well from every level, and he is in the very upper echelon of players in the league at creating his own shot, be that a stepback 3-pointer or a resplendent finish at the rim. He is exactly the sort of player that the Celtics need in their backcourt.
On the other hand, Irving has been the antithesis of reliable over the past half-decade, often missing basketball games for reasons that have nothing to do with basketball. He was also part of the disaster in Brooklyn that led to the dissolution of a super team, then joined a Dallas Mavericks team that completely fell apart. Can a title contender truly risk counting on this guy?
The second question is whether Boston can do something better this offseason. The answer to that question, at least on the basketball court, is no. There are no obvious trade targets on the market that can replicate Irving’s skillset and would be affordable for Boston. There certainly aren’t any players in free agency that would sign for the Mid-Level and bring that level of production and ability.
The final question is whether the cost is worth it. That’s where this idea falls apart. Replacing Derrick White with Irving would be an enormous offensive upgrade and a significant defensive downgrade, especially with Marcus Smart also out the door. Then add in the fact that the Celtics are too expensive to execute a sign-and-trade and would need to reduce their salary by at least $10 million, either trading a player like Robert Williams III entirely into cap space or trading them instead to Dallas (perhaps in place of Grant Williams, who would need to walk in free agency).
Now the cost is three rotation players for one unreliable one. The upside of this working is clearly there, and even in the above doomsday scenario the Celtics would still have the following lineup to deploy: Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Al Horford and Kristaps Porzingis, with Payton Pritchard and Malcolm Brogdon leading the way off the bench.
It’s an interesting gamble to consider, but in the end it’s too much to give up for a player the Celtics can’t ultimately trust in the end. Unless Irving is willing to sign at a significant discount, Boston can’t make this trade.