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How would you build your Celtics trade package for Kyrie Irving?

Ty Anderson
August 11, 2017 - 4:15 pm

If Kyrie Irving is indeed traded before the start of next season, and if the Celtics remain interested, it’s certainly going to cost a whole bunch of Danny Ainge’s assets.

After all, it's not often that a 25-year-old point guard coming off the best statistical season of his career -- with a proven track record of postseason success and an NBA championship to his name -- and under contract for another three years comes on the market every week. 

By now, you know some of the names that have been mentioned as potential pieces to be moved for Irving, and some in Boston, depending on their personal preferences, say it’s not enough or it’s simply too much. Some players included in these hypotheticals are loved, and others would be welcomed departures. But players -- or assets, if you prefer -- is the key word there, as this would take a haul for the Cavaliers to legitimately consider sending their second-best player to their top competitor in the Eastern Conference.

So, knowing the options in front of you, and some maybe not so publicized, which pieces would you use to design your trade package to acquire the 25-year-old Irving?

Piece 1: Isaiah Thomas

You hate to hear this, I know, but it’d be an absolute must in this trade.

Thomas is coming off a season in which he averaged the third-most points per game in the NBA (28.9), shot a career-best 46.3 percent from the field, and finished fifth in MVP voting. That's one tough line to move on from if you're the Celtics. But Thomas’ inclusion in this trade would be because of the fact that both he and Irving play point guard, along with the fact that this would be the Celtics confirming that they are not interested in backing up the Brinks truck to the 5-foot-9 Thomas (coming off a significant hip injury) with a max contract to keep him a Celtic.

But most importantly, if you’re the Cavaliers anyways, subbing in Thomas for Irving would allow you to remain ‘in the hunt’ for another Finals run, with Thomas riding shotgun to LeBron James for at least one season in Cleveland, and with the possibility of a max contract still on the table (which is what Thomas has been openly campaigning for for about two years now).

The 28-year-old Thomas is a non-negotiable part of this deal if you’re the Cavs. He’s one of three seemingly non-negotiable parts of this deal, actually.

Piece 2: Jae Crowder

People are quick to throw forward Jae Crowder into trade rumors and hypothetical deals, and Crowder seems to take that quite personally. You can’t fault him for getting upset when he sees them -- you could actually make the case that it’s part of the mental makeup that’s made him a perfect fit for these Celtics, even as they continue to climb from underdogs to East favorites -- but it almost always makes sense, and this would be no exception. The reason for that, of course, is because of Crowder’s salary for the next three seasons, which makes him a perfect candidate for salary-matching.

Signed for $6.7 million this year, $7.3 million the season after that, and then $7.8 million in the final year of his current contract, Crowder is the perfect complementary piece to send the other way when acquiring Irving’s over $18 million salary.

This would not the mere toss-in that guys like Amir Johnson and Tyler Zeller would have been in the salary-matching game, though, as Crowder does fill a valuable role as a physical banger capable of playing multiple positions (and he also had the best three-point percentage among Celtic shooters last year). But with Gordon Hayward signed, and with Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum in the picture for the long haul, along with rookie forward Semi Ojeleye signed, moving Crowder in a deal undoubtedly seems a bit more manageable now than it did back then.

Like Thomas, he'd fit a need for the Cavaliers, and would be among the three pieces that must be included.

Piece 3: One of your prized first-round picks

Let’s make this one very clear: In no world are you tricking the Cavaliers into taking one of the Memphis or Clipper first-round picks as a suitable first-round pick return in an Irving trade. If that didn’t work in trades for players such as Jimmy Butler, Paul George, or Kristaps Porzingis, there’s absolutely no way it works for a player like Kyrie.

Your choice for the third must-have piece: the 2018 Brooklyn first-round pick or the Lakers’ 2018 first-round pick.

The Nets picks have been straight-up gold for Ainge and the Celtics, and this one is no different. The Nets dumped Brooks Lopez this summer, and even with Allen Crabbe and DeMarre Carroll in the picture, they remain a complete disaster of a franchise. This pick, which is completely unprotected, has an obvious chance to be the No. 1 overall pick. Who’s that more valuable to: the Celtics that remain a piece or two from title contention or a soon-to-be-rebuilding franchise that can’t attract free agents in Cleveland?

The Laker pick, meanwhile, could become a 2019 Philly or Sacramento first-round pick should the Lakers pick fail to fall between the No. 2 and No. 5 overall pick next summer, but it’s also worth noting that both 2019 picks would be Top-1 protected.

Of the two, the Celtics would more likely prefer to move that Laker/Sixer/Kings pick, as it does not possess the No. 1 overall ability that the Brooklyn pick does. And if there’s one thing Ainge likes about No. 1 overall, as this past draft showed us, is the options that it does open up, either to select a player or acquire more assets. (The man loves assets.)

Piece 4: A roster fill-in piece

The Celtics are already giving up a lot here, I know, but they’re likely not done yet. It would probably take one more piece for this deal to work, and that’s when you look at some of your bottom of the roster pieces, and see if they can find a fit for the Cavaliers.

The number one player that comes to mind here? Terry Rozier.

A player rumored to be on the block when the C’s were cutting costs left and right to sign Hayward in July, Rozier currently plays behind Thomas and Marcus Smart, and would certainly play behind Irving. A 6-foot-1 guard with a streaky shot, Rozier could be viewed as a perfect off-the-bench piece for a Cavs squad that struggled to get much of anything from behind Irving last season, and would be a solid insurance policy for when Derrick Rose’s unavoidable injury woes put him on the shelf at some point this season.

But if not Rozier, who?

2016 first-round pick Guerschon Yabusele? You’d hope not, especially with a nickname like the French Draymond. Ante Zizic? Again, no thanks. Not for a team that’s as starved for rebounding as the Celtics are and have been under Brad Stevens. Abdel Nader? Sure, but you’re gonna have to first explain to the Cavaliers what an Abdel Nader is and how to use it. Beyond that, you’re scraping the bottom of the barrel.

(To see if your trade would work, use ESPN's NBA Trade Machine.)

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