Remember when the NBA offseason used to be a time to work on your farmer’s tan and pick sand out of your bellybutton? Neither do we. The past three months have been a non-stop roller coaster full of breathtaking highs and precarious lows. Chris Paul, Paul George, and Jimmy Butler were all sent packing, the league got splashy new uniforms, and Zach Randolph got caught with enough pot to keep Cheech and Chong buzzed for a month (see what we mean about the highs?)
The biggest -– and juiciest -– development of all has been the Celtics-Cavaliers mega-deal that saw Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, and an unprotected 2018 first-round pick sent to Cleveland for Kyrie Irving. The trade was consummated on August 22nd, or so we thought. Thomas flunked his physical three days later, leading to reports that the Cavs could void the deal.
It certainly wouldn’t be the first time a deal was rescinded because of the health of one of the players involved. As recently as 2009, Oklahoma City nearly acquired Tyson Chandler from New Orleans before the Thunder’s medical staff put a kibosh on the deal. Other players like Cuttino Mobley, Antoine Walker, and Shareef Abdur-Rahim have also been returned to sender after physicals revealed everything from bum knees to heart conditions. (Side note: Steve Francis demonstrated years later that it is indeed possible to play without a heart.)
The Cavaliers reportedly spent the weekend considering whether to move forward or to demand additional assets. Could they really back out, or is this just a power play to bleed the Celtics dry? We have the odds on what will happen next.
IRVING/THOMAS TRADE ODDS
Odds the trade is rescinded: 25/1
Both teams have come too far and said far too much publicly to rescind the trade at this stage in the game. The Celtics have damaged their relationship with Thomas beyond repair and surely had to notice the number of frenzied fans who burned their IT jerseys in the streets of Boston. There’s no way Danny Ainge and co. would agree to taking back their 5’9” spark-plug under any conditions.
Cleveland, on the other hand, may insinuate that the trade hinges on the state of Thomas’ hip, but we’re not buying it for a second. They went into this deal with their eyes wide open and had reams of information about Thomas and the other players involved prior to Friday’s physical. They may not have known the full extent of the injury, but they were willing to roll the dice nonetheless for the simple reason that this trade was never really about Isaiah Thomas. Yes, you read that correctly. This trade was about planning for a post-LeBron future. While a healthy Thomas would certainly help in that regard, Cleveland was far more focused on the 2018 draft pick, Jae Crowder’s team-friendly deal, and the $29.1 million saved on luxury tax payments. If you don’t think that sum matters, you clearly don’t know team owner Dan Gilbert.
Odds Boston sends another active player to Cleveland: 15/1
Boston will almost certainly have to cough up another asset. We doubt it will be anyone on their active roster. Rumored targets like Jaylen Brown and Jason Tatum are off limits, and young players like Semi Ojeleye and Guerschon Yabusele hold little to no appeal for the championship-chasing Cavs. Cleveland wants draft picks, and they want them yesterday.
Odds Boston sends a first-round draft pick to Cleveland: 7/1
This is likely to be Cleveland’s ask. Getting the Celtics to part with such a valuable asset will be extremely difficult. For starters, Ainge was transparent about Thomas’ injury from the get-go and likely doesn’t feel any need to compensate the Cavs for their leap of faith. Cleveland GM Koby Altman understood the inherent risks involved and pulled the trigger on the deal regardless. The good news for the Cavs is that Boston has plenty of first-rounders to play with. The Celtics currently have seven first-round picks spread between the next three drafts. That’s an embarrassment of riches and it wouldn’t compromise the franchise’s long-term health to bid adieu to one of them.
Odds Boston sends a second-round draft pick to Cleveland: 3/1
Draft picks are more valuable than ever due to the league’s salary cap structure, but the Celtics may view a second-rounder as a reasonable price to make this whole fiasco go away. The team previously traded its second round picks for 2018 and 2019, though could still offer one of its two second-round selections from 2020. In many ways, second-rounders are kind of like the $20 bill you keep stashed in your sock for emergencies, and this is as good an emergency as any. [Editor’s note: we all have to accept Darren for who he is and the weird things he does with his socks.]
Odds the Celtics will be fined or penalized by the league: 20/1
According to league rules, a team can be fined up to $1 million or be forced to forfeit future draft picks if it “misrepresents or fails to disclose any pertinent information” during the trade call. This seems unlikely at this time, given the fact that the Celtics claim they provided all relevant medical information and the Cavs have yet to claim they were blatantly misled about the condition of Thomas’s hip.
Odds Isaiah Thomas gets a max contract in 2018: 25/1
It’s amazing what a difference a few months can make. Back in May, Thomas was leading the Celtics to the Eastern Conference Finals and was considered one of the most dynamic players in the league. Now he’s considered damaged goods. A simple Google search of the phrase “Isaiah Thomas injury” produces 566,000 results, and you’re far more likely to find articles about his broken-down hip, rather than pieces about the many ways he breaks down defenders.
All of the negativity has reportedly taken its toll according to Thomas’ namesake and fellow guard, Isiah Thomas. The NBA Hall of Famer recently spoke with MMAFighting.com and said that the trade has left IT reeling. “Emotionally, he’s wounded,” Thomas said. “Now from a basketball standpoint, he and Kyrie Irving, this will be great for them; they both will do well. But you know, it really was like a punch in the gut because it came out of nowhere.”
IT will eventually get over his emotional and physical wounds, but it will take a healthy and supremely productive season for general managers to see him as a reliable upper-echelon player. The long-term concerns raised by his hip injury almost guarantee the now 28-year-old won’t get a max contract when he becomes an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year.