Pelton mail: How the Kyrie trade stacks up with superstar deals – ESPN
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“Your rating of the Jimmy Butler trade made me think of the following question: Can you rank the best and worst returns for a player with All-Star credentials traded in their “prime” (second contract)?”
— Alejandro Yegros
Three months after meeting in the conference finals, the Cavs and Celtics agreed to an unprecedented swap of All-Star guards, sending Kyrie Irving to Boston and Isaiah Thomas to Cleveland. Story
• Woj: Cavaliers weighing options after Thomas takes physical
• Forsberg: Boston better after trade?
• McMenamin: Deal ‘just felt right’
• The stats behind the star swap
• LeBron takes high road on Twitter
• Vote: Which team won the trade?
• How deal changes East chase | Grades
• Marks: Trade’s financial impact on Cavs
I initially answered this question back in June but figured it would be interesting to run it back with the addition of this week’s Kyrie Irving trade, as well as the Paul George trade that happened shortly after I compiled my rankings. Of course, if the trade is adjusted (or voided) because of Isaiah Thomas’ hip injury, we’ll have to revisit this question.
To me, the Utah Jazz’s return from the New Jersey Nets for Deron Williams (Derrick Favors, Devin Harris, the Nets’ 2011 first-round pick that ended up No. 3 overall and a 2013 first-round pick) is the only challenger to what the Cleveland Cavaliers got for Irving as the best haul for such a player in recent memory.
To some extent, comparing those two packages comes down to team need. For a rebuilding team, getting a pair of top-five picks (Favors had been drafted No. 3 overall the year before) is an incredible starting point. Favors was more valuable at the time than Brooklyn’s 2018 first-round pick is now, and the two Nets picks were relatively similar in value. At the time of the trade, New Jersey was 17-40, though the team could have reasonably been expected to improve with Williams in the lineup before he missed 13 of the remaining 25 games because of injury.
Still, I think I’d go with the return for Irving as the best for any star player traded in recent memory. Thomas is a current All-Star making just $6.3 million in the final season of his contract, though the health of his injured hip is an open question. Amazingly, he’s ninth on the Cleveland roster in salary, behind Channing Frye, Kyle Korver and Iman Shumpert. And while the Cavaliers will get a bargain on Thomas for only one year, that’s an important factor for a team deep in the luxury tax. Cleveland probably will save more than $30 million in taxes with this move.
The better long-term contract belongs to Jae Crowder, who will make less over the next three seasons (about $21 million total) than the aging Korver. On the open market, Crowder probably would double his salary if not more, so in terms of the production he provides as compared to his salary, Crowder has one of the NBA’s very best contracts.
On top of that, the Cavaliers got an unprotected draft pick that appears to be a likely high lottery pick and a useful prospect in Ante Zizic — more on him in a minute. This was truly an incredible return and a rejection of the defense of the Butler and George trades that perhaps nobody was willing to pay heavily for superstars in trades anymore.
Conversely, I’d put the George trade at the bottom of the list. Victor Oladipo’s production should be about in line with his salary during his four-year, $84 million extension. That gives him essentially no positive trade value. I’m also not sure Domantas Sabonis has positive trade value after his sub-replacement rookie season. While there’s certainly a chance Sabonis recovers to become a useful player, it’s also possible even his modest rookie salaries prove an overpay.
As a player on an expiring contract who has made no secret of his intention to explore free agency, George had less trade value than any of the other stars I included in the original list. Still, the return for the Indiana Pacers was far and away the worst of the group.
“What can Cleveland expect out of Zizic? Is he a solid prospect or just a throw-in?”
— Alex Barcham