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The Lede: Can Kyrie and the Celtics Steal the East from LeBron?

Like the Jelly of the Month Club, the NBA offseason is turning into a gift that just keeps on giving; if only it could continue all year round. The Association provided us with another blockbuster trade last night, as the Cleveland Cavaliers granted Kyrie Irving his trade request, shipping him to the one team with any hope of dethroning them in the East: the Boston Celtics.

The trade netted the Cavs a much bigger haul than the Pacers got for their All-Star: Boston sends All-NBA Second-Team point guard Isaiah Thomas, swingman Jae Crowder, Croatian prospect Ante Zizic, and the Nets’ unprotected 2018 first-round pick the other way. Is Kyrie the game-changer the Celtics need to take the East from LeBron’s mighty grip, or is the King too powerful? Takeaway: Looking at this trade from the Celtics’ perspective, they needed an elite player to have any chance of beating LeBron and the Cavs. That is exactly what they got in Irving. The four-time All-Star can get to the basket at will and is very dangerous from behind the arc. As much as Celtics fans may hate to see Isaiah Thomas go, there’s no doubt Irving is an upgrade at PG. From a purely talent/potential perspective, the duo of Irving and Gordon Hayward is better than anything Boston could put on the court last year. But Rome’s chemistry wasn’t built in a day, as I think the saying goes, and this completely overhauled roster will need time to gel. Coach Brad Stevens will also need Jayson Tatum to build off his impressive Summer League performance and be a major contributor to seize the East. On the other hand, the Cavaliers receive a solid wing-defender in Crowder, which will allow LeBron to conserve some energy on the defensive end, not having to guard the opposition’s best player. Plus, James is much better defensively when he’s off the ball. The concern is whether Thomas can replicate his career-season. Playing alongside James will undoubtedly help the 28-year-old get more open looks, but IT will have to excel without the ball in his hands, too, not to mention overcome the hip injury that slowed him in the 2017 playoffs. The most valuable asset in the deal for Cleveland may be the Nets’ unprotected 2018 first-round pick. The idea of playing with Marvin Bagley III, Michael Porter Jr, or even DeAndre Ayton may be enough to ensure LeBron doesn’t skip town for a second time.

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