Photo via Winslow Townson - The Associated Press
Former Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving has officially been traded to the Boston Celtics after the Cavaliers held out for a second round pick in the 2020 NBA draft.
The main sentiment around the NBA is that Boston is the main winner in the trade since they were able to acquire the superstar in the deal.
However, Irving might be the biggest winner. The change in scenery could pay huge dividends for Irving on and off the basketball court.
Stevens improves all guards
Interestingly enough, the best example to suggest that Irving will be an improved player in 2017 is Cavaliers guard Isaiah Thomas who got sent to take Irving’s old spot in Cleveland.
Until Thomas got traded to Boston, he had only averaged over 20 points per game once in his NBA career (2013/14 with the Sacramento Kings).
Disregarding Thomas’s partial first season with the Celtics (21 games), Thomas has averaged 22.2 and 28.9 points per game with Boston, a major improvement from his time in Sacramento and Phoenix.
Thomas’s rise can’t be from getting an opportunity as he would have had plenty of time to prove himself before since the Kings and Suns were nowhere close to the playoffs.
As such, there must be another reason for Thomas’s sudden explosion. Remember, drastic improvements in a players’ sixth NBA season do not just happen.
If one breaks it down, Boston coach Brad Stevens is the answer.
Avery Bradley and Shelvin Mack
Former Celtics guard Avery Bradley saw his numbers jump immediately upon Stevens’ arrival. Bradley’s points per game increased from 9.2 to 14.9 in only 2.2 more minutes per game. It was also a genius switch by Stevens to move him to point guard.
Without a doubt, Stevens presence improved Bradley’s performance and will do that for many guards, just like he did with Jordan Crawford who averaged 5.3 points per game less next season after Crawford’s departure from Boston.
Moreover, Stevens turned Shelvin Mack into a premier guard in the country during his Butler days. He also turned Butler into a premier basketball program by making back-to-back appearances in the National Championship game in 2010 and 2011.
History tells us guards improve under Stevens. Therefore, it would be idiotic for people to believe the trend would suddenly just stop with Irving.
The former Butler coach will make sure Irving gets a few easy shots a game off inbound plays, extra passes and screens, something that he never got in Cleveland as their offense often involved Irving trying to win in one-on-one situations.
Irving’s business should boom
At the moment, Irving and LeBron James have the two highest selling shoes among active NBA players. Obviously, playing with James helped grow Irving’s shoe sales as national television and media coverage will follow James to endless depths.
Even Nike Brand President Trevor Edwards said that Irving’s Kyrie 3 shoes were the best-selling shoe in the market, via Forbes.
In addition, Irving “is the new face” of the market, according to Matt Powell, an analyst at market research firm NPD Group.
Nonetheless, Irving still had to play basketball in the market of Cleveland. Now, he will move to Boston which occupies close to 300,000 more people, a more advantageous market (No. 7 vs. No. 17) and a large and loyal fan base who will buy his new shoes at any chance.
If LeBron is truly on his way out, Boston will run the East when LeBron departs from or declines with the Cavaliers. Nothing will further Irving’s brand more than winning multiple Eastern Conference Finals much like LeBron has done for the majority of the last decade.
In Boston, Irving has the set up to make a historic run rather soon.