Welcome to the NBA: The Dichotomy Between Loyalty and Business

The NBA is a business, but whenever I hear about trade rumours I think about Gyp Rosetti in Boardwalk Empire screaming, “What is life if it’s not personal!” In this particular instance, the voice of Gyp resonates vociferously.

Isaiah Thomas has become a cult hero in Boston. He has inspired children, who don’t have the physical attributes to become an NBA player, to believe that with the right attitude and hard work, that anything is possible. But we must also factor in the mental toughness of a man, who played the entire 2017 playoffs with a heavy heart. The death of a loved one can have a traumatic effect on anyone, but to perform at peak condition in an intense, ultra-competitive sport – that is astonishing. So with that in mind, and the fact that he averaged 28.9 PPG in the regular season, does Boston seriously consider trading the iconic Mighty IT?

Let us first examine the events that have led us to ponder this seemingly preposterous notion:

  1. IT is traded from Phoenix to Boston on an extremely cheap contract (which deflated in value after the 2016 cap increase)
  2. Paul George has a bitter relationship with the Indiana Pacers; Larry Bird steps down as President of Operations
  3. Gordon Hayward and Brad Stevens relationship becomes even more vivid and beautiful in the eyes of the sports media (I listened to a Lowe Post Podcast starring David Locke)
  4. Both George and Hayward miss out on an All NBA Team appearance, which means no super contract
  5. Boston make the Eastern Conference Final by defeating the Washington Wizards
  6. The Boston Celtics land the number 1 pick in the stacked 2017 NBA draft

Now when the stars align, they fucking align. Talk about being light years ahead.

Boston has an opportunity to create a potential dynasty, and hopefully vanquish the King up in Cleveland. So I’m going to breakdown how Danny Ainge can create this, and you can decide for yourself if it’s worth being disloyal and trading Isaiah.

Greed is Good. Sign Gordon.

During a recent Lowe Post podcast, hosted by the incomparable Zac Lowe, David Locke discussed the relationship between Brad Stevens and Gordon Hayward. He stated that Hayward was not heavily recruited out of high school, and Brad was the only coach that put his trust and faith in him. That is powerful sentiment. When somebody puts their faith in you, and has unequivocal support for you; loyalty is natured.

Brad Stevens is also a fantastic coach that squeezes every ounce of talent, energy and passion from his players. Just look at the current nonchalant, gritty ensemble! They made the Eastern Conference Finals! Tyrone Lue went as far as to claim that their offence is harder to guard than GSW, because splits and hands off came from no designated ball handler. So imagine what Stevens could do with a dynamic guy like Hayward? Gordon is effective on and off the ball, and can guard multiple positions in the pick and roll era. Boston would be one step closer to ending the totalitarian, tyrannical and oppressive regime administered by King James with him.

So after Gordon missed out on that mega contract, which was intrinsically connected to the All NBA team selection, how can Boston acquire him? Gordon has a player option, which means he can opt out of his contract and become a free agent. If he does that Utah can offer him a max contract of $177.5 million over 5 years. However other teams can offer him $131.6 Million of 4 years. Giving up on that extra year maybe too lucrative for Gordon, but if he wants to win now – Boston offers that.

The Fultz/Ball Dilemma

The second problematic deal is to choose between scoring machine Markelle Fultz, and floor general Lonzo Ball. For the purpose of fluidity, we will not be discussing off court issues; strictly basketball concerns.

On one hand you have Fultz, who may turn out to be a smaller version of James Harden. He is a pure scorer, with a long wingspan. This means that he has the potential to be a valuable commodity on the defensive end. But his bread and butter will be on the offensive end of the floor. He is a good 3 point shooter, and finishes well around the rim. He has good, but not blistering, speed and seems to cherish the big moments. Ironically he may be a bigger version of Isaiah Thomas (the man he would be trying displace from the starting line-up) not Harden.

Lonzo Ball is the quintessential point guard in the modern era. He is 6’7 with a long wingspan, and eagle like court vision. Even though his 3 point shot is ugly, it’s effective and efficient (much like Kevin Martin). He is brilliant on the pick and roll, and a willing passer; the true definition of a Point Guard. But will his management cause a ruckus if Boston chose him? I mean the boy is a rookie, so who gives a shit. But Boston does not like the drama that LA is accustomed to.

I’d take Fultz.

PG13? More like R Rated PG

Now we come to the arduous section of the article. There are two points of concern with a blockbuster trade for Paul George. The first is the most pragmatic concept: Will George sign a long term deal with Boston when he becomes a free agent? And the second point of concern is more emotive: Do we include IT in the potential trade? I would answer both questions with a resounding yes.

If I was Danny Ainge, I would make this the offer to Indiana:

Boston Offer Indiana Exchange
Isaiah Thomas (1 year, $6.2 million remaining)

Brooklyn Unprotected 2018 1st round pick

Boston 2018 2nd round pick

Avery Bradley ( 1 year, $ 8.8 million remaining)

Paul George ( 2 year, $40 million remaining)

 

 

This trade is unambiguously dependent on the players resigning with the respective teams. But let’s play devil’s advocate, and say they are willing to resign. Would this trade, the Gordon Hayward deal and the 1st round pick (along with Al Horford’s contract) make sense in terms of cap space?  

2017-2018 Salary cap/Luxury Tax Limit Forecasted Boston Roster 2017-2018 Salary cap/Luxury Tax Limit Boston Roster with additions
$102/122 Million $71.94 Million $102/122 Million $122.74 Million

 

From this table we can see that they are over the Luxury Tax by $740,000, minus the contract that would need to be signed by Fultz. If you go over the Luxury Tax you need to pay the league for 100% return on the limit you go over.

However every great team, stacked with stars and championship aspirations, tend to go over the Luxury Tax. It’s one of the reasons why KD left OKC for GSW. Ownership didn’t want to pay Harden and go over the Luxury Tax. However after years of torment (1 championship since the 80’s) maybe Beantown is willing to take a big leap of faith. Maybe Ainge will pull the trigger. If he does, the fan base will know him as the most disloyal GM of all time. But they will know that not even the Mighty IT comes before a championship mentality.

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