After the Golden State Warriors hoisted the Larry O’Brien trophy in June for the second time in three years, the NBA was set to change. Why? Well, considering how the Warriors were viewed as the only “super team,” players on expiring contracts would sign to a different team with other star players to take down the Warriors.
Of the many teams that went through big changes in either rebuilding their team or trading away star players during the off-season, there were two that stuck out: the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics, two powerful Eastern Conference rivals of the Toronto Raptors.
The Cavs sent Kyrie Irving to the Celtics in return for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and a first-round lottery pick that they got from the Brooklyn Nets.
Toronto, which made only a few moves, and has something both Cleveland and Boston don’t have: continuity. The Raptors are prepping for its fifth run at the championship and kept their star players together, giving them an edge in team chemistry and knowing each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
Cleveland however continues to seek its chemical balance. They were thumped by the Warriors four games-to-one in last season’s NBA finals, resulting in star point guard Irving to request a trade. This sent shockwaves throughout the league because the Cavs drafted him in 2011 and reached the finals during the past three years, but only won one championship. Why would Irving consider leaving Cleveland even though they finished second in the East and have one of the best teams in the league? As talented as Irving is, he felt that LeBron James overshadowed him, thus he wanted out and got his request. The big trade between the Cavaliers and Celtics just months before season tipoff opens a great opportunity for the Raptors to reach the finals, something they have never done before.
It will be difficult for the superstars to know how to play with each their new teammates, and for the Raps, it gives them a great chance to take advantage of as the Cavaliers and Celtics embark on a personal learning curve.
The Cavaliers will not have Thomas for most of the year, meaning once he returns from his injury, the team will have to readjust to their game plan.
The Celtics, however, will have to rebuild its team chemistry because only four players from last season are returning.
But let’s say the Cavaliers and Celtics do in fact figure it out before the NBA Playoffs start in April. It’s not like Toronto is far behind Boston and Cleveland. Toronto finished second in the East two years ago and finished third last year. So, there is still a chance in beating them in the playoffs when it matters most.
Overall, it will be tough for both Boston and Cleveland to readjust to their new teams, giving Toronto a shot to advance to NBA finals and, fingers crossed, win it all.