Who Holds More Leverage in the Kyrie Irving-Isaiah Thomas Trade, Boston or Cleveland?

After hearing the Kyrie Irving-Isaiah Thomas deal is being reconsidered by Cleveland following questions regarding Thomas’ health, the hoopla has officially reached a maximum in regards to trying to actually understand: A — Cleveland’s true motive in the trade holdup, and B — who owns the greater amount of leverage now that the trade is in limbo.

Given LeBron’s ‘peaceful’ send off of Kyrie Irving via social media, along with the obvious and notable distain of the move from both Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder, particularly aimed towards Danny Ainge the head honcho of everything Celtics, one could deductively arrive at the idea that Cleveland has a clear sign of leverage in these trade talks. That idea would back itself on the argument that the Celtics would have a more difficult time bringing Crowder and Thomas back into their lineup than the Cavaliers would with Irving.

While Irving probably wouldn’t accept a move back to Cleveland in the form of a pre-season hold out, the bottom line is that the Cavaliers would still be shopping him, and still seem to believe that they have other viable offers on the table if their true intent is to pull out of this trade barring the addition of an asset from the Celtics. Boston, on the other hand, aren’t openly shopping Thomas or Crowder, and only intended to flip those two if it were for a young-all star. So, from the perspective of Cleveland’s ability to fall back on other offers for Irving, mixed with Boston’s clear incentive to do what it takes to make this deal go through, they own at least their fair share of leverage.

Here’s the issue for Cleveland — Danny Ainge doesn’t give a shit about what Dan Gilbert and co. think they might be able to get from other teams around the league. Ainge understands that the reason Cleveland accepted this trade in the first place was because, in terms of future flexibility towards team building in both the short and long term, the current deal can’t be matched. No other team can bring to the table a current all star packaged with a future potential lottery pick, and the type of versatility on the defensive end that Cleveland so desperately needed in last years finals, in a Jae Crowder type-player.

The Celtics hold the leverage of knowing this is the best deal on the table by a fair margin, and that, while on the surface it seems as if Boston would have the most face to save were this deal to be retracted, Cleveland would lose face in the sense of either not doing their homework before completing a deal, or doing their homework and knowingly trying to out leverage the Celtics — something that wouldn’t be well received by the rest of the league GMs.

This turns to the idea of Cleveland turning this around and trying to convince Kyrie Irving to actually return to the Cavaliers, which likely wouldn’t end well for anyone. Would Cleveland still compete, likely for a finals? Yes. Unfortunately, they would also fail to address some of their biggest team issues that actually caused the devastating loss in the finals last year, likely ultimately ending in James’ departure, and a complete overhaul in Cleveland in which they would be left with no lottery picks (until they finished the next regular season..), an unhappy Kyrie Irving, and an aging Kevin Love who seems to lose value by the second.

If this deal were to be vetoed, Boston would have a difficult time handling a locker-room with the core now confused about their personal futures, and angry with the franchise they work for. Still, Boston would remain highly competitive in the eastern conference, and would still have the greatest stash of future first rounders and team friendly-contracts ready to be traded at any moment for a move that makes sense for them.

The bottom line is this deal needs to get done — for both teams, not only so I can post my original article about this trade once it’s complete, but also because (as that article will explain) this deal is a great win for everyone, regardless of Isaiah Thomas’ health. Don’t expect Danny Ainge to lose sight of that, and add an asset to a deal he’s already made. It’s not happening!