Isaiah Thomas’ hip injury: Risk vs. reward

Isaiah Thomas’ injury impacts Cleveland’s title bid, the trade between the Cavs and Celtics, and the Eastern Conference.

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Towards the backend of one of the craziest offseasons in NBA history, the expected movement of Kyrie Irving eventually took place in an unlikely move to another Eastern Conference title contender, the Boston Celtics. In return, after much debate, the Cavaliers received Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, the Brooklyn Net’s 2018 unprotected first-round pick and the Miami Heat’s 2020 second-round pick. What on the surface seems like a simple point guard swap with some minor additions could have vastly different outcomes as the news – or lack of it – on Thomas’ hip injury comes to light.

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The trade

To break down the trade efficiently, it seems as if the Boston Celtics received a point guard who displays similar offensive firepower to that of Thomas but with the added defensive ability and a desire to beat LeBron. However, what the Celtics gave up was their pint-sized superstar in Thomas, their best chance at stopping LeBron in Jae Crowder, as well as a probable high pick from the Brooklyn Nets. When looking at the stats, there is little to separate Irving and Thomas as the two main components of the trade. Thomas has a higher player efficiency rating whilst Irving has a better offensive and defensive efficiency rating. So, of course, the question is, was the trade worth it for either team?

The injury

Removing the injury from the discussion and considering the fact that Kyrie wanted to leave, you could argue both teams won in the trade. The Celtics got their superstar point guard and the Cavaliers received enough assets to not be terrible if and when LeBron moves on at the end of this coming season. However, in reality, it’s never that simple.

Since the hip injury struck in the Eastern Conference finals four months ago against his new team, Thomas has only just started hitting the weight room. Fears surrounding his hip have grown as the Cavaliers refuse to speak on the issue with some saying they are not sure whether it’ll fully heal at all. For the medically minded, he is suffering at torn labrum, but some suspect further damage is at play considering the circumstances.

What we do know is that Thomas will not be playing anytime soon. But, did the Cavaliers knows this? Did they stall the trade to get all the information on the injury? Are they just concerned about the playoffs?

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The risk

As it stands in the Eastern Conference, the Cleveland Cavaliers are still a single tier above the competitive Celtics, Raptors, and Wizards due to the LeBron factor. However, remove Thomas from the conversation in the regular season and the Cavaliers could drop to third or even fourth seed with LeBron’s anticipated rest and aging body. Keep Isaiah in the conversation playing full steam and you could see Cleveland topping the regular season. But, take the conversation into the postseason and there are real concerns.

The Washington Wizards and Toronto Raptors are both led by dogged point guards, though arguably Kyle Lowry is more of a puppy in the playoffs. In a seven games series, knowing Thomas’ defensive inability, the Raptors and Wizards strongest asset could be the Cavaliers’ weak point. Does this mean more pressure on LeBron? Can he continue to sustain his high level of dominance as he enters his 15th season?

The fact that Thomas was traded to the title-contending Cavaliers and was traded for Irving makes the injury more intriguing than ever. Its impact makes the speculation that more interesting.

How many games will Thomas play this season? Which seed will Cleveland acquire come May? And suppose we see a Cavaliers-Celtic Conference final, who are you picking? Comment below!

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