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The extremely optimistic case for why the Cavaliers - Celtics trade helps the Wizards more than anyone else

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Cleveland Cavaliers v Boston Celtics - Game One Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images

Tuesday’s blockbuster trade between the Cavaliers and Celtics is unlike anything we’ve ever seen in NBA history. Boston gave up an All-Star point guard, another starter, and a potential lottery pick for the chance to acquire another All-Star point guard.

It took a perfect storm of bizarre circumstances to get here, but there’s a good case for why the move helps both teams long-term. Cleveland gives themselves much-needed flexibility on how to approach life without LeBron if he leaves next summer, and Boston finally gets a foundational star they can build a long-term future around.

In that sense, both teams won the trade. But in the short term, there are some fit issues both teams need to figure out which could be advantageous for the Wizards.

Potential issues for the Cavaliers

  • LeBron James and Isaiah Thomas are both on the final year of their deals. Will the team be able to come together and play their best with so much uncertainty beyond this season?
  • Jeff Green is on the roster.
  • How much is Thomas willing to defer knowing this summer will be his best chance to get a big deal after years of being underpaid?
  • Jeff Green is on the roster.
  • The Cavaliers’ options at point guard are Isaiah Thomas, Derrick Rose, and Jose Calderon. Cleveland will have major issues hiding all three of those guys defensively.
  • For a time there, it looked like Derrick Rose could be in prime position to start on a contender. Will he be content as Isaiah Thomas’ backup?
  • Jeff Green is on the roster.

Potential issues for the Celtics

  • Five of the Celtics’ top seven scorers from last season are gone. That’s a significant change, no matter who you’re adding.
  • How is the Brad Stevens - Kyrie Irving relationship going to work out? Stevens is going to have to find a way to retool the Celtics’ offense to get Irving the shots he’ll surely want, while still utilizing the play calling that made the Celtics so effective. Plus, he has to figure out how to integrate Gordon Hayward into all of this as well. It could take some time to figure that out.
  • One of Boston’s strengths against the Wizards in the playoffs was how many defensive options they had to slow down John Wall and Bradley Beal. But now that Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder are gone, the Celtics will need a lot out of Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown, especially against Washington’s perimeter attack.

Does the Cavs-Celtics trade open the window for the Wizards to be the top seed in the East this season? I’d say if nothing else, it’s more open than it was on Monday.

That said, there’s a difference between having a team that finishes with the best record in the East and being the team with the best chance of representing the East in the Finals. A lot of potential issues the new-look Cavaliers and Celtics face are “regular season issues” that good teams figure out pretty quickly once the games really matter.

Once the Wizards get to the point where they’re facing off against Boston or Cleveland in a seven game series, they still have two major problems this trade doesn’t fix:

  1. They don’t have a good bench.
  2. They don’t have LeBron James.

Still, anything that gets Washington closer to the top seed in the East this season opens up opportunities to get over the hump. Whether it’s luring a star to try and force a trade to Washington, or convincing players on the buyout market to give the Wizards a look, just getting in the conversation is a big step.