If you look at this trade in a vacuum the Celtics 100% lost this trade. The Celtics acquired probably the 5th or 6th best point guard in the league for the 8th or 9th best point guard in the league. And it cost them…
Isaiah Thomas, a quality 3 and D swingman, a first round talent in Ante Zizic and most likely a top 5 pick. That is a hell of a haul for Cleveland. Especially for a player who made it publically known that he wanted out. When you compare it to what other teams have been able to get in return for their superstars (see George, Paul; Butler, Jimmy; Cousins, Demarcus) Cleveland has to get an A+ grade for this trade.
This was a huge price for the Celtics to pay, and probably a slight overpay on their part. However, that is okay. Boston has been collecting assets for years so it CAN overpay for a superstar without compromising the entire team. This team is still is going to have 3 top 5 picks (Jaylen Brown, Jason Tatum, LAL/SAC pick) on the roster even after the trade. That is a young core most teams would salivate about and now that core will be entering their prime while Kyrie and Gordon Hayward are still in theirs. This move wasn’t made to make a run at the 2018 NBA championship; this move was made to put the Celtics in position to compete for multiple championships in the next 5-7 years.
Another aspect of this deal is that if the Celtics had kept all their top draft picks it would have been unlikely that they would have been able to keep them all in the long term, if they developed the way teams hope top draft picks do. Brown, Tatum, and the two 2018 lottery picks would have all been in line two get their second deals around the same time. We saw this happen to OKC in 2012 and they were forced to trade James Harden because of it. Boston was probably looking to avoid a similar situation.
People have been quick to proclaim winner and losers in this trade. The truth is it is way too early for that. If the Nets pick ends up being a top 3 pick and that player turns into a superstar the Cavs are clear winners, if the Nets end up with the 7th or 8th pick it looks like a fairly even trade. Regardless, the eastern conference just got a lot more interesting next year.