The Cleveland Cavaliers shipped off Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics on Tuesday, receiving Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and Brooklyn's 2018 1st round pick in return. The Irving-Thomas exchange feels like a swap of sorts, as the similarities between their games (offense: good! defense: so bad!) are somewhat astounding. As we try and gain insight into how Thomas might replace Irving in the Cavs' starting lineup, here's a look at how the two compare in some of the most key offensive and defensive categories.
-Both Irving and Thomas are phenomenal at creating offense out of isolation, but what stands out is just how much more time Irving spent in iso than Thomas did. Irving used 367 isolation possessions last season, more than twice that of Thomas, who used 178, per nba.com. Though Thomas is still a ball dominant point guard like Irving, it will be interesting to see how the Cavs offensive unit flows with less iso ball than the starting five is used to.
-Whereas Kyrie Irving had an affinity for mid-range jumpers because of his elite ability to make them, Thomas subscribes to the Houston Rockets school of shot selection. Thomas took 79 percent of all his shots last season from either the restricted area or beyond the arc. Irving took just 60 percent of his shots from those same locations. As a result, Thomas ended up going to the free throw line much more frequently than Irving, taking 8.4 shots from the charity stripe per game.
-Those are the two biggest differences between Irving and Thomas when it comes to the offensive side of the ball, as the rest of their numbers hover eerily close to one another. Both players' usage rate sits just above 30 percent. Ditto with their assist rates. If Thomas wasn't the size of the common woodchuck, he and Irving would be almost indistinguishable on offense.
-Both Irving and Thomas are thought of as incredibly poor defensive players, and the numbers do nothing to dispute that. ESPN's Real Defensive Plus-Minus puts both players near the bottom of the barrel, though Thomas' DRPM of -3.89 last season ranked worse than every single player in the NBA besides Doug McDermott. Irving didn't fair much better, slotting in at -2.30.
-In terms of their opponent's field goal percentage, players guarded by Irving shot almost 50 percent from the field. Players guarded by Thomas shot 45.5 percent. But while Irving's defensive rating of 109.1 remained virtually the same as the calendar turned to the postseason, Thomas's declined even further, dropping from 108.6 to 110.9. Woof.
-While Irving has always been poor defensively for during his time as a Cav, Thomas is even worse. In Boston, the Celtics had a team full of excellent perimeter defenders to offer him help. Despite receiving Crwoder, the Cavs are still lacking for defensive talent, and swapping Thomas for Irving creates an even deeper problem.