Mailbag: What does Kyrie Irving trade mean for the Heat and rest of the Eastern Conference?

MIAMI — The top two teams in the Eastern Conference swapped star point guards.

The Celtics acquired Kyrie Irving from the Cavaliers for point guard Isaiah Thomas, forward Jae Crowder, center Ante Zizic and Brooklyn’s 2018 unprotected first-round pick. What does this trade mean for the landscape of the Eastern Conference this season?

We answer that question and more in the latest installment of the Heat mailbag.

If you weren’t able to ask a question this time, send your questions for future mailbags via Twitter (@Anthony_Chiang and @tomdangelo44).

Cleveland Cavaliers’ Kyrie Irving, right, looks to drive against Boston Celtics’ Isaiah Thomas during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane, File)

@Aj3th: What does this Kyrie Irving trade mean for the Eastern Conference this season? I feel like it doesn’t change much. Cleveland is still the top team in the conference with Boston as the clear-cut No. 2 team.

Anthony Chiang: You’re probably not wrong. The Cavaliers still have the best player in the world — LeBron James — on their roster, so they’re still the top team in the East, in my opinion. But Boston moved a little closer to Cleveland with Tuesday’s trade. Not only because the Celtics acquired All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving, but because they also made the Cavaliers a little weaker by taking Kyrie off their roster. For the rest of the Eastern Conference, the drop off from the Cavaliers and Celtics to No. 3 just got a little steeper. Whether you think the No. 3 team is the Wizards or Raptors, the Cavs and Celtics seem to be the clear-cut top two teams in the East. This means earning one of the top six playoff seeds in the conference just got a lot more important in order to avoid facing Cleveland or Boston in the first round. That’s where it affects the Heat, which are expected to be in that No. 4 to No. 7 playoff seed range. Sure, a first-round matchup with LeBron’s Cavaliers or a series against Kyrie, Gordon Hayward and the Celtics would be fun. But it definitely wouldn’t be easy for Miami. The Heat need to aim for one of the top six seeds in the conference.

@iamfam_b: What percent do you give for the possibility of D-Wade coming back to Miami?

Anthony Chiang: 50 percent. Does that clear things up? In all seriousness, it’s going to be a possibility as long as the Heat keep their $4.3 million room exception open. If the Bulls do buy out Dwyane Wade, which is a very real possibility, Miami is going to be one of the teams immediately mentioned as a possible landing spot because of the obvious connection. Will the buy out happen before the season? That would obviously be better for the Heat — for chemistry purposes — rather than just adding a future Hall of Famer in the middle of the season. So yes, even in August, Heat fans have something to monitor.

[Kyrie Irving traded to Boston: Celtics offer was too good for Heat to match, too good for Cavaliers to say no]

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