Friday, February 22, 2008

Breaking Down the Trade

Lebron James got what he wanted. You know what happened by now: The Cavaliers just got a whole lot bigger in the post with the additions of Ben Wallace and Joe Smith from Chicago, while grabbing deadly shooter Wally Szczerbiak and backup PG Delonte West from Seattle. Out the door is the much maligned G Larry Hughes, along with PF Drew Gooden, G/F Ira Newble, SG Shannon Brown, and F Cedric Simmons.

The Contract Situation:

All Cavaliers fans know Larry Hughes' contract was an albatross. Finding a way to get rid of it is genius, no matter how they did it. With two more years left (after this year) at $12.5 million, this was the worst contract on the roster by a mile and one of the worst in the NBA. On the flip side, they are taking on contract that is equally as bad. Ben Wallace's deal has two more years at $14 million per as well. The contract was backloaded, so the Cavs catch a little bit of a break there. So essentially it's a swap of bad deals. Wally's contract expires at the end of next year, but he is making $13 million per. In dumping Donyell Marshall, in terms of years remaining, this is an even swap as Marshall was scheduled to make $6 million in the final year of his deal next season. Smith is an expiring deal, making $5.2 million and will be a free agent at season's end. West is still on his rookie contract which runs through 2008-09. So essentially other than swapping bad deals with Hughes for Wallace, the Cavs will be in the same cap situation in two summers that they would have been had they stood pat. That's good news.

The Players Coming In:

The Centerpiece of the deal may be Wallace, but the key guy is Szczerbiak. While he cannot defend a lick, he is still one of the league's deadliest shooters, knocking down over 40% from deep and averaging double digits of the bench for the Sonics. Danny Ferry has often talked about surrounding Lebron James with shooters and he did just that by acquiring Wally. Especially now given the news that Daniel Gibson, the team's best three-point shooter, out 4-6 weeks with a high ankle sprain.

Wallace is the kind of rebounder and defender Mike Brown loves. The problem is he was that player three years ago. The hope is the exact same hope the Phoenix Suns have with Shaquille O'Neal; Playing with Lebron James and on a contender will re-energize Wallace. That's what Danny Ferry is banking on.

FYI - On page 157 of Terry Pluto's new book, "The Franchise," it descibes how owner Dan Gilbert, a former Pistons season ticket holder, told Danny Ferry he wasn't interested in Ilgauskas when his contract was up because he "wanted a Ben Wallace type."

Joe Smith's name seems to be under the radar here, but the former #1 overall pick is having a very solid year, averaging 11 and eight for the Bulls. Those are the same numbers Drew Gooden had been giving to the Cavs. While Smith isn't the player Gooden is, it's still a nice addition to the bench, a solid, smart veteran big man. West is considered a throw-in, but could be starting at the point right away with the injury to Gibson.

The Players Going On:

Readers of the blog know how we feel about Hughes. On one hand, we feel bad for the guy. He never complained once after being booed by the home fans and knowing his contract and average play put a big target on his back. On the other hand YAHOOOOOO! Larry Hughes is gone! He was overrated defensively, thought he was a jump shooter and clearly isn't, and never could stay healthy. The experiment of playing him next to Lebron never worked and now we don't have to watch it anymore. The real question is what is going to happen to Hey Larry Hughes Please Stop Taking So Many Bad

We are going to miss Drew Gooden. yes, we are homers for the guy, being a KU alum, and he was money on his mid-range jumpers and was a beast on the glass when he wanted to be. But most Cavs fans, and coach Mike Brown, clearly will not miss his defensive lapses. The other interesting thing to note about Drew was when Anderson Varejao is healthy, Drew usually spends crunch time on the bench, so there is no real loss there.

The rest of the guys, Newble, Simmons, and Shannon Brown were throw ins who had expiring contracts. We would like to credit Newble who really stepped up his play with all of the various injuries. He had value as a role player, who plays three different positions and is a decent three point shooter, but honestly, nobody is going to cry that Newble is gone.

The Analysis:

There is a huge risk/reward here that surrounds Wallace. Our NBA insider told us yesterday "if Ben Wallace decides to try and stops whining and plays hard, The Cavs will be scary off the backboards. Scary. If he whines, bitches, treats Mike Brown like sh--t, forget it. It could be disaster. The other thing is on defense, he isn't stopping anybody anymore. I got news for you. He's a help side defender only now. Joe Smith and Wally are money from 15 feet. Money." I'm not crazy about Wallace from one aspect, what happens when Varajao and Wallace are now paired together on offensive? You'll be playing three on five.

That said, the Cavs now have four legitimate post players they can rotate and feel great about with Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Varejao, Wallace, and Smith. No more having to see Dwayne Jones play extended minutes, which is a plus. They will be lethal on the boards and in the post defensively. Smith has the knack for knocking down a mid-range jumper when need be.

Wally and Delonte West will immediately be pressed into service in a banged up backcourt. You can be sure Lebron will love playing with the Miami of Ohio product who, unlike Larry Hughes, will be a trusted sniper from the outside. Surrounding Lebron with Damon Jones, Wally, and Boobie Gibson gives the Cavs three reliable deep shooters. We'll see how West runs the point, but expect to see Eric Snow play more as well until Gibson comes back from injury. Don't forget you still have the versitile Devin Brown and Sasha Pavlovic when he comes back from injury.

Do we think this will improve the Cavs? Yes. You cannot say they aren't a better team today than they were yesterday. But this deal will hinge of which Ben Wallace will show up. The good news is that they will still be in a decent cap situation after next season when Snow, Szczerbiak, and Damon Jones' bad contracts all off the books and they are still in good shape to make a run in the next two years before shedding the three veterans and attempting to add young talent in the process. The real bottom line is that Lebron wanted something done, and when Lebron speaks, you listen.

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