Friday, February 22, 2008

Trading Day Review: Cleveland Cavaliers

Instead of doing one big monster post on the trades, we're going to tackle them one at a time. Here's my take on the Cleveland side of the mega-trade and the implications on the playoffs...

Can you become better by gaining the same amount you lose? How important is chemistry? When you recognize that you've become stagnant, but no available shift is ideal, does the available shift become preferable? Is change for change's sake a valuable move?

These are the questions that center around the Cleveland deal. After missing out on Jason Kidd, missing out on Mike Bibby, and having everyone from the King himself to the media to the fans threatening to set fire if Ferry didn't do something, the Cavs finally reached the breaking point. They couldn't go into the playoffs with this configuration. That's suicide. Yes, it was good enough last season, but the big 3 wasn't in Boston, the Pistons weren't in the revised offensive form they're in now, and the Magic weren't a legit force. So they were forced to do something. And this presented itself.

So what do they get? The numbers add up, that much is clear. And there are positive ways to spin this. There always are. I tend to think that overreaction to any trade is probably uncalled for. That's why Corn and I are good balances for each other. He's the pundit, the voice, the outrage. He tends to send me texts consisting of "(recap of development). what the f*ck? worst (insert item here) ever." He's like Dan Shannoff and one of the old guys in the balcony for the muppets. On the other hand, I usually think that most trades have to be weighed carefully, considering all of the goals of the franchise, and even then, there's so much involved it's hard to pick winners and losers in trades for me.

What I come away with for the Cavs is that they were faced with two options. The preferable goal would be to surround LeBron with a viable second option. A player that could both distribute to his inferior teammates and provide a nitro boost to LeBron's already atmospheric game. This trade is hard to pull off, given the cap situation created by LeBron and Z. It's especially hard for a GM like Ferry who lacks vision and a killer instinct.

Option two was to instead provide LeBron with a plethora of role players. Guys that were ridiculously good at one or two aspects, and not great all-around players. That's what they elected to do. Instead of a combo forward with multiple skills, they brought in a big guy that can rebound and play defense, but has no offensive skills to speak of. And by speak of, I mean, "mention in passing at a cocktail party with your mom's friends, none of whom follow the NBA." They also added a competent combo forward in Joe Smith for "instant offense" and a pure shooter in Wally. The idea is to let LeBron do everything and build a complex machine full of individual parts that only do one thing.

The only problem with this approach is that it relies on all members of the machine doing their one thing better than the other team. All players have bad nights. But some can overcome bad shooting nights with defense and rebounding. Some rebounders have trouble at the boards, but manage to work well in the passing lanes. The players they've acquired can only do one or two things well. If they face a team who's players can do all the things that the Cavs' role support does well, do them better, and then contribute in more than one category, they're sunk.

I like Wally with LeBron. The kick and drive makes sense. I like the Wallace/Smith/Varejao/Z combo. That's a formidable frontcourt in tandem. But does this account for the lack of a secondary shooter? Delonte West is a fine pickup, and we like Gibson, but they still don't have a point guard who is lights out in providing opportunities.

The biggest thing this does is help us as fans. Why? Because auxiliary support for LeBron that doesn't provide alternative weapons means only one thing. More opportunities for LeBron to rise above himself again and again.

This won't improve their odds to win a championship.

But it doesn't hurt their chances, either.

 
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