First things first, I’m a man of my word. I said earlier today that if the Cavaliers actually pulled off a trade, I would publicly apologize to Brian Windhorst for doubting his early reports on the trade. Well, the trade rumor was legit, and so here we are. Brian, my apologies for my earlier post. I’m quite happy that I have to offer my apology as it means that the Cavaliers were truly proactive and made a real trade of consequence, for better or worse. You were right, I was wrong, and thank goodness for that.
Ok, now with that out of the way, lets break this sucker down and see if I can figure out what to make of all this.
Delonte West (6.8 ppg, 3.2 apg, 10.10 PER, Salary – $1.9 million/$2.7 million qualifying offer)
I’m a Cleveland blogger, so I almost feel I have to try to put a happy face on this trade. But I’ll be totally honest….my initial gut reaction to this was not a good one. I couldn’t figure out how any of this made sense at all. Upon breaking down each piece above, however, I started to feel a little different about this trade. The Cavaliers did not give up a single player who was above league average in PER (15.00), but they picked up two guys playing at an above average pace (Smith and Szczerbiak) along with a tough enforcer (Wallace) and a capable point guard (West). Salary wise, Ferry was able to maintain the long term flexibility of the team. As Rick pointed out earlier, the Cavaliers will have $28 million in expiring contracts next year.
“I didn’t think we were good enough to win the championship. I thought we had a very good team. But I do believe if we have a chance to make ourselves better we should try. Was it a risk in doing so? Yes, it was a risk. But we’re going to have to make some decisions that have some risk in them if we want to continue to build and grow.”
I guess that’s pretty much the whole point. We’ve all been whining for so long that Ferry had fundamentally screwed this roster up with guys like Hughes and Marshall. So Ferry took a risk and blew the whole thing up. He was able to trade BOTH Hughes and Marshall when we’ve been saying forever that he probably couldn’t trade EITHER of them. And in doing so, the Cavaliers bring in some pretty decent players, and now have a revamped roster to try to start over from scratch. The more I reflect on this, the more at peace I am with it. It would be awfully hypocritical to sit here and lament losing Hughes, Gooden, and Marshall now.
I’m not crazy about Ben Wallace. Long known as a tough defender and rebounder, he has looked old, slow, tired, and hurt in Chicago this season. His rebounding numbers have declined every single year since his peak year of 2002-03 with Detroit. His efficiency numbers had been holding steady in the 17’s with Detroit, but since joining Chicago those have declined, too. I guess the good news for the Cavaliers and for Ben Wallace is that his beloved headband will no longer be an issue. Hopefully joining a team full of headband wearers will give Big Ben his powers back much like Samson and his hair. The hope for Wallace is that he will find his muse (motivation) in Cleveland and be inspired and kickstarted by joining a team who had played in the NBA Finals last year. Wallace still brings a championship pedigree, toughness, and defensive prowess to the Cavaliers. He makes the Cavs frontcourt an absolute force to be reckoned with on the boards and on defense. Between Z, Wallace, AV, and Joe Smith, teams will not find rebounding against them an easy endeavor. Furthermore, he gives the Cavaliers a toughness to match up with the big guys playing in Detroit and Boston and (hopefully) Los Angeles and Phoenix and San Antonio. The Cavaliers will no longer be perceived as a weak team, and you know the Pistons will not enjoy (hopefully) facing a lineup with LeBron and Ben in the playoffs.
Joe Smith is a versatile forward with size and athleticism. He’s actually having a very, very good season and he will go a long way towards minimizing the impact of losing a player like Drew Gooden. He’s another older player who doesn’t figure into the Cavaliers long term plans, but he can be a nice fit for the stretch run this year. He’s a guy who can fit into any kind of role Cleveland asks of him.
The player I’m probably most excited about is Wally Szczerbiak. He’ll be a defensive liability for sure, but for how long have we fretted over Donyell Marshall’s inconsistent shooting? Szczerbiak is a lethal shooter and has long been one of the NBA’s premiere 3 point shooters. With LeBron driving to the basket and drawing defenders, I’m eager to see how many open 3’s Wally is going to get in this offense. He has a chance to absolutely thrive in this environment. He’s a long player with good size and better athleticism than you might think. The key for Wally will be his ability to stay healthy. He’s suffered nagging injury after injury throughout his career, and Cleveland will need him to find a way to stay on the court. Despite coming off the bench in Seattle, he still averages more points per game than any of the players the Cavaliers gave up. He is an absolute offensive upgrade for this roster, and you know LeBron’s excited about the prospects of the team being able to spread the court with shooters like Wally, Boobie, and DJ. It’s not difficult to envision all 4 of those guys on the court together in late game offensive situations and LeBron experiencing more open lanes or more open shooters to dish to.
Finally, the last player acquired was Delonte West. West is another player I’m excited to see on this roster because I think he has a great chance to thrive with this team. He may not be a true point guard, but he’s a good enough shooter and a really good defender. We’ve seen the way Rajon Rando has excelled with the talent around him in Boston, and I envision West’s role to be very similar in Cleveland. He won’t be asked to do too much, he’ll play tough defense, and he’ll be able to get the offense going. In Boston, Delonte’s efficiency numbers were right around average. With Seattle, he struggled to figure out his role, but in Cleveland I think he’ll be able to get back to that 15 PER range, which is really all the Cavs will ask of him.
Having to burn my Ira Newble and Cedric Simmons jerseys
No longer being able to rip Danny Ferry for never making any big trades
In general, after pondering this thing and looking at it from all angles, I think I’m actually pretty happy with this trade. It gives the team a boost of hope and energy. For far too long we’ve been complaining about this team and the frustrating underperformers on the roster. Ferry may not have hit a grand slam here, but at least he tried something. He’s right….they weren’t winning the Championship with that lineup. They still might not (in fact, they’re still not even favorites in the East), but at least the team tried something. And if it doesn’t work out, the Cavaliers will still be able to make some major moves next year to keep improving the team. Wallace’s contract being front loaded is nice, too. While Hughes’ contract was going up every year, Wallace’s is going down.
Losing Drew Gooden is a little sad, as he’s had some nice games for the Cavs and he was always an adventure to watch with his antics. Furthermore, by losing Gooden, the Cavaliers are now in a situation where they will have to pony up and sign AV when his contract expires after next year, which will be a definite challenge for Ferry. Also, none of the players coming to the Cavs are superstars. So sure, this trade isn’t all roses. But it’s a shakeup this franchise desperately needed, and it still allows the Cavs to continue to get better and improve the roster over the next 2 seasons as they make a push to simultaneously win a championship and keep LeBron in town. A lot needs to happen, and there are a lot of “ifs” involved with this move, but it gives the Cavaliers a chance to alter their course and make a serious push at getting back to the finals.