There’s been plenty of talk in the offseason about the possibility of the Cavaliers trading Wally Szczerbiak and his expiring contract. In all honesty, the topic was brought up the instant the Cavaliers acquired Wally in the big Larry Hughes trade last season. So it should be of little surprise to anyone that trade rumors involving the Cavaliers and Szczerbiak are about to start popping up. The first one of the season came today.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports had the details in his column Tuesday morning. He wrote,
“The Cavaliers have had ongoing discussions with the Miami Heat about an Anderson Varejao and Wally Szczerbiak for Shawn Marion trade, a league executive familiar with the discussions said.
So, here is what the Cavs are asking themselves now: Do we dare?
Miami has had discussions with several teams lately on Marion, including the Toronto Raptors and Sacramento Kings, sources say, but Cleveland could deliver the most intriguing proposition. Marion has struggled with the Heat – averaging well below his career averages in scoring and rebounding – but several league executives believe he’ll be more motivated and valuable with a championship contender. That’s the reason Cleveland is entertaining the possibility. GM Danny Ferry and coach Mike Brown are wondering whether Marion could be the difference in a conference final against the Celtics.”
While I wasn’t surprised to see Wally’s name in there, a name I was shocked to see was Anderson Varejao. Not that I don’t think there’s any chance the Cavaliers will trade Andy this year. But paired with Wally’s expiring deal for…..Shawn Marion? On face value, this trade proposal makes little sense to me.
However, people around the net seem to think adding Shawn Marion is exactly what the Cavaliers need to overcome the Celtics and to become the favorites to win the NBA title this year.
Matt Watson, writing on Fanhouse, thinks this is a good deal for Cleveland. He writes,
“The Cavs clearly need to weigh the consequences of disrupting their current chemistry, but Marion is a special breed of player who could contribute on both sides of the ball. A gifted defender, he can match up with any guard or forward in the league, and while he’s not quite as accurate as Szczerbiak from long distance, he’s certainly capable beyond the arc, too.
Paired next to LeBron James, who can seamlessly shift from point guard to power forward, the Cavs would have one of the most versatile frontcourts in the entire league. Ben Wallace would be pushed to the bench, but he’s averaging fewer than 24 minutes a game as it is — replacing his minutes with someone who’s almost as capable on the glass and 10 times more effective with the ball in his hands is an easy decision.”
Over at the Sporting Blog, Bethlehem Shoals thinks this is a risk worth taking for Cleveland, writing,
“Wally isn’t a winner. I hate that cliche, but here it applies. Varejao plays hard, doing the dirty work around LeBron and Big Z. He sells a lot of funny wigs. Marion? He’s like that, but skilled, better defensively, more of a threat offensively, and makes a team deadly in transition. What’s more, it’s only one year. Varejao has been a good soldier, but the Matrix is still a star at what he does — things no one else in the league can, or more importantly, will, do.
If the front office is trying to send a message to LeBron, standing pat is not the answer. Boston and Los Angeles are juggernauts; despite the Cavs excellent start, to really get on that level, it’s going to take a bold move. And no bold move comes without risk.”
Ken Berger writes for CBS Sports that this deal gives the Cavaliers some interesting options,
“The Heat clearly are not smitten with the idea of maxing out Marion, who would instantly make the Cavs a lethal threat to the Celtics’ repeat hopes. Cleveland could view it as a rental, or could extend Marion after the season if they believe LBJ would approve. The Cavs already have plenty of cap space in 2010 to re-sign LeBron and a top-tier running mate such as Chris Bosh. But clearing Varejao’s contract would make Cleveland a player in free agency next summer, when Carlos Boozer (player option) and Kobe Bryant (early termination) could be free. Miami would be in great cap shape, too, assuming Varejao declines his player option.”
If you read FanIQ at all, you might have seen this piece on the trade,
“Marion is an extremely gifted defender who would immediately boost Cleveland defensively. He’d also be the perfect guy to throw on Paul Pierce in the playoffs. Plus, having Marion paired up with LeBron would produce one of the most versatile front courts in the game and it would push Ben Wallace – who hasn’t done much of anything this year – onto the bench.”
So why am I the dissenting voice? Why do I think this is not a good deal for Cleveland at all? Well, let me answer that with a question of my own. Has anyone actually been watching Shawn Marion play in the last few years? Shawn Marion today is not the same guy he was back in the day with Phoenix.
Marion is hardly old. He’s only 30 years old. Realistically, he should still have plenty left in the tank. But Marion’s skills and output have been trending downward over the last few seasons. Marion peaked in the 2005-06 season with a Player Efficiency Rating of 23.66. His PER has gone down every year since. Down to 20.87 the next season, 19.10 in 2007-08, and down to a barely above average level of 15.92 this year. His scoring has been going down. He was scoring 21.8 points per game in that 2005-06 season. The following year he was down to 17.5 ppg, last year he scored 15.4 ppg, and this year is scoring his lowest points since his rookie season, at 12.4 ppg. His FG% has gone down every season since 2005-06. He’s only a career 33.9% shooter from three-point range. He’s never been a player to give you any assists whatsoever. He averages 2.0 assists per game for his career, and his career high is only 2.7 apg.
So what exactly does Marion give you? He’s a very, very good rebounder still, he’s still an above average defender, and he’s still sublime at running on fast breaks. Is that really what Cleveland needs, though? The Cavaliers are already paper thin at PF and C, especially with Zydrunas Ilgauskas already missing time with a sprained ankle. Removing Varejao and adding Marion doesn’t really fix that problem for Cleveland. The Cavaliers are hardly a fast break team, so Marion’s skills could possibly help them there, but it could just as likely be a wasted skill in the Cleveland half court offense. The Cavaliers are already one of the best rebounding teams in the NBA as well, so Marion’s rebounding would only be enhancing a strength.
For all the talk about how Marion’s offense would be a giant upgrade over Varejao, I can’t help but wonder if people maybe haven’t been paying attention to how well Varejao has been playing this year. More than just his offensive improvements, Varejao has improved in almost every aspect of his game.
In fact, if we compare Varejao and Marion this year, Andy comes out pretty favorably. Varejao is 57th in the NBA in PER with a rating of 17.82, while Marion’s mediocre PER of 15.92 has him ranked 100th in the NBA. Marion is averaging 12.4 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 1.4 steals per game, and 1.4 blocks per game. Varejao is averaging 9.0 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 0.9 steals per game, and 0.7 blocks per game. So advantage Marion there. But if you compare the 2 players’ per 36 minute numbers, it looks quite different. Per 36 minutes, Marion is averaging 12.0 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 1.4 spg, and 1.4 bpg, while Varejao is averaging 12.8 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 1.3 spg, and 1.0 bpg. On a per minute basis, the Cavaliers really aren’t gaining much.
There’s no doubt a starting lineup of Mo Williams, Delonte West, Shawn Marion, LeBron James, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas is an improved starting lineup, but the Cavs would then have an enormous drop off in 6th man going from Anderson Varejao to Ben Wallace. Furthermore, the Cavaliers would lose Wally Szczerbiak’s minutes off the bench, which would presumably be given to Sasha Pavlovic. Again, not a whole lot of difference there. And that’s the point.
The Cavaliers have one of the most valuable chunks of expiring money in the NBA. If and when they are going to trade Wally, they need to make sure they are getting a dramatic upgrade in talent. I don’t see how Shawn Marion is that answer. There’s always the chance that going back to a title contender would reinvigorate Marion and snap him back to his Phoenix form, but why take that risk? Marion isn’t exactly doing much to make Miami a better team, and I don’t see how he definitely would improve the Cavaliers.
So when I first heard about this trade rumor, I was skeptical about the validity of it. I have no doubt Ferry is talking to many GMs and doing his due diligence in figuring out what he can get for Szczerbiak, but Ferry has never been one to make a move just for the sake of making a move. He tends to be patient and deliberate in his dealings. Thankfully, Brian Windhorst stepped up to the plate for us and let us know the truth about this rumor. He writes,
“You never say never in the NBA; perhaps circumstances will change. But as of right now the Cavs and Heat are not in trade talks concerning Marion and Varejao. This is from multiple team sources.
What the Cavs need is another big man and Marion isn’t a big man and Varejao is. So if they made such a deal they’d be in worse shape. Which is why I said before, it doesn’t make much sense.
Also, if the Cavs are going to use Wally Szczerbiak’s contract they are going to go for a home run. This next trade very well may be the most important in Cavs history. So it has to be just right. I will write about this a lot more in the coming weeks, just know that right now this rumor isn’t true.”
The Cavaliers are 20-4 right now with a 6 game lead in the Central Division. They are 1st in the NBA in offensive efficiency and 2nd in defensive efficiency. They’re 5th in points per game and 1st in points against per game. They are 4th in FG% and they are 2nd in opponents FG%. Team chemistry is at an all time high. There’s no doubt they are not at Boston’s level yet, and there’s no doubt Danny Ferry will be looking at all options regarding Wally Szczerbiak. But to just make this move now and alter the team’s make up so severely on a gamble that Shawn Marion can still be the same player he once was makes no sense for the Cavaliers at this point. If Ferry made this deal and it didn’t work and Marion remained the same player he has been for the last few years, it would be easy to see the Cavaliers regress, a result that would be disastrous for this franchise in the scope of LeBron James’ future.