What the Cavaliers Really Need in Free Agency

brevin-knight2With all this recent chatter about the possible acquisition of Matt Barnes or Linas Kleiza, I wanted to focus on what the Cavs truly need to address in this free agency period: the back-up point guard position. Looking at the current roster, and you will see that there is already a surplus of forwards/big men that will be able to eat up a ton of minutes throughout the season. As of right now, it certainly seems like the Cavs are planning on activating youngsters Darnell Jackson, JJ Hickson and Danny Green for every single game, and thus Danny Ferry and company must be very careful with this last member of the 12-man lineup.

As proved last season, Cleveland has a lot of trouble creating an offensive pattern when starting guards Delonte West and Mo Williams are on the bench. Sure, some fans will argue that recent signee Anthony Parker does have some experience at the point guard slot, but that was mostly overseas in his prime with Maccabi Tel Aviv. According to the fantastic Web site 82games.com, Parker only played approximately 9% of his total minutes at the one last season and didn’t figure into the Raptors point guard depth chart at all in his first year back in the states. So the question comes down to whether the Cavs are more comfortable with Danny Green on the active roster or Daniel Gibson at the point?

I think that Gibson, who was an impressive point guard with Texas back in college, has not shown enough at the point in his career to be trusted as the backup point guard for a championship contender.

Take a look at Orlando (Rafer Alston/Anthony Johnson), LA (Jordan Farmar) and Boston (Stephon Marbury/Sam Cassell) over the past two seasons and you will not see any soft, three-point shooting specialists controlling the ball when the starters are on the bench. The Cavs just need another veteran guard to control things and have the front office never worry about Gibson’s porous ball-handling skills when Molante get their typical 12-16 minutes of rest.

In terms of the Cavaliers acquiring a player like Barnes, I have a hard time figuring out where he will even play in our rotation next season. Just looking at the minutes player’s averaged last season, and there is not too much room to spare for another “stretch” forward. Shaq (30.0 mpg),  Andy (28.5 mpg) and Zydrunas (27.2) might split some minutes to adjust for defensive purposes, but adding in D-Block and Hickson for 10-15 minutes each, and you are already way over the 96 minutes allotted to the power forward and center. LeBron’s minutes should be around 36-40 every night, and Green should factor into something, so I just don’t think there are many minutes to spare for the stretch guy every keeps talking about.

When looking at the guard position, Mo and Delonte should combine for somewhere around 70 minutes a game with Parker being the first small off the bench, but I think that Gibson should remain at his more comfortable position at the two. This last player on the 12-man roster should then just be a veteran point guard on a one-year contract for the biannual or whatever funds we have left for a small contract. Here is a list of just a few unrestricted veteran point guards that I would rather have for the last minutes off the bench that signing a long-term contract to a guy like Barnes:

Anthony Carter, 34, DEN – 22.9 mpg (78 gms), 5.3 pts, 4.7 assists, 2.6 reb on 43% fg
Bobby Jackson, 36, SAC – 20.9 mpg (71 gms), 7.5 pts, 2.0 ast, 2.8 reb on 40% fg
Brevin Knight, 33, UTA – 12.7 mpg (74 gms), 2.4 pts, 2.6 ast, 1.2 reb on 35% fg
Royal Ivey, 27, PHI – 12.1 mpg (71 gms), 3.0 pts, 0.6 ast, 1.1 reb on 33% fg

These are not the traditionally attractive names that jump out to you in a free agent market, but they fill a much more vital need on the Cavaliers looking forward to the 2009-2010 season than does another stretch forward. The minutes used in the forward position already looks pretty full, and unless Cleveland makes some drastic move in a sign-and-trade for a substantial piece such as Lamar Odom or Gerald Wallace, I don’t think using the rest of our MLE or biannual on a long contract for Barnes or Kleiza would be a good idea.

The roster is truly not bad at all right now, and the Cavaliers will contend for a championship no matter what. A last point guard however, would help the bench be more productive than they were in the post-season against Orlando and would be a smarter allocation of the last minutes off the bench.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com/ Rick

    I do think we need to address the PG position, and I wrote about that somewhere at the beginning of free agency. The issue I see Jacob is that these PGs that are available aren’t going anywhere soon. The rush to sign Ariza, CV, AV etc was because they are a limited commodity in this FA period. I don’t see an impact type PG out there that is worth throwing a large chunk of money at (more than minimum) with the exception of Andre Miller, but he is going to demand more than we can give him anyway.

    Kinsey and Williams are not playing with guaranteed contracts. So I would be careful about saying they only have one spot on the roster left.

    Also, who is to say that Jackson and Hickson get significant minutes this season? I would venture a guess that one of them will with the way the roster is structured now. But is that a good thing? I have not seen enough from JJ to warrant him playing any kind of extended role. He is not the sharpest crayon in the box, and misses assignments too much.

    D-block is what he is. He gives you what he has all the time, but he is just not as talented as the majority of 4’s in the league. That’s why I think the Cavs still need to go after a guy like Barnes.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com Jacob Rosen

    Shaq, Z, Andy, D-Block, Hickson
    LeBron, Green, Parker
    Mo, Delonte, Boobie

    Then you have Kinsey and Williams, so we pretty much only have one active roster spot left currently, unless we decide to unactivate D-Block, Green or Hickson. I just don’t think that with the limited funds we have left it would be most advisable to go after a long-term contract for a guy that might not play much at all this season based on how many minutes it looks like we are already assigning to the players above.

    The backup point guard is a greater need on the team than a stretch forward like Barnes, and signing him will prevent this team from developing anyone. Sure I understand that it is championship time and not time for rookies, but I just don’t understand why everyone is clamoring for another forward on this team unless they make some significant impact overall. Barnes won’t change anything, but a backup point guard would at least help run things all the time when the bench is out there.

  • AMC

    Jacob – I’m basically with you on this one, though I agree with Rick, most of the guys on the list that you have can be attained later in the game. I imagine that Ferry will do something similar to what he did with L. Wright last year, signing a veteran PG for the minimum to round out the roster.

    I’m divided on whether to go after Barnes. Barnes definitely adds talent to the Cavs, but I agree his playing time would definitely cut into, if not erase, almost all of JJ, D-Block, and Green’s. I’m not sold on JJ and am worried about his back. Jackson, as others have said, “is what he is,” and Green is a rookie with a learning curve. As long as the contract for Barnes or Keiza wasn’t long term, I’d be fine with it.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com/ Rick

    What I’m saying is that Barnes is a significant upgrade over a Jawad Williams, D-Block or even a Kinsey. He can play the 2-4 and can push LeBron to the 4 at times.

  • Tim

    A couple points:

    1.) I don’t think people are pushing to obtain a stretch PF in order to help us during the regular season. We have to be thinking about the postseason from the get-go this year, and looking at matchups with Boston/Orlando. There, it would be very nice to have an extra shooter on the floor to allow Lebron to drive at will.

    2.) Furthermore, while it’s great to give Dblock/Hickson minutes during the season, we can’t count at them at this point to play minutes in the postseason. And unlike the guard positions, where Williams and West can be expected to play 40 minutes per night in a playoff game, Shaq and Z are both old, and cannot be expected to play an entire game just because it’s the playoffs. In the Playoffs you would still expect Shaq(30), Z(25), AV(25), will we trust Hickson/Dblock to play the other 16 at that point?

    3.) You make an argument that there aren’t enough minutes at the 4/5 to add another player. However, the same argument holds at the 1/2 position Williams (35), West(30), Parker (20), Gibson (11) already fills up the entire 96 minutes. And that’s being conservative, so even if Parker plays some time at the 3, West and Gibson could easily play more minutes to fill the rotation.

    4.) OTOH, Earl Watson was just waived by the Thunder. He would fit in here really well as the backup PG you describe. If he’s available for the BAE, we should definitely take a look at him.

    I think the point that you more correctly make, is that in the short term, we can worry less about a stretch 4, and we can allow Dblock/Hickson to get time at the beginning of the season. However, if neither of them is taking a leap forward, we’ll have to start looking for a stretch PF around the trading deadline. Towards that end, we should probably keep the remainder of our MLE free now, so that we could possibly trade and reacquire Z, if that becomes necessary to get contracts to match.

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com/ Rick

    We’re talking about depth and match-ups, who provides you with more- Barnes/Kleiza or Darnell Jackson/Jawad Williams?

  • http://waitingfornextyear.com/ Rick

    @ tim- Watson agreed to terms with Pacers.

  • B-bo

    I’ll tell you what the Cavaliers don’t need: those uniforms to ever come back. Ever. All evidence should be destroyed immediately.

  • http://www.jrosen.wordpress.com Jacob Rosen

    Those 16 minutes not already assigned to Z, Shaq, and Andy in playoff time will go to LeBron at the four. He is already getting more minutes at that position, and Barnes/Kleiza will not change that.

    In the playoffs, Williams and Kinsey won’t be getting any minutes anyway and right now we are at 11 men for actual meaningful minutes. I had previously assumed the Cavs were going to stick with D-Block and Hickson on a somewhat regular basis this season, and under that assumption, minutes will be hard to come by at the forward position for the Cavs.

    Parker can play the 2/3 as the Cavs could go with a shooter lineup with Mo, Boobie, Parker and LeBron depending upon the defensive match ups, but I also want to make sure that Boobie does not get any meaningful minutes in the playoffs at point. I would rather give a guy like Anthony Carter $2 million to do that than get Barnes or Kleiza for three years. I think that would be the most helpful off-season move at this point.

  • JP

    I keep hearing “stretch power forward,” which if I’m correct is a player with enough size to defend the 4 and a good perimeter game to draw an opposing big man out of the paint. The idea is to create space for your passers and slashers (LeBron, Mo, D-West) and prevent the double-team on a dominant post player (SHAQ).

    Brown has said he will play Z and SHAQ in the same rotation at times. In this situation, Z will play the role of “stretch PF.” It might seem ridiculous to have two giant, slow, dinosaur-like 7 footers out there at the same time, and that’s why we won’t do it for stretches beyond 4-5 minutes. But with the skills of the players on the floor, we don’t lose much with a Z and SHAQ combo. Z will live on the perimeter. He can’t put the ball on the floor, but he can catch and shoot, shoots 80% at the line, and won’t have to take the beating of playing in the paint. At 7-3, I don’t care if he shoots flat footed, he is a matchup problem for opposing defenses if we use him in this role. His shot will only get better.

    We don’t need a “stretch PF” right now. If we do spend money on a big man, we lose out on the opportunity to see what we might get out of Hickson and Jackson. At one time, our scouts seemed to think Hickson had star potential. If it turns out we can’t give significant minutes to either of the young PFs, there will be other options by the trade deadline.

    Plus, what if Mo or Delonte gets hurt? We need another ballhandler.

  • mikelip

    I think West will become the 6th man off the bench and be the back up point guard the Cavs need. I agree we need to sign a veteran PG, but we need the most talented player(s) available at this moment. The Lakers used Shannon Brown to run the back up point guard spot.

    Denver will match any offer to Kleiza, so I think Barnes is our best option. Furthermore, i’m not sold on Hickson or Jackson to contribute yet. Wilcox is still available.

  • rd

    thats an interesting discussion. w a backup pt u could take mo and red out in the 1st and bring in a pure pt for rest of q or so and parker or dgib at the 2. lbj comes out start of 4th, u bring in or keep in parker, then bring mo and red back in.

    but in addition – u ready to roll w jj and dblock in the playoffs w the game on the line………………..

  • rd

    start of the 2nd…

  • Isis

    A backup PG on the order of the list provided herien, no thank you. LeBron will continue to handle the ball in many/clutch situations (aka Kobe, MJ…..), it’s almost like a modified triangle offense as it is. The Lakers just won a championship with Derek Fisher (not a true PG, more a shooter ala Mo W.) and Kobe handling the ball in key situations. An impact, veteran PG (Jason Kidd, for example), sure-but a stiff on this roster just to add another backup, no.

    I’ll be happy if they continue to add athleticism and power in the frontcourt.

  • McFad

    I like Carter or Brevin to fill that position rather than Bobby Jackson traditionally a shoot first PG or Royal Ivey, who I only remember doing much of anything with Texas. I think the Nuggets are nuts to have not already locked up Carter.