With 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.