When examining the potential roster of the 2009-10 Cleveland Cavaliers, if there was one glaring hole, it was depth at the power forward position behind Anderson Varejao. Sure, there was last season’s rookie duo JJ Hickson and Darnell Jackson, but neither one has proven they can be relied on to log 12-18 minutes per game in a backup role. Sure, the Cavaliers could have made do by using both the young PFs along with a rotation of LeBron taking some turns rotating down to the blocks, but ideally, there was hope the Cavaliers would be able to add some veteran depth there.
That hope became reality Tuesday night when it was announced that the Cavaliers and Powe had agreed to terms on a new contract to bring Powe into the mix with the Wine and Gold. The deal was initially pending a full physical in Cleveland this afternoon, but per Brian Windhorst’s Twitter account, it is now official and Leon Powe is a Cavalier.
Powe is a young player, having played just 3 seasons in the NBA, but in terms of physical abuse his body has taken, he seems a bit like a weathered veteran. None the less, for the Cavaliers, this was a pretty low risk move that could potentially pay huge dividends in the future. If Powe really does come back healthy and can contribute at the same level he has the past 3 years, then Danny Ferry has once again pulled off a pretty remarkable move.
There are certainly many more skilled players in the NBA than Leon Powe, and at 6’8” he is actually quite undersized to be playing the 4. But for all he lacks in raw skill and size, he makes up for with efficient maximization of his tools and a freakishly long wingspan (measured by some at 7’2”). He may not have very pretty post moves and he certainly struggles any time he is forced to put the ball on the floor, but he is still able to knock down shots around the rim at a high rate (52.3% career FG%, with a TS% of 59.4%).
His offensive liabilities tend to come through mostly if you can keep him out of the paint. Last season he had a .260 eFG% on his jump shot and had a rather appalling AST/48 minutes rate of just 1.8. While he is quite good at receiving the ball while cutting to the basket and finishing strong, he tends to have problems when you can make him dribble.
His other glaring weakness is his off the charts fouling rates. For his career he averages 5.5 fouls per 36 minutes, an exceptionally high number. He will fit in with AV on this team in terms of his ability to draw charges, but at the same time, he is also way too quick to commit fouls. His per minute efficiency numbers can be fantastic at times, but the problem is that it’s hard at times to give him the minutes he needs to be effective due to foul problems.
The Cavaliers should be able to overcome any of these shortcomings, however, simply by maximizing on what Powe does well. He is a terrific rebounder and (when he’s not fouling unnecessarily) he’s a more than capable defender. It’s a fair question as to how his knee injury will affect his defensive ability, but for the Cavaliers it was a risk worth taking.
With no truly reliable backup PF on this roster, Leon Powe will have a chance to make a major impact on this team. It is still unclear when exactly he will be ready to play again, but we know it’s not expected to be until sometime after midseason. Mike Brown and the Cavaliers will have to be creative in the early part of the season to figure out a successful PF rotation (and perhaps Ferry will still look to bring Joe Smith back to help fill the early season void), but it will also be a chance to give Hickson and Jackson another chance to develop their games more. Then, when Powe does come back, everything he has to offer will just be an added bonus. It will give the Cavaliers some insurance and flexibility at a position that just a few days ago looked to be a pretty major problem for this team. Now, with Powe on board, the Cavaliers at least have some hope for consistent production at the PF behind Anderson Varejao.