In the past couple days we’ve talked about how Cavaliers center Zydrunas Ilgauskas could be contemplating retirement following this year, we’ve discussed his importance to the Cavs’ legacy, and we’ve even discussed how he might be an integral part of a team that could have the potential to be one of the best NBA teams ever.
But what if he’s not even on the Cavaliers this year? How would that change things? Marcus Thompson wrote in his Inside The Warriors blog for the Contra Costa Times that he’s heard rumors that the Golden State Warriors are trying to acquire Ilgauskas. He writes:
One rumor I’ve heard lately is that the Warriors have talked with Cleveland about acquiring Zydrunas Ilgauskas from the Cavaliers.
This seems like a move the Warriors would love to make, which leads me to believe Cleveland either isn’t that interested in Jackson (they did sign Anthony Parker and they have Delonte West at shooting guard already) or they want more in exchange for Ilgauskas’ $11.5 million expiring contract.
As Jackson has already said, he would love to go to Cleveland. And a starting perimeter of Mo Williams, Stephen Jackson and LeBron James sounds pretty formidable, especially with the likes of Parker, West and Bobbie Gibson coming off the bench.
This is where things get interesting, though. With the Cavaliers’ ability to count on Delonte West shrinking by the day, it could leave an enormous hole in their lineup, a hole that someone like Jackson could fill quite nicely.
With the development in JJ Hickson’s game, along with the team’s comfort level in using Darnell Jackson (and not to mention the fact Leon Powe will eventually join the team as well), you start to wonder if Big Z could actually become expendable.
If the Cavaliers really feel that they are not going to be able to use Delonte this year, they will be forced to look at Plan B. At 6’8” Jackson is more of a SF by nature than SG, but he’s actually a capable ball handler who does play the perimeter quite a bit. The Cavs need someone who can run the offense when Mo Williams goes to the bench, and last year Jackson showed he could actually run the point fairly well. With Monta Ellis hurt for much of the year, Jackson spent a lot of time playing the point and he averaged 6.5 assists (up from 4.1 the year before and 3.2 for his career average). Furthermore, Jackson is a very good defender and his size has always been a matchup nightmare for opposing guards. He’s averaged 20 ppg the last 2 years and has only once been below a 14.0 PER since 2002-03. Jackson is a pretty consistent scorer with a lot of size and talent.
Essentially, there are three reasons this is ultimately unlikely, though. First, the Cavaliers probably do not want to trade Ilgauskas right now. They certainly would if the right deal came along and it made sense for the long term future of the team, but Stephen Jackson is not that guy. Second, Jackson is a malcontent and can be a huge disruption. He’s played for the Nets, Spurs, Hawks, Pacers, and Warriors in his career, and none of them were for more than 2.5 years. When he’s happy he’s a good player, and he has said he’d like to play in Cleveland and he reportedly gets along very well with Mike Brown, who was with Jackson in both San Antonio and Indiana. So perhaps it’s tempting, but ultimately Danny Ferry has shown himself to be a chemistry-first guy, and Jackson would be a risk.
Finally, there’s the salary issue. Jackson is due $7.65 million this year, but then his contract really escalates, going to $8.45 million in 2010-11, $9.26 million in 2011-12, and $10.06 million in 2012-13 before finally becoming a free agent in 2013. That contract is a nightmare and if Ferry pulled the trigger on this trade, the Cavaliers would be stuck with Jackson for a very long time, and they would lose all roster flexibility for the next 3 season.
In the end, I doubt anything comes of this rumor for the reasons listed above, but Delonte’s continuing saga and issues is unquestionably putting strain and pressure on Ferry. Without Delonte, this team is in big trouble in the backcourt. Stephen Jackson is a guy who could help, while Z’s role on the team may become a bit superfluous. Whether this deal ever gets seriously considered or not, you can bet this is just the first of many rumors involving Big Z this year due to his expiring contract.
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