But now, it's time to talk Cavs again. We'll start with Shaq and go Terry Pluto style:
So Shaq's finally a Cavalier! Do you like the move?
Yeah, absolutely. I mean I can't say I'm blown away by it but I think it certainly makes the Cavs a better team heading into next season. Any time you trade pure cap relief for a guy who just averaged 17.8 points and 8.5 rebounds, I think you've definitely made yourself better. Shaq may not be an elite player at this point in his career, but I'd still challenge you to find five centers (not big 4's that play the 5) who you'd rather have on your team. This was a classic case of something for nothing. You may wonder if there were better deals to be had out there but it's hard to argue that this particular trade doesn't make the Cavs a tougher team.
But he's so old! How can the Cavs build around a guy who's 37 years old?
The most beautiful aspect of this trade is that given the circumstances, Shaq's age is completely irrelevant. As an expiring contract, in all probability, he's only going to be on the roster for one season. Thus, the only thing that we have to care about as fans is what Shaq is capable of doing in 2009-10. That snapshot is all that matters. If he has one more year of 15+ points and 8 boards left in him, then the Cavs just made a very good trade. If not, we're no worse off than we would have been witnessing the funeral processions of the careers of Ben Wallace and Sasha Pavlovic.
But this team was already too old up front. Don't we need to find a younger player to be a long-term solution in the middle?
Good luck with that. I don't know if you're aware of this but you won't find too many franchise centers in their 20's on the trade block of floating around in July looking to sign for the MLE. Yes, the Cavs are eventually going to have to get younger up front. Although Shaq doesn't fix that problem, he does allow the Cavs to be a better team next year without compromising their ability to sign longer-term solutions down the road. I'll say this again: He's an expiring contract. There is virtually no risk in this deal for the Cavs. The only thing it did was take away their ability to make a deal at next year's trade deadline. Given what we just went though (every attractive deadline deal falling through), did we really want to place all of our eggs in that basket again anyway?
What about Tyson Chandler? He's 26 year's old and could've been had for expiring money just like Shaq.
I actually had this thought about a week ago before the Shaq deal went through and before I even knew that Chandler was the Cavs' backup plan. There is some merit to the notion that the Cavs might have been better off trading for Chandler. He's younger by more than a decade and is certainly a better pick & roll defender. If you're looking for that final piece to win a title next year, however, do you really want to bank on a guy who averaged 8.8 pts and 8.7 rebounds in 32 minutes a game last year? Chandler's PER last year was 13.4. Shaq's was 22.3. Even considering the problems presented by Shaq's lack of mobility, he's going to be a far better player in 2009-10 than Chandler. For the Cavs, that's really all that matters.
But wouldn't it have been nice to have Chandler under contract for an extra year?
Um, no. If you consider Chandler's numbers, he's certainly not a guy you're dying to have on your books for 12.5 million in 2010-11. The Cavs are walking a very tight rope with Lebron right now. They absolutely must give him the best possible chance to win a title right now. At the same time, they've got to be in position to put a team around him that will contend for the next 3-5 years. Given the depth of the free agent class of 2010, the best way for the Cavs to address both needs is to take a one-year flyer on an impact player (Shaq) without giving up their ability to sign a top-level free agent to play with Lebron one he re-signs next summer. Now, some might argue that it's not going to matter because Lebron is leaving anyway, but I would certainly rather take my chances with a better title shot and cap space than on the possibility that Lebron would be really impressed by the fact that the Cavs had Ty Chandler under contract for 2010-11.
Ok, so Shaq was a better move than Chandler. How do you think he will play with Lebron?
I don't know, uh well? It makes me laugh to see all of these writers out there talking about how Shaq will clog the lane and interfere with Lebron's penetration. Keep in mind, we're talking about a 17-year veteran in Shaq and the guy with the highest basketball IQ on the planet in Lebron. I'm pretty sure that they'll find a way to make each other better. I also don't recall Shaq being too much of a hinderance to Wade when he was doing his kamikazee routine to the basket on every possession in the 06 finals. Trust me, I understand that Shaq will bring an extra defender into the paint. I also understand that the second that the extra defender slides over to help on Lebron, all hell is going to break loose and Lebron is either going to finish or Shaq is going to be sitting under the hoop without anyone on him to deny the pass or box out. Shaq might be old and slow but he's still gigantic and powerful. If his man is constantly being asked to be the help defender down low, that's going to cause a lot of problems for opposing teams. Shaq could end up averaging ten points a game on assisted dunks and uncontested putbacks alone.
Fine, Shaq and Lebron make sense together. I still don't know if that will be enough to beat the Magic.
First things first. Don't talk to me about beating the Magic. The idea of building your roster specifically to defeat one team is completely asinine, especially when said team is a one-hit wonder like Orlando. First of all, we shouldn't forget that the Cavs already tried this once. Last year's team was engineered for one purpose and one purpose only: Beat Boston. Of course, we all know how that played out. The Cavs were well equipped to hammer Boston in five games, except they forgot that they were completely helpless against bigger teams with shooters like Orlando and L.A. The rest is history. The truth is that in order to win a title, you're going to have to get through a least a couple of great teams, and chances are, those teams are going to play different styles of basketball. You can't just build a roster to beat one type of team. You have to build the best all-around basketball team that you can and hope that they're good enough to match up with anyone.
One more thing on this topic: Are people seriously just considering it a given that Orlando will be the team waiting for the Cavs if and when the Cavs return to the Eastern Conference Finals? Aren't we forgetting that a) Orlando almost lost to the Sixers, b) Orlando had to ride the most ridiculous wave of statistical anomalies in playoff history to make their run, and c) Orlando just basically gave up the chance to re-sign their best crunch time player to acquire the NBA equivalent of the Tin Man (more on that in a minute)?
I get it. We can't just assume that Orlando will be the team to beat next year. But what about Shaq's attitude? Hasn't be basically been run out of every town that he's played in?
I don't know if it's fair to say that he's been run out of town, but he certainly has a tendency to end things badly with his former employers. For the most part, however, the bad blood doesn't develop until he's already moved on to another team and begins to run his mouth a little bit. I can't really say that's much of a concern as it pertains to the Cavs. He's going to be here for one year. Anything that happens after that is inconsequential. Plus, I have to admit that I'm secretly excited to have a front-row seat for all of Shaq's antics. Love him or hate him, you have to admit that he's one of the most colorful, innovative, and gregarious personalities in the history of the league...or of professional sports in general for that matter. As long as the Cavs are winning (and of course, everyone has forgotten that the Cavs were a 66 win team even without Shaq), it's going to be a lot of fun to watch Shaq and Lebron yuck it up every night. Plus, I love the idea that having Shaq, as pedestrian as he is at this point in his career, is going to take away from the "Lebron is the only relevant player in Cleveland" angle that the media holds so dear. There is now a second personality in town to absorb some of the spotlight. Maybe it's my own insecurities about Cleveland coming to the surface, but I'm comforted by the fact that at least for next year, Lebron won't be the only reason to talk about the Cavs.
So basically, you're happy that the Cavs traded for a media spectacle?
Shaq might enjoy running his mouth and seeing his name in print but don't ignore the fact that the guy has four rings and cares about the game. Shaq has always been a basketball player first and a personality second, just like Lebron. I have absolute confidence that he'll show up to camp in shape and focused on the task at hand. Think about it: Kobe just won his fourth ring. He probably has one or two more years left where he can carry a team by himself. His window is closing. You can't tell me that Shaq wouldn't just LOVE to have a hand in slamming the door closed on Kobe's career as an elite player, while at the same time, ensuring that he ends up with one more ring. I don't know for sure how much Shaq has left in the tank. What I do know though, is that whatever is still in there is going to be left out on the court during the 2009-10 season.
I've got to tell you how shocked I was at how much stock Cavs fans seemed to be puting into the draft last night. I understand that it's always exciting when you have the opportunity to change your roster, but really? You were holding your breath that the Cavs would move up into the middle of the first round? Who, exactly were they going to to get that might make a meaningful impact this season? By all accounts, this draft was atrocious. By most estimates, it had a couple of potential all-stars, a handful of quality starters, and then a bunch of borderline bench guys. I'm not exactly devasted that the Cavs essentially punted.
I know there are a lot of people out there who are upset about passing on Sam Young and Dejuan Blair. I'll be the first to admit that I haven't seen enough of either guy to have an intelligent opinion on one or the other (I don't watch a lot of college basketball these days...you know, because it's become unwatchable for all but a month of the year). All I can say is that there seemed to be a pretty solid consensus around the league that neither guy warranted a high pick, and as it pertains to Blair, it seems like he has some serious medical red flags. With that being said, I would've liked to have seen the Cavs take Blair for his rebounding ability, but I understand that there are other issues to consider. First, when you're a luxury tax team, signing anyone, even a rookie, becomes an expensive endeavor. Obviously, that's not an issue if you're going to stash a guy overseas for a couple of years. Second, when you have the type of depth that the Cavs do, every roster spot becomes important. Consider: 1) Lebron, 2) Williams, 3) West, 4) Varejao*, 5) Shaq, 6) Z, 7) Hickson, 8) Gibson, 9) Kinsey, 10) Jackson. That's 10 guys right there that you pretty much know will be on the team next year. Now take into consideration the fact that the Cavs are almost assured of signing one or two guys with their MLE and you can see that the roster spots are quickly filling up. I'm not saying that the Cavs couldn't have made room for a guy like Blair (at the expense of perhaps a guy like Kinsey). I'm just saying that I can understand their reasons for passing on him.
I don't know the first thing about Christian Eyenga, although from the video footage, it looks like he's been selling out junior high schools across Europe for some time now. Apparently he's quite the athlete, but it's not even worth trying to discuss him. I'd say the odds of him ever suiting up for the Cavs are probably 1-4.
As for Danny Green, however, I have to admit that I'm a bit intrigued. 6'7, four-year player on the National Champions, all ACC-defender, decent shooter... It's always a long shot with second-rounders but there is at least some possibility, albeit remote, that he could step in and be the wing defender that the Cavs so desperately need. If you tell a guy that he can make your team if he just forgets about offense and plays tenacious defense, I think you have a legitimate shot of molding him into the specialist that you want him to be. I'm excited to see what he can bring to the table. If we could at least partially address our perimeter defense issues internally, that would be a huge plus.
1. It's time to sign Sheed. I know, it makes me a little queezy too, but it's the right thing to do. If the Cavs had Lebron, Shaq, and Sheed, they would be a force to be reckoned with. I know, I know, for the last two guys on that list, it's not 2001, but still, they'd be a matchup nightmare. With Sheed stretching the floor at the four, they would be almost impossible to defend. People can bitch all they want about the guy's attitude, but there's nothing wrong with rooting for a guy who's a complete asshole, as long as he's your complete asshole. Sheed has a ring. You can win with him. He's going to be able to give the Cavs infinitely more at that position than any other guy available could. He can stretch the floor and defend guys like Garnett and Howard inside. It's time to swallow our pride and sign him.
2. It's too bad San Antonio had to take Dick Jefferson's contract off Milwaukee's books, all but assuring that they'll re-sign Charlie Villanueva, aka Chuck Newhouse. Newhouse will now re-sign with the Bucks and continue to be an inconsistent, frustrating player. Cavs fans will look at him and say, "See, it's a good things we didn't sign him to a big offer sheet. He still can't put it all together." Just remember, a player's development has a lot to do with his circumstances. If Villanueva came to an elite team like the Cavs, he would develop into a dominant 4 on both sides of the floor. He has all the tools and is right at the age where he could break out if playing for the right franchise. Unfortunately though, we'll just never get to see that scenario play out.
3. The Cavs will re-sign Varejao. I'm not worried about this in the least. They're smart enough to know that they can't go to war with every meaningful player up front being well into their 30's. It's just a question of how much cap space for 2010 they'll have to use up. My hope is that other teams are smart enough to realize that Varejao is nothing unless he's alonside an elite player like Lebron, so they won't stupidly dangle any unreasonable offers. Then again, it is the NBA so chances are some team like the Bobcats will throw out some ridiculous 5 year, $50 million offer.
4. Last but not least, congratulations to Orlando for killing the heart and sould of their team for no apparent reason. Anyone who watched the Magic in the playoffs last year knows that Turkoglu was the main reason they made the run that they did. He was their best crunch time scorer, ball-handler, and overall player. They just traded him for the Tin Man, Vince Carter, one of the few players in the league without any semblance of an actual hart. How do you decide to swap a blood, sweat, and tears guy like Hedo for the small-forward equivalent of Larry Hughes? Yes, I'm aware that Carter had a very good year in New Jersey last year, but I think a lot of that had to do with the fact that aside from Devin Harris, he really didn't have to share the ball. He could get his. Winning didn't matter. It's exactly the type of scenario in which he thrives. I'm sure Howard, Nelson, Lewis, and Van Gundy are just going to love him when he's jacking up 3's early in the shot clock in the 4th quarters of close games next year. Essentially, Orlando just traded Courney Lee and Hedo Turkoglu for a selfish, injury-prone, 32-year-old perimeter scorer. Way to build on that momentum fellas.
That's all for now. We'll have more as soon as the Cavs make their next move, the Indians move out of town, or another Brown kills someone.