Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Paxson's last gift

Much like Butch Davis's two-picks-for-one swap to acquire Kellen Winslow Jr. last year, trading for Jiri Welsch might be Jim Paxson's last, enduring gift to the fans of Cleveland.
Paxson, fired as the Cavaliers general manager April 21, traded the Cavs' 2007 first-round pick to Boston for Welsch in February. At the time, the deal made sense. The Cavs were in need of an outside shooter, and the Welsch deal was hailed by members of the national media as a great save when Paxson couldn't swing a deal for Michael Redd.
But, for a number of reasons, Welsch and the Cavs were like oil and water. Instead of being the long-range bomber the Cavs needed, Welsch just bombed. He averaged 2.9 points per game and shot a tepid 23.5 percent from the field.
The coaching of Paul Silas and Brendan Malone, which included inconsistent substitution patterns and a get-the-ball-to-LeBron-and-get-out-of-the-way attitiude up and down the bench, didn't help Welsch adjust to his new team. By April, he was unfairly branded as a stiff by the Cleveland basketball-watching public and his days in town were numbered.
The number reached zero Tuesday, when Welsch was dealt to the Bucks for a second-round pick next year. Danny Ferry's first move as general manager of the Cavs doesn't quite jive with the first-rounder Paxson gave up to get Welsch.
Not only did Paxson give Boston the Cavs' 2007 first-rounder, he also signed away the lottery-protected pick owed Charlotte via Phoenix to complete the 1997 Wesley Person trade. NBA rules prohibit teams from trading away first-round picks in consecutive years, which would have happened to the Cavs if they had made the playoffs in 2006 without first having signed this year's pick away.
At the time, it looked like the sign-away by Paxson was a moot point. The Cavs were a cinch to make the playoffs in February, which means they would have lost the lottery protection on the pick regardless. Then came their 12-20 finish and elimination from the playoff race on the last day of the season.
The Cavs would have kept the 13th overall pick and been able to use it had Paxson not signed it away. Charlotte used the pick to draft Sean May from North Carolina, at 6'-8" an undersized power forward who helped North Carolina win the NCAA title in April.
If May becomes an all-star and helps Charlotte into contention sooner rather than later, that would be Paxson's last, enduring gift stemming from the Welsch trade. As with many of Paxson's moves, like letting Carlos Boozer out of his contract in anticipation of signing him to a long-term extension, the Welsch deal was made in an attempt to do the right thing, but it might blow up in Cleveland's face in the end.
I don't like to think the road to hell is paved with good intentions. But in the case of Paxson and placing the Cavaliers in a perpetual basketball purgatory, it might be true.

1 comment:

Zach said...

Paxson was channeling Bill Musselman with those moves. At one point in 1980, the Cavaliers didn't have another first round pick until 1987. Of course, when you are Paxson and your best draft pick was Carlos Boozer in the second round (you can't say LeBron was a Paxson pick, since there was no one else), he may have decided his drafting powers were useless.