The news that Cavaliers guard Luke Jackson might out until the end of March with a broken wrist isn't the gut-shot that the loss of Larry Hughes was. Jackson, after all, has been inconsistent at best, a bit player with on-again, off-again minutes.
But it still thins out the Cleveland bench a bit more, and makes the question of whether GM Danny Ferry will make a move before the Feb. 23 trading deadline all the more pressing.
The Cavs have no Hughes until around the start of March, no Jackson until the end of March or later. Compounding that is center Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who dislocated the ring finger on his shooting hand last week against Miami. He has played with no noticeable ill effects since then, but no one knows the long-term ramifications.
(It might be a case of an inch being all the difference. Ilgauskas dislocated his ring finger and can still shoot the basketball. Last year, he dislocated his middle finger and it wreaked havoc with his shot.)
This is a Cavs team that knows how to win, but can't sustain it on the floor. The result is a streaky team that might win 50 games or might win 40, depending on how they finish the season. A key addition or two could go far to stabilizing the team's play.
ESPN's Greg Anthony spent half a column last week bellyaching about the Cavs' lack of a star point guard and how it would stop them from being a factor come playoff time. While Anthony has somewhat of a point, he also does a disservice to Eric Snow, who has been solid if not a stat-sheet stuffer.
No doubt, having a Mike Bibby, Stephon Marbury or Allen Iverson up top would make the Cavs a much better team. But let's be realistic. The odds of Ferry pulling off a deadline deal of that magnitude are almost nil. Even if he could, he'd have to decimate the team to do it.
In Ferry shoes, I'd take my chances with Snow at the point and try to deepen the bench. A trade like that is workable, and the Cavs have some pieces that could make it happen.
When trading for bench help, a team needs to take the approach of the Indians, who almost always make a trade through the scope of how it will benefit the team two and three years from now.
In other words, no more Jiri Welsch "OK, you're a shooter, you'll do" trades like last year. I'd much rather see a youngster who could be developed by Mike Brown into an eventual starter.
One trade rumor that keeps surfacing is Drew Gooden for Chicago's Chris Duhon.
It's a difficult proposition to trade Gooden, who has been a productive member of this year's team. But he's a restricted free agent after this year and could be eyeing some big money on the open market. Ferry has to watch to whom he commits long-term dollars. He already has Hughes, Ilgauskas, Snow, Donyell Marshall and Damon Jones inked long-term. A long-term contract offer is on the horizon to LeBron James, one that might make him the highest-paid player in the league. Factor all that together, and the Cavs could be over the salary cap for a while, subjected to paying the dreaded NBA luxury tax.
With that in mind, trading Gooden could lessen the financial noose on the Cavs. Whether it's for Duhon or another youngster with upside, it would still give the Cavs a deeper bench.
The obvious downside is what happens to Gooden's minutes. Anderson Varejao, Marshall and Alan Henderson would not fill his role completely, resulting in a power-forward-by-committee until (hopefully) Varejao matures into a starter by next year.
(That's the other issue. Varejao is a free agent in the summer of 2007. Money will need to be committed to him.)
I am proposing a deal that would package Gooden and recently-resurgent Sasha Pavlovic for a youngster with star potential, one who might be the point guard that someday runs the floor with LeBron and Hughes.