Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Extreme Makeover: Holiday Edition

All I wanted for Christmas was a shakeup of the Cavaliers' roster. Danny Ferry, it's time to play Santa.

Stability is good, complacency is not good. Right now, the complacency has outweighed the stability factor, individual discontent has outweighed the greater good.

Changes need to be made, or the Cavs will be lucky to win 40 games.

If I were in Ferry's shoes, I'd be in a mood for "Extreme Makeover: Holiday Edition." The longer this malaise extends, the less driven LeBron James is going to be to compete. And we all know LeBron is not always the most motivated player in the NBA, especially when he thinks he's basically playing one-on-five.

So it's time to jolt this roster awake. Here are three trades that could make it happen. They're realistic from a money standpoint, and not totally outlandish from a player-exchange standpoint. All three trades worked in ESPN's NBA Trade Machine:

1. Larry Hughes and Shannon Brown to the Wizards for Antonio Daniels, Darius Songaila and Andray Blatche.

Daniels and Songaila are probably both on the downhill sides of their careers, and both have multiple years remaining on their contracts, but to rid the Cavs of Larry Hughes' cumbersome deal, you do what you have to do.

The Wizards are probably one of the few teams that would be attracted to Hughes. The former Wizard had his greatest success playing in Eddie Jordan's uptempo offense, and could add another scorer to compliment Washington's Big Three of Gilbert Arenas, Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison. Playing alongside outside shooters like Arenas and Butler would open up more lanes to the basket for Hughes, a factor missing in Cleveland which has contributed greatly to Hughes' failure as a Cav.

Blatche is a big man whom Ferry was interested in acquiring last summer as a restricted free agent. He has seen his role increase in Washington with the possible career-ending heart problems of Etan Thomas, so it's questionable whether the Wizards would want to give him up. But it's likely Ferry would want at least one player with upside in exchange for Hughes.

2. Drew Gooden, Daniel Gibson, Ira Newble and Cedric Simmons to the 76ers for Andre Miller, Kyle Korver and Herbert Hill.

A tough trade to justify. But with Miller and Korver, I envision an entirely new starting backcourt for the Cavs. We know Miller, while not an elite point guard, would still be far better than anyone currently on the Cavs roster. Any point guard who can enable LeBron to be something besides the primary ball-handler and offense-initiator is all right in my book.

Korver is a bit more of a stretch as a starting two-guard. He's lanky, slow afoot and the only real attribute he brings is a deadly outside shot. But isn't that what the Cavs truly need to keep defenses from collapsing on LeBron?

You can argue that Korver would be a sieve on defense. Probably true, but how exactly does that differ from the Cavs' current roster of shooting guards? If you're going to have a sieve, at least have a sieve who can consistently stretch defenses with his shooting.

On the flip side, losing Gooden would obviously hurt. But his contract is movable and Gooden is one of the few pieces the Cavs have that could potentially entice the Sixers to give up both Miller and Korver. You have to give up something to get something.

Update 12/29: So much for Kyle Korver.

3. Damon Jones to the Rockets for Kirk Snyder and Steve Francis.

Jones wants out of Cleveland, and has for a while. Apparently, he's even turned his trade quest into a musical. Sending Jones to his hometown Rockets might finally douse the fire of discontent that burns within the World's Greatest Shooter.

Essentially, this is a trade of spare parts. Francis has become utterly irrelevant as a NBA player over the past few years, he's averaging about 5.5 points this year for Houston. Snyder is a 24-year-old project player. Both Francis and Snyder have expiring contracts. Jones' deal will become an expiring contract next season.

Yes, Francis can be an even worse malcontent than Jones, and when it comes to selfish play, he's downright Marburian. But the Cavs would only have to deal with him for the balance of the season. it can't be any worse than enduring Jeff McInnis, can it?

The result:

Those three trades would leave the Cavs with a roster short on decent individual defenders but hopefully longer on scoring. If Mike Brown can't get his guys to play tough defense most nights, the team at least has to win somehow.

In the short term, maybe Brown has to bend his coaching toward what his team wants to do instead of constantly butting heads with his players over their lack of defensive intensity as the losses mount. If Brown can't bring himself to coach an offense-minded roster to play offense, maybe he's not the right man for the job.

In the long term, I'd rather see Brown try to teach a team of scorers how to play defense than take an endless stream of Ira Newbles and Larry Hugheses and try to turn them into good scorers. In basketball, defense is about footwork and energy; it can be taught. Offense is more about innate talent. Outside of improving on shooting form, a bad scorer really can't be taught to become a good scorer at the NBA level.

A score-first roster would better take advantage of LeBron's passing skills, which would hopefully make The King feel less like he's banging his head against a wall every time he pushes the ball up the court.

The bottom line: The Cavs need a makeover, and it appears that Ferry and Brown have been trying to pound square pegs into round holes for too long now. This team isn't the Spurs or the Pistons and probably never will be. Maybe it's time to stop fighting that fact and go with the flow.


Ben said...

I think most of these deals could work... except for the Washington one.

Now, maybe the Wizards could salvage Hughes and are interested (like the PD says), but I can't see how they'd give the Cavs Blatche (who's stock is rising) and Antonio Daniels (basically solving the Cavs PG problems).

As a Cavs fan, I'd do that in a heartbeat (in fact, I'd do all of these).

Starting 5:

with a bench of:

Not bad.

I haven't looked into these, but how does this affect the Cavs' salary cap situation? One of my biggest concerns about pulling the trigger on a trade this season is the fact that the Cavs will be sitting pretty the next two seasons with about $30 million in expiring contracts each year.

If they can pull off these deals (or ones similar), I hope they can keep at lest some of that the future cap flexibility.

Erik said...

The Wizards deal is probably a push from a financial standpoint. According to ESPN, Daniels ($5.8 million this year) has two more years left on his deal; Songaila ($3.9 million this year) has three more years; Blatche ($2.4 million) has four more years.

But if the point of trading Hughes is that Ferry is trying to get rid of a mismatched part and replace him with players who fit his team better, it still makes sense from his standpoint.

But I agree that Blatche is a stretch. I just figured Ferry would target him, and he fits the deal.

The Philly trade would cause the Cavs to assume the combined $14-odd million of Miller and Korver. Miller is signed for one more year and Korver for two more years. With the club-friendly deal of Gooden and the expiring contract of Newble going the other way, the Sixers get the more flexible end of that deal.

Having said that, I think the Cavs should be taking the tack the Browns took this past spring. All the cap space, draft picks, etc. in the world won't make an iota of difference if they aren't used on the right players.

If the opportunity presents itself to get players who can help you win, you can't pass it up for the sake of preserving cap space to make as-yet-undetermined moves in future years. With LeBron under contract, the Cavs need to win now.

As much as I hate to admit it, the Celtics are proving the carpe-diem theory loud and clear.