Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Cleveland Cavaliers: (Orlan)D’oh!

Almost before the cameras could find him on Saturday night, LeBron was already in the tunnel towards the locker room, his head down, disappointed beyond all believe. His stats against the Magic? A ridiculous MVP-worthy 38,5 ppg, 8,3 rpg, 8,2 assists. But the most important stat he’ll remember is this one: 4-2. This wasn’t supposed to happen. Not now, not this season, it was theirs to take, right? The MVP on the team with the most wins during the regular season, sweeping Detroit and Atlanta in the first two rounds, only to fall in the Eastern Conference Finals against a Magic team who exploited Cleveland’s shortcomings in an obvious manner.

It’s funny; when a team wins 66 games, you don’t hear too many people criticizing LeBron’s lack of help. Winning eight straight games in the Playoffs in a dominating fashion made a lot of basketball junkies salivating over a Kobe-LeBron match-up. But in reality, as basketball fans we all knew the Cavaliers are flawed. Let’s take a look at the core of the team (anybody not named James but appeared in most of their games):

Daniel Gibson: Gibson played great in the Playoffs…. in the previous two years. You must wonder what his role on this team can be, since he’s under contract ‘til 2013 for over 4 million a year. A shooter who only hit 39% of his shots during the regular season, shouldn’t be considered as a building block.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas: Big Z makes 11 million in the final season of his contract (he recently has stated he won’t opt out which makes sense), and turns 34 later this week. Still a good player to have around, but only played in 65 games this season, and aside from him being 7’3, he’s not an imposing defensive player nor is he a great rebounder. But as an offensive weapon he’s still valuable.
Sasha Pavlovic: Once a starter, now a benchwarmer with some DNP’s after this name. He will be in the final year of his contract for the 2009/2010 season.

Anderson Varejao: Sideshow Andy might opt out, which for the Cavs could actually be a good thing. The consensus of a basketball messageboard I sometimes check is to pay Varejao about 8 million a season, but to me, that would be a bit pricey for a player that shouldn’t be a starter in the first place. I’m not saying Varejao is a bad player, but he’s not essential in what the Cavs have been trying to do this past season. His 8 points and 7 boards can be replaced by someone who can come in a little cheaper.

Ben Wallace: As of right now, Wallace isn’t sure whether he’s coming back for the final season of his contact, which pays him 14 million, or if he will retire. If he does, he might seek a buyout, but that’s still better than the Cavs having to pay him 14 mil.

Delonte West: A skilled but also affordable player who is under contract for another two seasons, but is he the answer at the starting shooting guard position? It might be better if West would come off the bench backing up both guard positions.

Mo Williams: A lot of people are not very fond of Mo Williams right now, because of his “guarantees” and his somewhat disappointing play, but he did play great during the regular season. He’s not going anywhere in the next couple of years.

I didn’t list Wally Szczerbiak and Joe Smith because their contracts are up, and I doubt that either of them will be back. We saw less and less of Smith as the Playoffs continued, and I was surprised he didn’t have a bigger impact on this team. It might just so happen that he will return to the Thunder, since he built up a great relationship with his former teammates there. If not, Joe Smith is a player who will always find a job in the NBA. Wally’s days of receiving huge paychecks are over; I wonder what he will do now (not really).

The Cavs need a starting power forward who can score inside and grab some boards; a Carlos Boozer kind of type (not that he would return to the Cavs anyway, and the fanbase wouldn’t want to see him back in Cleveland either). Since the Cavs absolutely have no inside game besides LeBron driving to the basket, it also explains why their offense can be rather stagnant sometimes. What especially annoyed me during the regular season is that in close games LeBron is forcing up shots, and four other guys are watching him. Mike Brown must find a way to make the offense more diverse, so that the opponent doesn’t always know what’s coming at them. Sure, they won 66 games, but they aren’t there in Game 1 of the NBA Finals this Thursday. They also need to upgrade their bench, and a taller shooting guard who can help out on D. GM Danny Ferry doesn’t have to revamp the roster as a whole, but he’s got plenty of work to do in the next couple of months, with a tight budget and no trade material. Danny needs a fairy to make this all happen.

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