Monthly Archives: July 2010
Rarely in basketball, or in the sports world for that matter, do you see one decision, one moment that completely rips out the heart of a franchise, even an entire city. That’s what happened last Thursday, when Lebron James ditched the Cleveland Cavaliers in favour of joining his Olympic buddies Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, swapping Ohio for the bright lights of South Beach and the Miami Heat.
So what remains for a team that won the most games during the regular season for the last two years? Overnight the Cavs went from championship challengers to playoff hopefuls because of Lebron’s departure. The question is: are the Cavaliers lottery-bound next season or do they have what it takes to compete in an Eastern Conference that has seen the likes of Miami, Chicago, Orlando, Boston, Milwaukee and New York only get better in the last week.
Cleveland have a new coach in Byron Scott, who has the talent to ensure that the team don’t sink into obscurity at the bottom of the East in the forseeable future. Scott has experience on struggling teams, previously taking the Nets and the Hornets from the lottery to the playoffs. But does the roster have what it takes to compete in the East?
The Cavs still have most of their roster intact, only losing Lebron and backup center Zydrunas Ilgauskis to the Heat, as well as losing Shaq to free agency. They have Anderson Varejao at center, Mo Williams at the point and JJ Hickson has been told he will be the starting power forward next season, with Antawn Jamison coming off the bench. Role players like Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon are still on the roster, but the Cavs lack a go-to-guy, someone to carry the scoring load and take charge, just like a certain number 23, that is not the most popular guy in Cleveland right now, especially at the Gilbert household.
That’s the problem. All of the big-time free agents now have homes and the only way the Cavs have a chance of getting someone as good as Lebron anytime soon is by winning the Lottery next season. Cleveland had to wait until Lebron made his decision, ruling out the chance to go after young free agents like Rudy Gay, who could have been their plan B if they definitely knew the King was leaving. The Cavs also missed out on trading for Al Jefferson this week, who they were heavily linked to but signed with Utah instead.
So far, the only player the Cavs have reached out to is Houston guard Kyle Lowry, whom they signed to an offer sheet today. Houston are expected to match Cleveland’s offer, leaving the Cavs back where they started. They have been linked with a move for Atlanta Hawks forward Marvin Williams today, where Shaq would be sent in a sign-and-trade to Atlanta for Williams.
The only problem is that Williams isn’t the answer if you want to compete with the best in the East. The former no.2 pick averaged 10 points for the Hawks last season and only signed a new deal last summer, meaning the Cavs would be stuck with his contract if it didn’t work out. My answer: go for someone with a lot to prove, someone like Tracy McGrady. Sign him to a one-year deal, see if he has anything left and T-Mac should at least provide the same scoring as someone like Williams.
I expect the Cavs to struggle next season and unless they sign a proven scorer at the wing positions, they could be lottery bound. I don’t expect them to be in line for winning the Draft Lottery anytime soon, but maybe that could be the best outcome after Lebron’s defection – someone to revitalise a city heartbroken by the departure of their favourite son…
The long awaited free agency period of 2010 is underway, with a host of top free agents available and a host of teams with enough cap room to sign the likes of Lebron, D-Wade and Chris Bosh. So far in free agency we have seen most stars stay put and sign with their current teams: Paul Pierce stayed in Boston, Dirk remained in Dallas and Rudy Gay inked a massive 5 year, $82 million to remain with the Memphis Grizzlies.
One in-demand free agent is Phoenix Suns forward Amar’e Stoudemire, who is reportedly set to sign a 5 year, $100 million deal with the New York Knicks and be reunited with old coach Mike D’Antoni. The Knicks, who can afford to offer two max contracts, are also in the mix for other elite free agents such as Lebron, Wade and Bosh, who they pitched to last weekend.
Amar’e is one of the best power forwards in the NBA at the moment, but isn’t $20 million a year a lot of money to pay a guy who doesn’t play any D, doesn’t rebound or block shots? Yes it is, but the Knicks are desperate. Since Donnie Walsh took over as President of Basketball Operations two years ago, their goal has been to attract a star in free agency this year, even if it means stinking for two years, it will all be worth it. If they can’t get a Lebron or a Wade (and I don’t think they will), they need to get someone that can appease the fans and give them the hope that they have been lacking for years. But is Stoudemire that guy?
I am a fan of Stoudemire and he can thrive in D’Antoni’s up-tempo system, just like he did in Phoenix. But he isn’t a number one guy and will need another star, as well as a defensive presence in the frontcourt to rebound and block shots, to find success in New York. And with Joe Johnson heading back to Atlanta and Rudy Gay staying in Memphis, what will happen if Lebron and Wade reject them and head elsewhere?
The answer: I don’t think much will change in New York. With a lineup of Amar’e, Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and a few rookies, they won’t be setting the Eastern Conference alight. There have been rumours floating around that the Knicks could do a sign and trade with the Warriors and the T-Wolves, where the Knicks get Monta Ellis, the T-Wolves get David Lee and the Warriors get Al Jefferson. This would be a great move for the Knicks, they would get a scoring combo-guard that could be an All-Star in their system and rid themselves of someone (Lee), who they are reportedly not going to sign anyway.
What obviously attracts Stoudemire to New York is the money, considering he turned down a $96 million deal from Phoenix last week. But if he wants to win championships more than a bucketload of money, Amar’e doesn’t go to New York, he hops onto the coatails of wherever Lebron or Wade ends up this offseason.