The Cleveland Cavaliers finally did the one thing they needed to do in free agency this year.
They got Anthony Parker.
The Cavaliers and Parker have agreed to terms, though a contract hasn't yet been signed. Parker will receive a portion of Cleveland's mid-level exception for likely two or three years.
He wasn't necessarily the first on their list, but his qualifications were. After being out-executed by the Orlando Magic's dynamic pick-and-roll offense in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Cavs set out to find a long, defensive-minded perimeter player who could defend a 2, 3, or even a 4—any player with size that can do damage behind the arc.
It was Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis that torched the Cavs in that season-ending series, and while Dwight Howard dominated the middle, it was those two guys on the perimeter that caused the most matchup problems.
Both standing 6'10", they ran perfect switches that left them guarded by the 6'1" Mo Williams or 6'3" Delonte West on the perimeter, creating huge defensive liabilities for Cleveland—and just the opening the Magic needed to advance to the NBA Finals.
But surely Parker is a consolation prize after missing out on Charlie Villanueva, Rasheed Wallace, Trevor Ariza, Ron Artest, and all the other big-name free agents out there.
Maybe, maybe not.
Anthony Parker is one of those players that flies under the radar through a combination of playing for an irrelevant team and not being a flashy player. Parker has spent the past three years quietly starting for the Toronto Raptors, playing his own brand of stalwart defense and offensive efficiency.
He was a two-time Euroleague MVP before joining Toronto and a three-time league champion across the pond. Admittedly, the NBA is a much bigger stage, but he knows what it's like to win and what it takes to seal the deal.
Granted, he's got a few drawbacks, as any player does. He's starting to get old and at 34 years old has lost a step of his quickness.
His three-point shooting average has declined each of the past two years, but probably for the same reason—as Toronto relied on him heavily to play a lot of minutes, his shooting noticeably dropped in the second half of last season.
But he fits very, very well into the Cavaliers' system. Here's why:
- He's an excellent spot-up shooter. Think drive and dish. He's got a solid shooting stroke and fundamentals to spare.
- He's not a big driving-the-lane guy, which is also perfect. Cleveland's lanes are already going to look like LA traffic.
- Parker is an above-average defender, and he's 6'6". Mike Brown would occasionally bring Sasha Pavlovic off the bench last year to bring some longer defensive arms, but Parker is a much stronger offensive player, and a better defender to boot. He's a much better defender than Wally Szczerbiak as well. Parker was Toronto's top defense guy and was responsible for guarding Kobe Bryant and LeBron James when they came to town.
- He actually burned LeBron offensively a few times because LBJ would play off the ball. That's a perfect match for the Cavaliers—a player who can do damage while his defender is busy double-teaming someone else...such as LeBron.
- He plays a smart game. He never misses a defensive rotation, he always boxes out, and he doesn't get burned on fakes. He's going to be a great addition to the already formidable Cleveland defense.
- He can start or come off the bench. He may actually start in place of Delonte West so that West can come off the bench as a super-sixth man and anchor the second squad.
- It's not an issue that his minutes may need to be limited to make him last the whole season. He can easily split time with West and drop down to 22-25 minutes a game instead of the 33 he put in last year.
- He's a great locker room guy and a great teammate. One of the big concerns going into this offseason has been preserving the Cavaliers' tremendous unity as a team. Parker will fit in just fine.
- He's Candace Parker's brother. That doesn't have anything to do with why he'll fit with the Cavs, but you have to say it's interesting.
The trade for Shaquille O'Neal was a big move for Cleveland, bringing in a multiple-time All-Star, multiple-championship-winning big man to anchor the middle, but the Anthony Parker signing is quietly almost more important. Shaq provided an upgrade, but Parker fills a major hole.
When opposing teams had multiple athletic scorers at the 2-4, it created a problem because LeBron was the only Cav with the physical tools to defend them. Now Parker can take some of that pressure off, allowing The King to do his thing. To do that without sacrificing any offensive efficiency is a huge plus.
Parker will match up well with Vince Carter, newly acquired by the Magic, and with either Paul Pierce or Ray Allen of the Celtics, making Eastern Conference matchups a little more bearable.
Will Parker be the final piece the Cavs need for a title? It's hard to say, of course, but he gives Cleveland another tool to use along the way. The Cavs have upgraded their roster again, just as they did in the last offseason, and the question remains whether their improvements are enough to outpace the improvements that the Magic, Celtics, Lakers, and other teams have also made.
It's all with one goal in mind.
A ring for The King.