Sources throughout the NBA are reporting that the Cleveland Cavaliers are close to signing former Boston Celtic power forward Leon Powe. I’ve been advocating for this deal ever since it became clear that none of the marquee free agent forwards were interested in signing with Cleveland.
I must admit that I’m a little biased when it comes to Leon Powe. My memory of watching him play consists largely of his coming-out party in the 2008 playoffs, when he calmly chewed through the Cavaliers post defense while helping Boston to a championship.
I remember thinking, “Who is this guy, and why can’t we keep him off of the free throw line?” Turns out he ranks sixth in the NBA in free throws per 48 minutes.
Against the Cavaliers in the 2008 postseason, he averaged 3.6 free throw attempts per game in limited minutes, and the Celtics were +9 during his time on the floor. His contribution in the 2008 Finals (22 points in game two on 6/7 shooting, despite only playing 15 minutes) didn’t go unnoticed by the league.
His production came as a reserve on an excellent team, but there will be no shortage of talent on his new team. Powe also showed this past season that he could be effective when starting in place of the injured Kevin Garnett.
You could make the argument that Boston would have beaten Orlando in the Eastern Conference Finals if either Garnett or Powe had stayed healthy.
The health of Powe’s knee is, and should be, the greatest concern. He is less than four months removed from an ACL tear on a knee which had already been surgically reconstructed. The numbers reported are a two-year deal at the league minimum, with the second year a team option.
For a team that is already over the salary cap, the risk is low and the potential reward is high. He’s a tough young player with playoff experience, motivation, and (like most Cleveland fans) a desire to make Boston pay.
Consider the very real possibility of a Boston Celtics/Cleveland Cavaliers playoff matchup, and tell me that having a potentially rejuvenated Leon Powe on the roster isn’t a good thing for Cleveland come February.
Right now in his career, Leon Powe isn’t a prolific scorer, and will probably never be a shot blocker. His career average of 5.0 points per game doesn’t stand out to anyone. He’s also undersized for his position, although that hasn’t stopped him from being ranked fifth in the NBA in offensive rebounds per 48 minutes.
In these regards, Leon Powe reminds me of Anderson Varejao with a better post game. He is the type of player whose greatest contributions come in the form of "dirty work."
Every championship caliber team needs a guy who can draw fouls, grab offensive rebounds, and get under the skin of opposing players. The idea of having two such players on your roster, a roster that already has LeBron James and Shaquille O’Neal, is a positive sign.
Brian Windhorst of the Cleveland Plain Dealer is reporting that this signing won’t take place until tomorrow because Leon Powe needs to travel to Cleveland for a medical examination first.
Unless they find that his knee injury will keep him from playing this season, Leon Powe is a player we should welcome in Cleveland with open arms.