Cleveland Cavaliers, LeBron James: What's Next?
The Cavs have had a great string of success the past three seasons. One NBA Finals appearance and two conference semifinal runs both went a full seven games. Cavs fans are left wondering: Where does the franchise go from here?
After the Finals ended last season, I wrote that the Cavs had three major holes on their roster. No one could run an offense, no one could hit a jumper consistently, and no one could block shots.
With the acquisition of Ben Wallace, the last issue was addressed somewhat, though at a steep financial price and at a sacrifice for offensive balance.
Let’s face it. Wallace touching the ball on offense is like trying to swim through the Bermuda Triangle.
The other two issues were not adequately addressed, though.
The ongoing quest for a point guard continues. Delonte West is a nice player, but he’s a mediocre ballhandler and distributor who turns the ball over too much to be an efficient point guard. I love his toughness and willingness to step up in big situations, but I just don’t think he’s the answer.
West, along with Boobie Gibson, are restricted free agents, and with Damon Jones still under contract as well, the Cavs have essentially three undersized shooting guards on their hands. (They also have a regular-sized shooting guard, Sasha Pavlovic, who can’t shoot, period.)
But what other alternatives are out there? Unrestricted free agents at the point guard position include Chris Duhon, Anthony Carter, Tyronn Lue, Dan Dickau, Smush Parker, Jason “White Chocolate” Williams, Carlos Arroyo ,and Kevin Ollie.
Now, if the Cavs go after Parker or Ollie again I might need to be committed. And I really have no desire to see Lue (31 years old) or White Chocolate (38 percent shooting, just 4.5 assists per game last season) in the wine and gold.
However, Duhon, Carter, Lue, Dickau, and Arroyo are intriguing possibilities. Duhon (solid 3.7 assist-to-turnover ratio) will be looking for a fresh start because I doubt he has any desire to return to Chicago.
Carter, 32, is probably on the downside of his career, but he could be reliable for two to three more seasons in the mold of Andre Miller. Dickau averaged 13 and five in his one season as a starter. Arroyo is more of a scorer than passer, but he is still a solid player.
I think the Cavs’ efficiency on the offensive end would vastly improve if any one those guys mentioned above could be brought in. Like last year, though, the Cavs have one of the highest payrolls in the league and are into the luxury tax, so it will be extremely costly to sign one of those players.
(By the way, It still kills me that the franchise that once had, in succession, Mark Price, Terrell Brandon, and Andre Miller running the point and now has to rely on its small forward to even bring the ball up the court.)
Problem number two is actually scoring the basketball. Wally Szczerbiak, like every other role player, had his flashes of greatness. On the whole, though, he was extremely disappointing. His numbers were down across the board as he averaged five fewer points per game in Cleveland than he did in Seattle.
Pavlovic, after holding out and missing training camp, had a flat out terrible season. He hit just 36 percent of his shots. In the month of December alone, he shot 29 percent from the field. That’s just miserable.
Better yet, the Cavs will pay Szczerbiak and Pavlovic a combined $17 million next season. Excuse me while I vomit.
Look, at least one of those guys is going to have to figure it out next year. If one of them had it going in the Celtics series, I would probably be putting together a preview for another go-around with the Pistons instead of this.
I have no idea what their problems are, but I know that the Cavs become instant title contenders next year if they can get a combined 20-25 points per night out of those two.
The final question lies with the big -an rotation, and this will really come down to a philosophical approach from Mike Brown and Danny Ferry.
There is no doubt that the Cavs, offensively, are at their best when there is one power forward/center and three shooters surrounding LeBron. When the Cavs go “small” on offense, they’re much deadlier than they are with either Wallace or Andy Varejao on the court.
The Cavs defense will suffer greatly if neither Wallace nor Andy are playing. No one else, for instance, would have stood a chance defending KG in the Celtics series. Opposing teams would find it much easier to score around the basket, the Cavs’ rebounding numbers would suffer as well.
(Not to mention the two are on the hook for over $20 million next season.)
So it seems like six of one and a half dozen of another, right? If the Cavs play better on offense, their defense won’t be as strong. When the Cavs play better defensively, they can’t put it together on offense.
That’s the rut we’re in. With Brown in charge, though, the focus will remain on the defensive side of the ball. As it should—the Spurs won four titles with defense, the Pistons made it to six straight conference finals with defense.
And though Wallace and Andy are liabilities, the other four players on the court—LeBron, Z/Joe Smith, Szczerbiak/Pavlovic/miscellaneous shooting guard, and Boobie/West should still have plenty of opportunities to score, because LeBron is just that good.
But here’s what separates those Spurs and Pistons teams from the Cavs right now: great point guard play and the ability to score when needed. Until the Cavs can achieve those goals, they’ll be looking at lots of frustrating playoff defeats for years to come.
More breakdown of the Cavs offseason goals and needs will come later this week, including a look at potential help in the draft (yes that’s right, the Cavs actually have a draft pick this year!)
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