Leon Powe Returns To Basketball with the Cleveland Cavaliers

big alCorrespondent IFebruary 25, 2010

CHICAGO - MARCH 17: Leon Powe #0 of the Boston Celtics tests out an injured knee near the bench during a game against the Chicago Bulls on March 17, 2009 at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agreees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

This week saw the quiet return of Leon Powe to basketball.  Tuesday was the first time Powe was able to don the Cavalier uniform; however, he never got to play.  It was a return to the NBA following an 11 month absence due to an ACL injury.  

It is also a reunion of sorts with a former AAU competitor and current teammate, LeBron James.  Their history extends back 10 years, when both were heavily recruited in high school.  Powe remarked, "When I found out he (James) was in the same class as me, I knew I wasn't going to be the number one high school basketball player."

Oddly enough, one of the last times Powe played basketball was against the Cleveland Cavaliers in a 105-94 Celtic win.  He registered 20 points on 9/11 from the field with 3 assists and 11 rebounds in 24 minutes.  His career averages are 7.9 ppg, 5 rpg in just 14.6 mpg.

As a Celtic, Powe was one of the league's most productive bench players.  Considered undersized at 6'8" and 245 lb, he was a bruising presence at both ends of the court.  He operates effectively in high traffic areas using strength and toughness to box out larger opponents.  

As a defender, Powe's controlled demeanor belied intensity, as he consistently would lock down his man.  His footwork is sound.  Has the ability to bully and push significantly larger opponents our of position regularly.  He is able to hedge screens and recover on his matchup efficiently. 

He has good timing as a help defender and would do little things that add up such as taking charges, utilizing an outlet pass on the defensive end and hustling for loose balls.   

Offensively, Powe usually would play off the ball through cuts to the basket, rolling off screens, grabbing offensive boards, cleaned up nicely with put-backs and maintained a respectable FT%.  He struggles with dribbling, a mid-range jumper, passing and does have a tendency to always finish with his right.  

What exactly can Leon Powe do for the Cavaliers?

He can provide necessary depth for a playoff run, a reliable presence off the bench and a player that shows up big in limited minutes.  

Right now, Cleveland is without a back-up center.  For the long haul, Shaq's minutes should not exceed 30 minutes for him to be effective.  Neither Varejao nor Powe are legitimate backup centers.  Varejao is most effective running wild creating havoc all over the court, not relegated down on the block-his biggest strength is his mobility.  

However, Powe might be best utilized as a low post presence.  He thrives in the high-contact environment.  Fielding two PF on a second unit might be the best option for the Cavaliers.  It would provide need rest for the aging center and bolster the defense when Shaq isn't in the game.  In addition, Powe doesn't suffer the mental lapses that JJ Hickson routinely does.  

Last summer, Boston Celtic GM Danny Ainge was faced with the decision of keeping a healthy Glen Davis or an injured Leon Powe.  Obviously, it made more sense to keep Davis and gamble that no one would pick up Powe, who wouldn't be able to play until after the All-Star break.  Powe felt personally slighted by the business move.

Powe subsequently became a restricted free agent and garnered interest from seven NBA teams.  Citing that he preferred to stay in the Eastern Conference where he would get the best opportunity to "meet Boston in a meaningful game," Powe signed a two year contract with Cleveland at $1.6 million.  

Since his arrival in Cleveland, Powe has impressed all the right people with his dedication and work ethic during rehab.  He has not missed one practice even though it was not required of him and he was unable to participate in full contact drills until January.  When asked why he would even bother attending practice, Powe replied, "I want my teammates to know who I am.  I want them to know what I can do out there on the court."  Numerous teammates report that Powe is looking real good.   

Simply put, Coach Brown said, "Leon is a tough guy.  I like tough guys."

Since coming to Cleveland, Powe has circled the Feb. 25 date as a goal for himself.  Hopefully, Coach Brown will pen some minutes in for this motivated player.

All things considered, Powe was a dependable bench player who put up solid numbers as a important cog for Boston's 2008 championship run.  It's not a far fetched idea that he can contribute to the Cavaliers championship aspirations this season.