Delonte West to Russia? What it Would Mean for the Cleveland Cavaliers

Scott MilesSenior Analyst IJuly 25, 2008

I must admit, when I hit early this afternoon, I was not expecting to see the headline Delonte West contemplating deal from Russian team”.

Actually, I would have been more prepared to see something like “17 Browns starters hurt in first two days of camp” or “Cliff Lee discovered wearing Superman cape” than news of West’s possible defection to the, uhh, East.

Apparently, that’s the trendy thing to do for basketball players in the past few weeks. The highly touted Brandon Jennings, who was supposed to play college ball for Arizona this season but couldn’t crack it academically, has taken his game to Spain for at least one season. Meanwhile, Josh Childress, Bostjan Nachbar and Carlos Delfino and others have all left the NBA for lucrative deals overseas.

(You know how difficult it is not to qualify academically to play for a major collegiate athletic program? They will bend over backwards to make sure you get enrolled in their school. Jennings might someday challenge Vince Young’s Wonderlic score of -12.)

I’m not surprised that Childress will leave Atlanta to take $20 million in Greece. The Hawks have had one good season in the past 10 years, and Childress is probably still scarred from the 62-point beatdown administered by the Celtics in Game 7 of their series.

I’m also not surprised about Nachbar nor Delfino, who are both coming off of pretty good seasons but by no means are stars. Plus Nachbar hails from Yugoslavia and Delfino from Argentina, so it’s not as if there’s anything tying them to playing stateside in the NBA.

Which brings up the Cavs point guard, Delonte West…

Who, like the other three aforementioned NBA veterans, is a solid player but nothing more.

But who, unlike the others, actually started an NBA game – make that 31 of them, as a matter of fact – this year, as to a combined goose egg for the trio.

Who was rescued from Basketball Purgatory in Seattle – rest in peace, Sonics organization – for a chance to play with LeBron James and give the NBA champion Celtics their hardest run in the playoffs.

Thus my initial thinking, as I explained to my friend Brandon earlier, was hey, power to Delonte West. If he wants to go play for some team in Siberia, than fine. The Cavs, with a healthy LeBron, will win 50-55 games regardless of who runs the point.

But then I looked a little deeper at the numbers. West played 26 regular season games with the Cavs, and in the final nine games, averaged 13 points, five assists, four rebounds and 1.7 steals per game. He also made 13-of-29 (44.8 percent) 3-pointers and shot 49.4 percent overall from the field while only committing 14 turnovers - I'll take those numbers any day for a second or third option.

Then you factor in that he had five huge playoff performances – albeit with five shaky ones – and that led me to think, what would the Cavs point guard situation be if West took off for Russia?

Daniel “Boobie” Gibson, at 22 years old, has a bright future. But injuries limited him to just 58 games last year, and while we know what he’s capable of as a spot-up shooter, we also know that he struggles with other facets of his game, such as penetrating into the lane and distributing.

Damon Jones – well, where to begin. I guess look at what I wrote about Boobie, except add the word “flamboyant” in front of everything. You can also add the fact that Mike Brown gets along with him about as well as the Spartans and the Persians.

So maybe we need Delonte West a little more than I thought. He’s probably only talking to Putin to squeeze a few more bucks out of the Cavs. It’s the American way, after all, even if he’s using the Russians to help pull it off.