Mo Williams Close to Playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers

Scott MilesSenior Analyst IAugust 13, 2008

Let’s give Danny Ferry credit for trying.

No, it hasn’t always worked—Larry Hughes and Donyell Marshall come to mind—but you have to agree the Cavs GM is doing everything he can to get Cleveland a championship ring, and get LeBron to stick around for a little bit longer.

Word today is that the Cavs, along with the Milwaukee Bucks and Seattle/Oklahoma City SuperSonics, are finalizing a trade that would send high-scoring Bucks guard Mo Williams to the Cavs, who will send Joe Smith to Oklahoma City and Damon Jones to Milwaukee.

(I can’t believe I’ve had to type “Oklahoma City” now three times in an NBA column. It just does not flow right at all.)

So what would the Cavs get in Mo Williams? First of all, they get a guy who has absolutely torched them in the past—he averaged 26 points per game just against the Cavs last year. But beyond that, he’s averaged 17 points and 6 assists per game the last two seasons as a starting guard for Milwaukee.

His field goal and 3-point percentage have increased solidly in his five years in the NBA, shooting 48 percent from the floor and 38.5 percent from beyond the arc last season. As importantly, he’s an 85 percent free throw shooter. And he's just 25 years old.

OK, those are good numbers…but why will he turn out differently than Hughes, famously signed, famously injured, famously pouted, and famously flamed out as LeBron’s sidekick?

Simple—Cavs fans were easy to overlook Hughes’ flaws as a player. He was a scorer with a low field goal percentage (career, 41 percent) who couldn’t make jump shots. Hughes is also a 30 percent shooter from beyond the arc and 75 percent from the charity stripe—all numbers below Williams’ averages, who has great quickness to the hole but a more than respectable jumper, as well.

According to John Hollinger’s Player Efficiency Ratings, Williams was the 12th best point guard in 2007-08, ahead of Jason Kidd, Rajon Rondo and Jameer Nelson. He would have been the third-highest rated Cav, behind LeBron (obviously) and just slightly behind Z.

(He was also significantly ahead of any Cavs guard on that list—Delonte West was 40th among SG, Boobie Gibson was 50th and DJ 53rd among PG. Hughes was a spot behind West in the SG and completely off the reservation when compared to Williams.)

So what are we losing? In Damon Jones, nothing but flash, style and flamboyance, as well as the fact that Lil Wayne’s “Go DJ” just won’t sound the same to me ever again. Mike Brown wanted nothing to do with DJ, and thus, DJ was a less valuable member of the team than the waterboy.

I will miss Joe Smith—he averaged eight points and five boards a night off the bench and was real solid in the playoffs. Getting rid of him means the team must have faith in Anderson Varejao, who is eight years younger but causes 800 times the headache of Smith, as well as first-round draft pick J.J. Hickson, who excelled in the summer league.

Personally, I would have rather dealt Andy—he’s had problems with management, he’s going to want a huge contract extension, and he’s a black hole on offense. I think it’s easier to replace a big guy with hustle like Varejao than it is a skilled big guy who can knock down 15-foot jumpers like Smith.

Smith would have been a more valuable member to the Cavs these next two years than Andy will be. At this point we can’t think any longer than two years down the road.

(In case you missed it, two years from now is when LeBron can become a free agent. Just a heads up, because this topic has been shoved aside for the Brett Favre fiasco and that Olympic thing in China.)

Finally, in terms of the current roster, things don’t look so good for Delonte West returning. I love West’s game and wrote about how important he is to the future of the team, and how well he played at the end of the season.

But Delonte, come on now bud—you can’t threaten to sign with the Siberian national team and then continue to holdout. He gained the upper hand on the negotiating table with that ploy, so Ferry looked elsewhere—and now West’s days in Cleveland, and a chance to compete for a title with one of the all-time greats, might be out the window.

If Cavs fans, and LeBron, aren’t convinced that Ferry is doing what he can to develop a winning team, they’re crazy. He’s spent Dan Gilbert’s cash, he swapped out ineffective parts at the trade deadline, and he looked for—and may have found—an answer at the point guard position.

And that might be enough for a Cleveland team to finally finish off the Season of Dreams…