NBA: Can Joey Graham Give the Cleveland Cavaliers a Much-Needed Spark at SF?

Eric FelkeyAnalyst INovember 23, 2010

Jamario Moon's lack of production has Byron Scott searching for answers at small forward.
Jamario Moon's lack of production has Byron Scott searching for answers at small forward.Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Coach Byron Scott announced at shootaround this morning that reserve forward Joey Graham would move into the starting lineup, replacing Jamario Moon as the 3.

"I think Joey brings a different presence on the defensive end because he's a little more physical and a little more aggressive," said Scott.

"I just thought, from an energy standpoint and a physical standpoint, that Joey would probably be better for us at that spot."

One of the most glaring weaknesses heading into the 2010-11 season for the Cavs was at small forward. Most of the pieces on the current roster were brought in to complement and surround a two-time MVP.

Danny Ferry traded for Mo Williams not because of his playmaking ability at PG, but because of his long-range shooting.

Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon were signed to be additions on the defensive end...not to be counted on to play a combined 54 minutes a game and take 14 shots.

J.J. Hickson was drafted over ready-to-contribute guys like DeJuan Blair because the front office liked how his athleticism in the open court. And Antawn Jamison was acquired to space the floor and give Cleveland another halfcourt scoring option.

Now all of these guys are thrown into a completely different role. It's an adjustment period, but the obvious lack of production at the 3-spot isn't a problem that will seemingly be solved anytime soon.

At least by any player on this roster.

It's only 12 games into the season—drastic changes shouldn't be made yet. At the same time, it's enough of a sample size to realistically determine what your major strengths or weaknesses are.

Statistically, Graham isn't really outperforming Moon. He's at 6.7 points and 2.7 rebounds in 16 minutes in six games this year, but he hasn't really seen extending playing time until the last three games.

He does, however, add other elements to the offense.

Moon is a good athlete in transition, but doesn't bring much to the table in the halfcourt. The Cavs have struggled mightily there, especially against good teams.

He's basically a stand-still three-point shooter...only he's shooting a paltry 25.7 percent from the three-point line. And that's where half of his field-goal attempts are coming from (almost three per game).

Like Scott said, Graham is a much more physical and aggressive player than Moon.

He'll attack and score off the dribble, crash the boards and is a more consistent long-range threat. He's a streaky shooter, but he's a more capable and potent offensive threat—something desperately needed in the starting lineup.

Cleveland's bench has been one of the best in the league. But part of that is due to the severe lack of scorers in the starting five.

Mo Williams is pretty much the only player that can create for others. J.J. Hickson can create his own shot, but he's been incredibly inconsistent so far.

If Anthony Parker, Moon or Anderson Varejao is initiating offense, the opposing defense has already won.

That's why it's imperative the Cavs get some sort of offense from either SG or SF. When forced into a slow-it-down, halfcourt game, they're essentially playing two-on-five.

And on the defensive side in the upcoming weeks, the Cavs are going to face some athletic and physical small forwards.

The next seven opponents: Indiana, Milwaukee, Orlando, Memphis, Boston, Miami and Minnesota. So they'll be dealing with Danny Granger (torched Cleveland in the past), Corey Maggette/Luc Mbah a Moute, Rashard Lewis, Rudy Gay, Paul Pierce, LeBron James and Michael Beasley.


Is Joey Graham the long-term answer?

Probably not. But it's worth looking for a spark.

The Cavs are what they are—a middle-of-the-road Eastern Conference team that will struggle against the NBA's elite and have an advantage over other rebuilding, low-to-mid level teams because of their core nucleus (Williams, Varejao and Gibson).

But the next month will be very telling. The Cavs play 16 games—10 on the road, nine against playoff teams from last year and 10 against teams that are .500 or better this year.

It well could be a defining stretch that goes a long way in determining what the team's direction is when the February trade deadline approaches.

Consistency has been a problem for the starting five this year. Let's see if Joey Graham can add any stability going forward.