As the trade deadline rapidly approaches, the Cavs are faced with a difficult question: to trade or not to trade?
However, the appropriate question may be, what position should be upgraded for the stretch run? For weeks, the Cavs have been linked to a number of players. Almost all of these rumors have the Cavs picking up another big, or stretch four, a la Amare Stoudemire, Antwan Jamison, or even Troy Murphy.
Conspicuously absent from these rumors have been any links between the Cavs and a shooting guard, a position that may just be the weakest link on the team and the one that most needs an upgrade should the Cavs want to win this city's first title since 1964.
Since the end of last season, national pundits have declared the missing piece to the puzzle for the Cavs title is that elusive "stretch four." However, when one looks at the lack of production from the two spot, how thin the position's depth is, and the uncertainty surrounding Delonte West, an argument can easily be made that the path to the championship lies in upgrading the two.
Much of the uncertainty and many of the problems surrounding the two spot involve the starter (in name only), Anthony Parker. AP is the consummate professional who comes ready to play everyday. Unfortunately, he's 34 and his game has slipped noticeably from his solid season a year ago.
Currently, AP is averaging 7.0 ppg, 2.8 boards, and fewer than two assists a game. His points, assists, and rebounds are down from seasons past, in part because he has taken on a reduced role with the Cavs, and in part because he hasn't been converting when given the opportunity.
Indeed, the one thing he does well, shoot, he has been decidedly average at this year (his true shooting percentage is an average 57 percent, mostly because he has been so inept at converting 10-15 footers for much of the season). He also has refused to use his ability to make shots off the curl, something he did extremely well while with the Raptors, and one of the reasons I thought he'd be such an asset coming off screens with Lebron.
This is not to say AP has been a complete bust. He is shooting a robust 44.7 percent from deep, which is actually a career high. He is the prototypical "intangibles guy," doing the little things the team needs. Finally, he also has played solid defense from the two, containing (not shutting down) Kobe on two occasions and making Vinsanity irrelevant this past Thursday (then again I could go out on the court and hold Carter to 5-20 shooting at this point in his career).
In reality, AP has become a glorified version of Damon Jones, a three point specialist who either refuses to put the ball on the floor and attack the hoop or lacks the ability to do so at this point in his career. He also has a PER of 9.27, well below the league average of 15. To put this in perspective, JJ Hickson has a PER of 14.33 and one would be hard pressed to consider his season thus far as anything but inconsistent. Basically, AP should be a bench player at this point in his career, not a starter on a championship-caliber team.
Many would argue that the true starter is Delonte West, but as has been well documented, West's legal issues cloud his role with this team now and in the future. His medical issues also make it difficult to determine which Delonte will show up for the game, the hard-nosed defender, or the guy who refuses to even get on an airplane.
Frankly, the Cavs can't go into the playoffs expecting a solid 25-30 minutes from Delonte every game (without even considering how long he will be suspended for when he eventually pleads guilty to multiple gun charges). That leaves the Cavs with AP, Boobie Gibson, and Mo Williams to man the two back court positions. In other words, not exactly a confidence instilling bunch come playoff time.
This is not meant to denigrate Boobie or Mo-Gotti. Boobie is one of the better shooters in the league, and has (finally) shown the ability to put the ball on the floor and attack the hoop. Unfortunately, he is also injury prone and his defense is so bad he was not even in the rotation when Coach Brown went to a shorter seven-eight man lineup earlier in the season.
Mo-Gotti is another story. The de facto No. 2 scorer on the Cavs, Mo is an above-average one with a great stroke and the ability to beat his man off the dribble. He also has been injury prone throughout his career (playing all 82 games last year was the exception, not the rule), and completely disappeared in the playoffs last season. His Houdini act in the three playoff series certainly doesn't instill confidence that it was a fluke, or just playoff jitters.
Whether its beacuse of injuries, inconsistency, or just lack of production, the Cavs are very thin in the back-court (unless the Cavs plan on starting the Daniel Green experiment soon). What may serve this team best, especially given its significant depth in the front court (without even considering Leon Powe), is finding a capable replacement for AP at the two, thereby improving the starting lineup and the depth of the team for the stretch run.