A Daily Babble Production
When I wrote two weeks ago about the Cleveland Cavaliers' hot start to the season, I concluded with a prediction about the front office activities to come in Cleveland:
Mike Brown has his defense running smoothly as usual in Cleveland. But it's that top-ranked offense that adds a new danger factor to this Cavs team.
Well, that and the fact that the Cavs are only expected to get better come February when they move a couple of expiring contracts for a veteran contributor.
The rumors have swirled since the season's start. The Cavs have Wally Szczerbiak ($13 million expiring contract) and Anderson Varejao ($5.8 million this year, $6.2 million player option for next year) to use as trade bait to bring in help if they so desire. Shawn Marion's name has been at the forefront for a while, though there was a brief, pre-Billups myth of Carmelo Anthony possibly heading to Cleveland. CBS' Ken Berger recently shot down reports of talks between the Cavs and Nets about Vince Carter, but he mentioned that he expects the rumors of big names heading to Cleveland to continue to circulate.
When I made the initial comment earlier this month, it was with the belief that for any star or pseudo-star without a particularly discouraging history of loafing (sorry, Vince), making such a move would be a no-brainer for the Cavs.
Upon further internal consideration, I'm not so sure.
On one hand, as we discussed after Phoenix acquired Jason Richardson, there is always something to be said for acquiring the best player in a deal. A player like Marion, for instance (since his name has been the most bandied about, and moving him could make sense for Miami) would clearly be the greatest talent in a deal for Szczerbiak and Varejao. He is a four-time All-Star who averages 18 points and 10 boards per game for his career, logs plenty of minutes and plays well at both ends of the floor, though he is off to a rough start to the season.
Szczerbiak and Varejao are far from having those sorts of resumes. So from that angle, a deal sounds like a slam dunk for the Cavs, as I imagine it would for most other big-name players that might come up in similar rumors. With the exception of one LeBron James, this is a Cavs team that seems to leave plenty of room for improvement on an individual level at each of the other positions on the floor. Zydrunas Ilgauskas isn't going anywhere, but it's hard to imagine the Cavs not at least listening to offers to upgrade the rest of their lineup. Trades like the one described above seem to make a lot of sense from the standpoint of the pure basketball talent involved.
But on the other side, the adage that comes to mind is "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." The Cavs haven't just been good so far. They've been excellent - in all facets of the game. The Cavs are ranked first in offensive efficiency and second in defensive efficiency. Their differential is an average of plus-13.2 points per game, and 19 of their 23 wins have come by double-digit margins. This team isn't winning games by accident.
It is winning games because, as we discussed last time, everyone is playing a defined role. Mo Williams adds another ball-handler and scoring threat. Delonte West is shooting the ball with great efficacy as an off-guard who stretches the floor for LeBron, Williams and Big Z. Varejao and Ben Wallace are cleaning the glass, taking charges and generally making it hard to get points in the paint against the Cavs. Wally World is putting up a 55.6 percent true shooting mark. Daniel Gibson hasn't even found his shooting stroke yet, and the Cavs are functioning at a higher level than at any point during Bron's tenure in town.
What all this means is that I'm glad I don't have Danny Ferry's job. That's primarily because the conflict of interest (you know, being a Celtics fan and all) would probably cause me major issues when I started dumping Cavs for ten cents on the dollar, starting with begging Danny Ainge to find a way to make Patrick O'Bryant's salary match LeBron's. But even if my intentions were more sincere, I'd have no clue how softly to tread with this Cavaliers team.
This is a team that has clearly established itself as one of the top few contenders for the 2009 NBA title. The Cavs are playing dominant basketball at both ends of the floor. Bringing in a big-time player would mess with their rotation even beyond the likely subtraction of Varejao, perhaps the team's best interior defender. The later the deal happens this season, the less time the team would have to get re-acclimated in time to be at its best for the playoffs. But as long as the team continues to perform at its current level, the tougher it will be for the Cavs' front office to believe that Cleveland can't beat the likes of the Lakers or Celts as currently constructed.
So what should the Cavs be looking to do?