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Thinking the Cavs Got Their Man This Time

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Three years ago, the Cleveland Cavaliers were intent on bringing in a core player from Milwaukee to find greatness next to LeBron James.  They had a back-up plan ready to go if the import from Milwaukee couldn't be acquired, and it looked to be a good one.

The same was the case this summer.  The Cavs wanted one of the Bucks' top players but apparently had an alternate approach ready if needed. 

The problem three years ago was that after Michael Redd decided to sign a long-term extension in Milwaukee, the Cavs' second choice of Larry Hughes turned out to be a colossal bust.  Couldn't stay healthy, couldn't shoot the ball, didn't complement LeBron James well, turned out to be a sizable waste of money: Hughes' tenure was a disaster, and he isnt fondly remembered by fans of the wine and gold.  What could have been with Redd and James will remain forever an exercise in imaginative thinking in Cleveland.

Fast forward to 2008.  The Cavs got their Milwaukee man in point guard Mo Williams, and while the difference might not be as wide as that between Redd and Hughes, Williams will likely be a better acquisition for this team than alternate plan J.R. Smith would have been.

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Smith is the better shooter of the two, particularly from distance.  He also has a greater ceiling for explosiveness.  But that's where his advantages end.

Unlike Smith, Williams is a multi-dimensional player, and even more importantly, he is a point guard.  While having LeBron James makes having a traditional point guard of a bit less importance, it still helps to have at least one other player on the floor who can handle the ball and facilitate an offense, and Williams can do both of those things if called upon.  Certainly when James is off the floor, he'll be a viable floor general as well as a good secondary distributor when they are on the court together.

Smith by comparison is a shooter.  He needs the ball in his hands when he gets onto the floor, and his current strengths are virtually fully concentrated in his abliity to score in bunches with very good efficiency.  However, he is a career bench player who hasn't started consistenly since his rookie season, and he also averages more than 17 shots taken per 36 minutes.  Several weeks back, we said that Williams' 13.9 shots per game (13.7 per 36 minutes) seemed a bit high for playing with LeBron.  That is dwarfed by Smith's projected figure.  Further, Smith can be a bit sloppy with the basketball, and his 2.8 turnovers per 36 minutes match Williams' mark there.  That's a bit unsettling considering that as a point guard, Williams does considerably more ball-handling than Smith does.

Wiliams also doesn't pose the same sort of off-court threats that Smith does.  While he did garner a reputation for being a bit of a me-first player in Milwaukee, he doesn't have the police record that Smith possesses.  Smith has been suspended in the past for the mayhem he has created both with his vehicles and in nightclub altercations.  If Williams can accept right away that he'll be playing second banana to LeBron, the Cavs should have no problem with him.  While Smith has plenty of potential as a player, there are no guarantees in this department. 

Twice in the last four years, the Cavs have devoted much of their attention toward obtaining a member of the Bucks.  This time, they were successful, and while we're not sure yet if this was the move needed to put the Cavs over the top, the thought here is that they won't regret pursuing Williams over J.R. Smith.