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Help for LeBron…?

This article has been submitted by Alex Jackson.

I’ll admit it, Lebron James is pretty good. There, finally someone said it.

Clearly I am not the first person to utter that sentiment and I definitely will not be the last. If there was even a modicum of doubt (did anyone really have any?) that Lebron is a very special player, it was erased during Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Boston Celtics. In Game 7, he scored 45 of his teams 92 points, an incredible 48.9 percent. While I could probably do some “research” and find out when all of his assists came, I’m not going to; toss in his 6 assists and ‘Bron either scored or was directly responsible for setting up almost 62 percent of his team’s points on Sunday. Not bad.

For the 7 game series against Boston, he scored 187 points and dished out 53 assists. Again, assuming the assists accounted for 106 points(even though I know it was more), he accounted for 293 of the Cavs’ 596 points, 49.1 percent. The dude is good.

Here’s where the debate comes in, though, how much of that production is the result of sheer awesomeness and how much is the result of need? Personally, I’m in the “need” group; if Lebron doesn’t do it, no one else will. No offense, but the supporting cast is dangerously inept. (see what I did there?)

After the game, Lebron said “I’m not disappointed in any of my teammates or in any of my coaching staff.” But he followed it up by saying, “What we have is very good. We need to continue to get better. We know that if that means some personnel changes need to happen, then so be it. Right now I’m not thinking about it, but we do need to get better. The teams around us in this league are continuing to get better.”

The writing isn’t just on the wall; it’s on the TV, it’s on the internet, it’s in the box score. It’s in the public domain. Lebron wants and needs help; despite his near superhuman status, he can’t do it by himself.
The Cavs have Lebron, the local and now global icon, under contract for 2 more seasons; after 2009/10, he can opt out and find a destination where he can become a bigger star and, more importantly, win.

The problem for the Cavs? They’re almost in salary cap hell. As it stands now, according to HoopsHype, they have 9 players under contract for next season at almost $75 million. Daniel Gibson is a restricted free agent, and you bet they’ll match any offer and open up the wallet for him, likely adding another $5-6 million to the roster. Delonte West has a Qualifying Offer option for next season worked in. Joe Smith is also a free agent, who may or may not be resigned. Sitting at almost $80 million in 2008/09, there are very few “impact” free agents moves the Cavs can realistically make, aside from tossing a midlevel or biannual exception around. With few “new” pieces available, the Cavs will have virtually the same roster that lost to Celtics, and will have to look to addition by subtraction and the trade market.

Personally, I’m not a big fan of many of the Cavs players at this stage in their careers. As such, I will group them via my view of their tradability. The categories: Untouchable (unreal ability), Attractive Young Player (good contract), Expiring Contract (self explanatory), Untradeable? (bad news bears) and Others (hard to group).

Let’s start with the easiest of the categories:

Lebron James – I really don’t need to waste words on this one. If you don’t know by now that the Cavs would never willingly give Lebron up, you might need to get your head checked.

Attractive Young Player:
Sasha Pavlovic –I like Pavlovic. I doubt he’ll ever be an All-Star or even a consistent starter; but he has nice production(7.4 ppg) for his price($4.5 mil in 08/09). Unlike other players on the Cavs roster *cough*Eric Snow*cough*, Pavlovic is not a complete waste of space.

Anderson Varejao – A classic “energy” guy, Varejao seems to thrive in situations where he is not expected to do too much. If he continues to improve, and his minutes increase, he could become a double-double guy. He has a player option for 2009/10 at only $6.2 mil, so his contract shouldn’t scare too many teams off.

Expiring Contracts:
Eric Snow – I don’t know what happened here. I realize his minutes have dropped and playing with Lebron will decrease your touches, but his production has plummeted since coming over to Cleveland from Philly. He has one year remaining at $7.3 mil, so he could be an attractive option for teams looking to unload their own bad contracts or as a piece in a sign-and-trade deal this summer.

Damon Jones- Jones might be a bit eccentric, but he has a good, affordable contract for his production ($4.4 mil, 6.5 ppg, a career 39% from 3). He would be much more attractive if he weren’t a journeyman (10 teams!), but his name should be thrown around a few offers.

Wally Szczerbiak – Ouch. Wally, in his current form, makes an excellent 6th or 7th man. He can hit the outside shot, is very reliable from the charity line and doesn’t turn the ball over. The problem? He’s earning $13 million next season.

Ben Wallace – Big Ben has $28.5 million due over the 2 years left on his contract. If Wallace was 28, demolishing boards, swatting anything that came remotely close to him and winning Defensive Player of the Year awards, it’d be a reasonable contract. But he isn’t. He’s 34. After being traded from the Bulls to the Cavs, Wallace averaged just 7.4 rebounds and 1.7 blocks, his lowest averages of the new millennium. Don’t get me wrong, those are not bad averages, just not worth $14 million per.

Zydrunas Ilgauskas – Z is in an interesting position; he’s signed through next season and has a player option for 2009/10. He’s set to earn around $11 million each of the next two seasons and, by all accounts, is worth it. Since 2001, he has been very consistent, averaging over 14 ppg and over 7.5 rpg each season. If the Cavs are looking to unload Z, there’ll be suitors.

If I were an NBA GM, apart from Lebron and Z, I don’t know if there are any players currently under contract that I would go out of my way to inquire about. As such, the pressure is on Danny Ferry, or whoever is GM when the dust settles, to wheel and deal. Teams of particular interest are likely to be ones that have had recent coaching or GM changes, such as the Suns, Knicks, Mavs, Bulls, Bucks and Bobcats.

(What follows it pure conjecture. I have no sources and I don’t have a great grasp on all of the intricacies of the salary cap and trade restrictions. I do have access to a computer and ESPN’s Trade Machine. Consider what follows a worthless excerpt from a message board. Reader be ware.)

Would Steve Kerr and the Suns consider trading Shaq for a combination of Eric Snow and Ben Wallace? If the Knicks are hoping to dump salary to pursue Lebron in the future, would they swap Eric Snow and Wally Szcerbiak for Zach Randolph and Jared Jeffries? Would Wally fit in the Knicks new system? If so, what about a Wally for Jeffries and Jamal Crawford deal that would open a ton of cap room? More importantly, would the Cavs be willing to help the Knicks create future cap space? In more “make room for Lebron deals,” would the Cavs consider a Wally for Richard Jefferson deal? How desperate are the Hawks for a real centre? Would either team consider a Z for Marvin Williams and Speedy Claxton’s contract? Even though it’s apparently against Mark Cuban’s philosophy, would the Mavs consider trimming future costs with a Jerry Stackhouse for Eric Snow swap? Denver always seems willing to pull a trade, would they consider Ben Wallace for Nene and Steven Hunter?

Honestly, who knows? Who realistically thought Shaq would be traded? Or that the Bulls and Cavs could unload the contracts of Ben Wallace and Larry Hughes respectively? That’s part of the fun of the NBA, you never know what to expect.

Danny Ferry, the ball, as the kids say, is in your court.

This article has been submitted by Alex Jackson.

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13 Responses to “Help for LeBron…?”

  1. Carolyn Says:

    Not if Eric Snow is coaching the Bulls.

  2. Stu P S Says:

    I’ve figured out a perfect three way trade:

    Raptors receive Andy Varejao and Josh Howard
    Cavs receive TJ Ford, Raptors first rounder
    Mavs receive Sasha Pavlovic, Jamario Moon, Rasho Nesterovic, and a bag of cash from the Raptors

    I expect it to be announced sometime in July after the Raps work out Jose’s extension.

  3. Blake Murphy Says:

    SO wait…

    Mavs get: Pavlovic, Moon, Nesterovic, and some cash for Josh Howard — check
    Cavs get: Ford and the 17th overall pick for Varejo and Pavlovic — possibly check, but they lose their only ‘hustle/character’ guys
    Raps get: Varejo and Howard for Ford, Moon, Nesterovic, some cash, and the 17th pick — check

    That’s definitely possible, except that there’s really no screaming motivation for any team to make this deal — it doesn’t greatly help the Mavs (except the luxury relief next year because of Rasho) and it’s still borderline for the Cavs, so I don’t see the 3 GMs calling each other up and saying ‘hey, let’s do this!’

    Also…Raps could draft Varejo ala Robin Lopez. Yeeee.

  4. Chris Says:

    Your trade scenarios in the article are garbage… I’d rather not trade anyone for Speedy Claxton and whoever else you have up there. We have 23 mill in expirings. that’s gotta be tasty for someone.

  5. TSmith Says:

    The Cavs need a playmaker so that LeBron doesn’t have to initiate the offense every time up the floor. Making him go 1-on-5 from the top of the key every time is idiotic and its only a testament to his other-wordly skill level that he scores as well as he does in a system that is so ill-suited to his finishing ability.

  6. khandor Says:

    The help Lebron NEEDS … is a new head coach.

    Mike Brown has got to go if Lebron is eventually going to get his 1st championship ring.

    Until this happens … each other move the Cavs make is simply spinning their wheels.

  7. Blake Murphy Says:

    I’ll just put it out there — the Cavs don’t have any real flexibility until LeBron is able to jump to The Roc. It’s coming.

  8. khandor Says:

    “jump to The Roc” means what exactly?

  9. AJ Says:

    Damn you Blake and your jive-talkin style…Always far to hip and thugged out…Is Roc some sort of reference to Roc-a-fella Records? I don’t know how I feel about LeBron being associated with DJ Clue?…

  10. TSmith Says:

    Means jumps to the Nets, the team his best friend Jay-Z is part owner of (plus LeBron has that $10 mil kicker in his Nike deal if he plays in NYC, LA or CHI)

  11. Blake Murphy Says:

    Yup, The Roc = Roc-a-fella, The Dynasty, to play for his boy Jay-Z in Brooklyn.

  12. khandor Says:

    “… the Cavs don’t have any real flexibility until LeBron is able to jump to The Roc.”

    If that’s your definition of flexibility for the Cleveland organization … I shudder to think what you’d consider to be ‘Death by Strangulation‘ for the beleaguered Cavaliers. :-)

  13. Blake Murphy Says:

    Haha no, I meant that just happens to also be the time they’d have cap flexibility (even assuming LeBron stays at the max). Sorry for the lack of clarity there.

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