Archive for the ‘Rumor!’ Category

Midnight Windhorst Rumor Dump!!

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

Well, one exciting thing happened at approximately 12:01 Eastern Standard Time: Brian Windhorst’s Twitter feed blew up with some Cavs rumors. Here they are, with my quick analysis in parentheses:

Sometime today the #Cavs are expected to contact Brendan Haywood. There is a chance of a double sign-and-trade to Dallas with Shaq.

(Great, great move. Cavs desperately need a defense-and-rebounding center. Heck, they desperately needed a quality defense-and-rebounding center last year. Former Wizards frontcourt for the win.)

#Cavs also expected to contact shooting guards Ray Allen, John Salmons and Mike Miller at some point on July 1.

(Love, love love Ray Allen, even after the Finals. Don’t see him leaving Boston now that Doc is coming back. Really a family over there, and CLE is a bit of a mess. Really like Mike Miller, although I do have questions about his defense. I think LeBron would be able to get Miller open looks, and convince him to actually shoot when he gets them. No thank you to Salmons.)

The Cavs obviously will have interest in Chris Bosh & Amare’ Stoudemire, but likely would not get serious unless they re-sign LeBron.

(Catch-22. I feel like Bosh doesn’t really want to come here, and we’ve been through this with Amar’e before. Still, hope is a wonderful thing.)

Today’s Stoudemire update

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

-First off: OVERWHELMING response from people interested in helping out with the links. I love the enthusiasm. I’ll get back to all of you guys, but maybe not until after the deadline, because I am insanely busy right now.

-Here’s the latest on trades:

Right now, the picture I’m getting is that the Cavs have the Amar’e offer on the table, the Suns want a better one from another team, and the Cavs are waiting on the Suns to crack. They’re fairly confident, as they’re the only team that can get Phoenix under the luxury tax.

There were reports that the Cavs were interested in dealing Shaq for Jamison and Mike Miller. There were later reports that the initial reports were crap.

Apparently, the Cavs do have some interest in Corey Maggette, although Windhorst says he’s “down the list.

Wojnarowski says that the most recent Jamison rumor has the Cavs sending Jamario Moon, Z’s contract, and a #1 pick for Jamison and Mike James. It’s unclear if the Cavs would prefer an Amar’e deal or a deal for Jamison.

Alright, that’s all I have for now. Life may return to normal in a couple of days, but right now everything’s changing by the minute.

Regarding Andre Iguodala

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

The Dream:

There are young players, there are productive players, and there are available players. At the trade deadline, a team generally gets to choose two out of three. Andre Iguodala, however, can check all three boxes. He’s 26 years old. He’s had three seasons with a PER of 18 or better in the last four years. And evidently, the 76ers are currently open to moving him.

Danny Ferry has done an absolutely masterful job of surrounding LeBron James with high-quality role players during his tenure as GM. That being said, thanks to LeBron getting too good too fast, Luke Jackson’s back, DaJuan Wagner’s intestines, Ricky Davis’ head, Larry Hughes’ everything, and the sins of Jim Paxson, LeBron’s never gotten a young potential superstar to grow with. (Mo Williams is great for what he is, but he’s no superstar.) This might be the Cavs’ chance to get LeBron a true running mate.

There’s also something else. Iguodala’s a lock-down perimeter defender, both on the ball and providing weak-side help. He’s got off-the-charts athleticism and a Gumby wingspan. He’s not a natural shooter, but he can make shots when they’re open. He’s a good decision-maker and can make plays. This is borderline heresy, but it’s hard not to see more than a little bit of Scottie Pippen in Iguodala. Here are the career numbers:

S. Pippen: 16.1 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 5.2 APG, 2.0 SPG, 0.8 BPG

Iguodala: 15.8 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 4.5 APG, 1.8 SPG, 0.5 BPG

Pippen wins across the board, but Iggy’s close in every category. Let’s go advanced:

S. Pippen: 53.6 TS%, 10.6 REB%, 23.1 AST%, 15.6 TO%, 22.5 USG

Iguodala : 55.9 TS%, 8.9 REB%, 19.3 AST%, 14.9 TO%, 19.7 USG

Still pretty darn close. (I will note that Pippen’s later years hurt his career TS%; with the Bulls, Pippen was always around the 55% mark.)

I’ve been opposed to comparing a LeBron sidekick to Scottie Pippen for a very long time. So when I say that Andre Iguodala could be the Cavs’ version of Scottie Pippen, realize that I do not make that comparison lightly. There are some issues with the analogy. I think Pippen was a much better decision-maker than Iguodala is, and a much more versatile offensive player in the half-court. The fit’s not perfect, either. As much as LeBron gets compared to Michael Jordan, his game honestly resembles a superpowered version of Scottie Pippen’s more than it resembles Jordan’s. (Pippen made a huge positive impact in every area of the game. LeBron is capable of dominating in every area of the game.)

The next Scottie Pippen, in search of a Jordan. Is that possibility enticing enough to make the risk worth it? Let’s break it down.

The Optimistic View:

First of all, Iguodala’s impact on the defensive end would be immediate. By the numbers, Iguodala may have been the best perimeter defender in basketball last season. What’s more, the numbers seem to make sense. Iguodala is a freak athlete with a 6-11 wingspan, and has been regarded as a nightmare defender ever since he came into the league. He’s also active on the weak side, as his block and steal numbers demonstrate.

The Cavs would become a scary defensive team if they added Iguodala. Anthony Parker is a very nice defender, but he’s no Iguodala on that end. With Iguodala, LeBron could roam free on the defensive end for the first 35 minutes of the game. Okay, he already does that. What the addition of Iguodala would mean is that the other team’s best scorer won’t get any easy baskets of his own while LeBron conserves energy and creates weak-side havoc for the majority of the game. Down the stretch, LeBron could take on the other team’s best scorer as Iguodala patrols the passing lanes and provides help. Iguodala and LeBron could be the best perimeter defensive tandem since Pippen and Jordan themselves. I don’t know about you, but I like the sound of that.

Add Delonte West coming off the bench, and you’re talking about 48 minutes of misery for opposing perimeter players. A few commenters have brought this up: who scores on a West/Iguodala/James/Varejao/Shaq lineup? It’s a good bet that Mike Brown’s had a few daydreams about a defense that includes Iguodala.

Offensively, Iguodala would be the best slasher LeBron James has ever played with. Iguodala loves to dunk the ball, and shot better than 70% at the rim in each of the last two seasons. This season, he’s gotten less easy opportunities at the rim, and has struggled to finish in traffic. Some of this may be due to the Sixers switching Andre Miller for Allen Iverson; only 50.4% of Iguodala’s shots at the rim have been assisted this season, compared to 57.1% last year. Playing with LeBron James, Iguodala could be an absolute force going at the rim on weak-side cuts and curls, and he also has the playmaking ability to find LeBron if the defense tries to collapse on his drives.

Iguodala is also very good in transition. The 76ers are an excellent fast-break team, and Iguodala is a big reason why. Iguodala runs the floor like a deer, and is more than capable of making the pass in the open court or finishing the break with emphasis. If the Cavs put Iguodala next to LeBron James, they could do some amazing things on the break.

Iguodala is also comfortable at the three, and has enough length to make more small-ball lineups very viable. At 26, Iguodala is already capable of giving the Cavs a new dimension on both sides of the floor.

The Skepticism:

Iguodala’s contract isn’t pretty. 12 million a year, and he’s under contract for five seasons. There’s no reset button on this trade if it happens.

There’s also the issue of scoring efficiency. Iguodala’s never had a mind-blowing TS%, and this year it’s at a career-low 52.3%. That’s well below league-average efficiency. Currently, Iguodala is a poor scorer from everywhere except the rim. He shoots 35.7% from inside of 10 feet, 25.5% from 10-15 feet, 37.0% from 15-23 feet, and 32% on threes. In fact,  Iguodala is shooting a miserable 44.4% on layups this season. Basically, Iguodala is an inefficient offensive player when he takes any shot other than a dunk. That’s not good.

The good news is that Iguodala’s being forced to take too many tough shots in Philadelphia, which he hopefully wouldn’t have to take in Cleveland. He’s taking 56% of his jumpers off the dribble, which is an absurdly high percentage for a player who isn’t a natural shooter. He appears to have a solid stroke when he sets his feet, so he might have much more success from the outside with LeBron and co. setting him up with open looks.

If Iguodala starts, there might not be enough shooting for the Cavs. A lineup of Williams/Iguodala/James/Varejao/Shaq only features one true three-point threat, and four players who aren’t comfortable at all from midrange. The Cavs are only now figuring out how to keep their spacing intact when Shaq is on the floor. Would there be enough room in the paint if another slasher was added?

There’s also the issue of what the Cavs would have to give up. If it’s just Z with a buyout and JJ, that’s one thing. However, the word is that the 76ers are looking to use Iguodala to offload Dalembert’s contract. A commenter made that work with the Cavs giving up Z, Hickson, Boobie, and Parker. That’s a lot to give up. Say what you will about all of those guys, but you’re talking about shipping out four rotation players from the league’s best team, including two starters. And as much as Z has struggled with his shot, the team still plays very well with him on the floor, and he’s the only true 4 or 5 on the team able to stretch the floor.

Making Iguodala fit could require a lot more run-and-gun or a lot more small-ball. I’m not sure if that’s a philosophical shift that Mike Brown is willing to make, and I’m not even sure it’s one he should make.

Final Verdict:

Just like I was about the Amare trade, I’m extremely torn about this deal. On the one hand, only an idiot passes on an opportunity to add a great talent entering his prime, especially one who resembles Scottie Pippen. On the other hand, only an idiot makes a trade that could seriously alter the chemistry of a red-hot team with the league’s best record.

I don’t see the 76ers giving Iguodala up for Hickson and cap relief, especially when they have Speights and Thaddeus Young. I also don’t see the Cavs giving up four rotations and taking on Dalembert’s bad contract just to get Iguodala, especially without a buyout agreement for Z. This is one of those trades that usually only happens if both teams really want it to, and I don’t think either team wants the trade that badly right now. If the interest from the 76ers is real, I would not have to make the decision that Danny Ferry is faced with right now.

The Four Chronicles: The Return of The Amare Rumors

Monday, January 25th, 2010

Windhorst has the report, which originally comes from Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic. (Coro did specify that the rumors were of other teams’ interest in Amare, not necessarily the Suns’ interest in trading him.)

I think that Amare ending up in a Cavs uniform this season is a long shot at best. It would just be too cruel of the Suns to trade Amare for salary reasons, especially with the Suns having a very good year this season. Even still, let’s run with some of the possible implications of an Amare trade.

The Dream:

Here’s the thing about an Amare trade. I’ve always dreamed about Amare Stoudemire on the Cavs. Always. LeBron James has had tremendous success running the pick-and-roll in his NBA career, despite the fact he’s never really had a truly dangerous big to run the pick-and-roll with. Z’s always been a pick-and-pop guy, and while his 18-foot jumper is nice, it’s always been a shot defenses can live with. Drew Gooden was Drew Gooden. Ben Wallace is one of the worst offensive players in NBA history. Shaq can’t run the high pick-and-roll. Varejao has evolved into a very smart cutter and a very crafty finisher around the basket, but he isn’t very dangerous if he doesn’t get the ball right under the basket, he’s not a great foul shooter, and he doesn’t finish with authority.

Meanwhile, Amare Stoudemire has already established himself as one of the great pick-and-roll big men of all time. He’s not the elemental force around the basket he once was, but he always takes it strong to the rim, he has great explosion and touch, and he’s both willing to take contact and able to knock down free throws. He’s even become a very good pick-and-pop guy. A pick-and-roll where the roll guy is almost as dangerous as LeBron is a scary, scary notion. That play could burn down the league. Every time I play NBA 2K, the first thing I do is play as the Cavaliers, try to sell the farm for Amare, and take fair trades off if I can’t get the trade to work.

If you’d told me in fourth grade that Brittney Spears would someday be considered unattractive at any point in time, I would have thought you were insane. Likewise, if you’d told me in 2007 that Amare Stoudemire would be considered anything less than an all-time slam dunk, I would have also thought you were off your rocker.

The Skepticism:

But here we stand in 2010, and I would have some misgivings about an Amare trade. First of all, Amare isn’t the most cerebral offensive player. His assist ratio ranks 61st of the 68 listed power forwards. His turnover ratio is 46th out of 68. He’s not as good of a finisher in traffic as he used to be, either. He only makes 56% of his layups, and doesn’t have a left hand to speak of, but he’s more than willing to try and force a right-handed shot in traffic. If the ball gets tossed to Amare, it’s probably not coming back. And those numbers come in an offense with amazing spacing and a directive to rotate the ball back to Steve Nash at the first sign of trouble. Do you really want a player like that on the floor with LeBron James, especially late in games?

Also, there’s the question of Amare’s defense. It’s pretty darn bad. Every time I watch a Suns game, there are at least one or two “Amare, what are you doing?” plays that lead to a basket, if not more. The Cavs are built on defense. If Amare was put into the starting lineup, the Cavs would be starting two bona fide defensive liabilities, and it wouldn’t just be a “show starter” situation like it is right now with JJ.

For Amare to be effective defensively alongside of Shaq, he’d have to be active on the perimeter, show on pick-and-rolls, and discourage opposing teams from hitting easy jumpers as Shaq sags back to shut down the paint. With Amare’s knees, it’s an open question whether or not he could handle that responsibility even if he had the desire to do so. And it’s a very open question whether he’ll ever develop the desire to do so.

There’s also this issue, which seems to get forgotten a lot during deadline talk. Anderson Varejao is the second-best player on the Cavaliers. It’s true. Say it aloud. It’ll help it sink in. As crazy as it sounds, the guy with the crazy hair who looks like he could get knocked over by a stiff breeze, has no game outside of 10 feet to speak of, and doesn’t dunk on people has become an absolutely vital piece for the Cavs.

How would Andy be able to play next to Amare? They would both need too many minutes to never play with each other. Almost all of Varejao’s offensive game is predicated on him setting the screen up high and/or cutting around the hoop and looking for easy baskets. When Amare’s in the game, it would be foolish not to use him in the high pick-and-roll offensively and try to set him up with as many dunk opportunities as possible. Andy can’t stretch the floor in those situations. Will there be enough space for Andy to be effective in the same lineup as Amare and LeBron? They might be able to figure it out. Or they might not be able to be, and the Cavs end up losing all of their momentum.

The Optimistic Point of View:

Let’s look at Amare next to JJ Hickson, who currently starts at power forward for the Cavs and does play 40% of the total minutes, despite his designation as a “show” starter. As bad of a decision-maker as Amare is, JJ has been worse. JJ ranks 66th among power forwards in assist ratio, and 53rd in turnover rate. Both of those ranks are worse than Amare’s.

When JJ Hickson is on the floor, the Cavs give up 111.1 points per 100 possessions. When Amare Stoudemire is on the floor, the Suns give up 111.6 points per 100 possessions. The players around Amare are much worse defenders than the players around JJ, and Phoenix has a much more lax defensive philosophy. If JJ’s defense is acceptable, Amare’s could be too, at least in the starting lineup.

(Two quick disclaimers here. JJ has been a starter in name only for the Cavaliers so far this season. Amare would likely be a “true” starter, which would mean that his shortcomings would have more impact than JJ’s. I realize this. Also, JJ does seem to have experienced a kind of basketball Nirvana, and has played like a new man in the past two games. I’m of the opinion that selling high would be the correct play, but absolutely understand the notion that JJ is too talented and too young to be given up on. I just feel like we’ve seen this movie before with regard to falling in love with JJ’s potential.)

Additionally, ever since the Shaq trade, the buzz has been that the Cavs need a “stretch” four. Well, get this: Amare Stoudemire is a very good outside shooter for a big man. He doesn’t shoot threes, but Amare has been absolutely deadly on deep twos this season. He’s one of the best shooting power forwards from the 10-15 foot range and the 16-23 foot range this year, shooting 56.5%/47.0% from those ranges. To provide some contrast, Z’s career-high marks from those ranges are 43.0% and 44.0%, respectively. Overall, Amare’s eFG% on jumpers this season is a stellar 48.3%, which is a very good mark for a perimeter player. For a big man who doesn’t shoot threes and is regarded as a finisher, it’s almost unheard of. In fact, Antawn Jamison’s eFG% on jumpers is only 44.8%. Amare will never be as good shooting from outside as he is finishing at the rim, but he’s still a tremendous outside shooter for a big man.

The last question about Amare is how he’d fit in with Shaq. Windhorst mentioned in his article that Amare and Shaq got in each other’s way last season, and that’s certainly the opinion of the general public. On paper, it makes sense; Amare likes to pick-and-roll, and Shaq likes to sit in the lane. However, the numbers don’t support this thesis.

In 2007-08, Amare was one of the best finishers in the league, shooting 74% from the immediate basket area. In 08-09, Amare took the same proportion of his shots at the rim. However, he converted those opportunities at a significantly worse rate, with his eFG% on “close” shots dropping to 65.8%. The rate at which Amare drew fouls also dropped, going from 23.2% to 18.9%.

This drop in effectiveness occurred when Amare theoretically should’ve been a year further removed from microfracture surgery, and that much closer to regaining his once-fearsome hops. Faced with these facts, everyone came to the logical and understandable conclusion that Shaq was hurting Amare’s effectiveness at the rim. The data from this season, however, refutes this theory. Despite the fact that the Suns have replaced Shaq with three-point bomber Channing Frye and opened up the paint for Amare, his numbers at the basket remain identical to where they were last season. He takes 46% of his shots at the rim, up 1% from last season. He shoots 66.8% at the rim, up exactly 1% from last season. And his foul drawing rate is 18.2%, which is actually a little lower than it was last season. Whatever it was that caused Amare’s effectiveness at the basket to drop last season, it looks like it wasn’t Shaq.

Amare and Shaq were also quite effective when they played together, especially on the offensive end. Last season, Amare and Shaq’s two most used lineups had an average offensive rating of 1.14 and a defensive rating of 1.07.

This season, the Shaq/Hickson lineup has an offensive rating of 1.05 and a defensive rating of 1.12. The most-used Shaq/Varejao lineup has an offensive rating of 1.02 and a defensive rating of 1.02. Of Shaq’s 10 most-used lineups this season, only two have an offensive rating equal to or better than 1.14, and those lineups have been used for a combined 43 minutes. Now, that 82games data is 12 days old, and the lightbulb really seems to be turning on for Shaq and the Cavs over the last few games. However, the above data does show that Shaq was more effective playing alongside of Amare than he was playing with either JJ Hickson or Anderson Varejao. I think this should be taken into consideration before Shaq and Amare are labeled oil and water.

Well, after all that, I am profoundly ambivalent. On the one hand, it’s Amare. This could be the move that would make the league’s most dangerous offensive player the leader of the league’s best offense. On another hand, he doesn’t look like a good fit on either offense or defense. Plus, the Cavs are only now getting used to their one big acquisition, and do seem to be rolling on all cylinders. On a third hand, possibly an elbow, most of Amare’s perceived flaws don’t look very bad at all on paper. But then again, that’s what people were saying when the Magic signed Vince Carter. Ugh.  It’s a good thing this trade probably won’t happen, because I’d probably drive myself crazy trying to figure out how I felt about it if it did go through. Well, I have class in five hours. Until tomorrow, everyone.

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Here Comes Leon Powe

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

Via Windhorst, it appears that the Cavaliers are about to sign a two-year deal with Leon Powe. I wrote something about the possibility of Powe when the rumors about him first started up, but I’ll try to expand upon those thoughts now. First off, read this excellent send-off to Powe by Zach Lowe over at Celtics Hub. After you’re done with that here, in no particular order, are my thoughts about Mr. Powe’s imminent acquisition:

1. This is a flyer, and a great one.

In my first “profiles in profiling” entry this year, I lamented how teams don’t take risks when it comes to their 12th men. Instead of taking a guy who you know is going to be passably insignificant, why not take a chance on a guy with a 10% chance of being a really good rotation player and a 90% chance of sucking in a spectacular and horrifying manner?

Yes, this is a guy whose best-case scenario is to join the team at the All-Star break, and who’s had such a bad history of knee problems there’s a legitimate chance he’ll never be an NBA-level player. On one level, it’s always scary to give any kind of a contract out when there’s that level of uncertainty involved. (Note: the deal is contingent on a physical exam, and there have been allusions to “protections” the Cavaliers may have in the deal, so the Cavs do have some safety nets in place.)

But on the other hand, this is Leon Powe for the veteran’s minimum. (According to Adrian Wojnarowski’s twitter feed.) That’s the same amount of money the Cavs paid Jawad Williams, Dwayne Jones, Lance Allred, you name it. It’s the minimum. You really can’t pay less than that. And when you start thinking about the deal that way, it looks like a steal from where I’m sitting.

Powe is a year and change removed from having a major impact in the NBA finals. Heck, it wasn’t all that long ago he was considered one of the 5 best players in his year-he was one of the other big names during one of LeBron’s turns at ABCD, if memory serves. When this guy is healthy, almost nobody doubts that he can flat-out play.

2. Leon Powe is really, really, really good at the things he’s good at.

Take this as you will: Leon Powe is about as good as an undersized, unathletic player with no range or ball skills to speak of can be. Yes, there’s a definite ceiling in terms of how many ways he can impact a game. But as a pure banger, Leon Powe is just about as good as they come. Powe had the best offensive rebound rate of any power forward for the second consecutive year last season, and 9th in rebound rate overall.

And offensively, Powe might not have any real jump shot whatsoever, but he knows his limitations and spends what time he has with the ball in the paint, shoving bodies around and trying to get the ball in the basket any way he can. 80% of Powe’s shots came in the immediate basket area last year, and despite his dip in proficiency on layup-type shots from 07-08 to 08-09, his love of the dunk gave him a very respectable 60% mark on “inside” shots.

Like Zach mentioned, Powe isn’t a “pure” post player, but he uses his strength, wide base, and touch to find some way to dump the ball in the basket when he catches the ball in the paint, albeit with little regard for aesthetics. He’s gotten a little better at passing when he’s down there, doubling his assist ratio from 07-08 last year, but he’s still not much of a playmaker down there. (He did improve, but remember that he had the worst assist ratio in basketball in 07-08.)

As many a disgruntled Laker fan will inform you, Powe’s best skill offensively is his ability to throw his body around in the paint and draw fouls-had he qualified, his 28% “draw foul” rate would have put him behind only Dwight Howard in the entire NBA. Leon Powe is one of the most efficient backup 4s in the league because he’s a guy that’s an artist in the scrum. He doesn’t see a need to try to do anything other than what he knows, make sense of the chaos that takes place when the ball is bouncing, the bodies are banging, and the elbows are flying under the basket.

3. Fit is a concern.

For all Powe’s strengths skill-wise, he still has major disadvantages athletically: he is much smaller than most centers and much slower than most power forwards. And he can’t stretch the floor. With Zydrunas, he’ll be relied on to show on pick-and-rolls and defend the perimeter, a dicey proposition. With Shaq, not only would he have to show on pick-and-rolls, but the floor spacing would get destroyed. With Anderson, the spacing is a concern, plus one of the two could have to guard a true 7-footer. Like a lot of Ferry’s acquisitions this off-season, the arrival of Powe seems to signal more small-ball lineups with LeBron, Moon or Parker playing the de facto 4 spot, and taking chances with Powe using his strength to guard the post.

Like a lot of blue-collar, undersized 4s who PER-type stats love (Powe, Chuck Hayes, Ike Diogu), Powe looks fantastic from an efficiency standpoint because he’s a role player who’s completely aware of his own limitations, is extremely good at a few things on the court, and doesn’t deviate from what he knows he’s good at. The flip side is that he can hurt the versatility of a 5-man unit by not being able to fill gaps and play a role within the greater system that asks him to do something outside of his very specific comfort zone.

So while I love Powe as a guy who can give impact minutes off the bench and even be the focus of a 3rd or 4th unit, I’m not sure if it’s realistic to see him as a guy playing long stretches of important minutes at any point down the line, even if he’s completely healthy. Boston was able to cover him pretty nicely, especially in 07-08, but remember that they have two legitimate defensive aces on their front-line in terms of KG and Kendrick Perkins, two guys who combine size, strength, and mobility in ways that can plug a lot of holes defensively. (And don’t forget the Thibodeau factor; he may be even more of a defensive savant than Mike Brown.)

4. Part of this feels like a JJ Hickson failsafe.

Hickson has a ton of potential, but I feel like he may have picked a really bad time to get a major injury. When he got hurt, he still had a lot of learning to do before he was ready to play serious minutes. Now he’s missed a lot of time at a pretty critical developmental stage, and I don’t think the front office is ready to bet the farm on Hickson being a rotation player this year. Hickson’s got the physical ability and package of skills to be a rotation big, while Powe has the instincts. I think the chances one of them cracks the rotation are better than the chances that both of them do. Part of this move may have been about taking a backup bet on another horse.

But overall, this is a great player and a great guy coming to the Cavaliers with very, very little financial risk involved, so my final position is that I congratulate the front office for getting yet another deal done, congratulate Mr. Powe for finding a team, and hope to see him on the floor reasonably soon.


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Searching For the Final 4

Sunday, August 2nd, 2009

Just very quickly, a heads-up: I’ve got something up on SLAM today that I worked EXTREMELY hard on and I think will be worth your time. Check it out if you get bored at owrk.

Alright, so here’s what’s happening now: with what remains of the midlevel exception, the Cavs appear to be persuing one more power forward. What you’re looking for in a power forward off the bench is a guy who can stretch the floor and play pick-and-roll defense if they want to play with Shaq and Z, or defend the post if they want to play with Andy. So here are the candidates that the Cavaliers have looked at or are continuing to look at to be that final piece of the puzzle (all relevant information gleaned from Brian Windhorst’s twitter feed):

Hakim Warrick:

Well, Hakim Warrick would’ve been a pretty nice addition. Warrick isn’t a star and will never be one, but he would’ve been a solid addition. He’s similar to Jemario Moon in a lot of ways, with the key difference being that nobody’s tried to play Moon at the 4 yet, while Warrick has been playing the 4 almost exclusively for most of his career. Warrick would’ve been fantastic as a pick-and-roll defender in Brown’s defensive system, which is crucial with Shaq and Z being as completely immobile as they are.

Warrick is also an excellent athlete who loves to dunk the ball when he gets inside, and would’ve been great to have slashing to the basket and running the floor with LeBron. Warrick’s jumper is just decent enough that he mistakenly believes it’s a good idea to shoot it; with an eFG% on jumpers of 37%, defenders may have occasionally followed him out to 17 feet, but his jumper is ultimately a losing proposition.

However, Warrick turned down the Cavaliers’ two-year offer to take a one-year offer from the Bucks, so alas. Play him off, keyboard cat.

Rob Kurz:

Kurz has been around a while, but got his first serious look at playing time as part of Don Nelson’s bizarre carousel of a rotation last season. He wasn’t all that effective, and his defense is a serious question mark, but he knows his role and can make wide-open shots. Excuse me for being unable to muster up any enthusiasm for the poor man’s Brian Cardinal. Play him completely indifferent, the theme from Dar!a.

Steve Novak:

Now Novak, I could imagine getting pretty excited about. Novak’s defense is not a strong point, but to be fair it might be a little underrated, if only because everybody automatically assumes tall white sharpshooters are terrible at defense.

Offensively, Novak could make this team pretty special. He shot 43% from deep and had a 60% TS last year, and that’s with the horrifying lack of ball movement on the Clipper offense forcing him to freestyle and often try to have to create his own shot, which was like asking Jessica Alba to do a biopic of Eleanor Roosevelt.

I’ve watched Steve Novak in warmups and in games: at 6-9, he is one of the best open shooters in basketball. When he gets to set his feet, he rarely so much as hits the rim. It’s beautiful. Imagine Donyell Marshall or Wally, only if they actually made their open threes. However, I doubt Mike Brown will willingly sign off on a move for a player with so little to offer on defense and the boards. Play him unlikely to happen, but still glorious to imagine, Sweedish hip-hop/swing amalgamation Movits!

Joe Smith:

Odd that serious negociations with him haven’t been discussed yet, but he wasn’t in the rotation in the Orlando series, and the Cavs may feel that for as well as Joe fit in his 2 years in Cleveland, it’s time to go with someone with more upside. Play him comfortingly familiar and yet ready to take his next journey, Belle and Sebastian side project.

Leon Powe:

Powe seems likely be become a Cav sometime in the coming weeks; all reports have the Cavs as Powe’s #1 choice, and the Cavs have reportedly offered Powe a contract. Powe is probably the best player on this “list” by a considerable margin, but may be the worst fit for the Cavaliers; he can’t defend the pick-and-roll or stretch the floor, doing his best work scoring in the low post and defending the post.

However, Powe is a phenominal worker around the basket; he can score on post-ups, he can get garbage buckets, and he can score by utilizing offensive rebounds. After having no low-post threat for years, the Cavs would suddenly have 2 of the 10 best low-post scorers in basketball if they added Powe. (Possibly three, if LeBron puts in the hours he needs to this summer.)

Powe is simply too dangerous as a scorer and banger off the bench to overlook, especially when he’s this readily available. The only concern is his defense, but in 07-08 he didn’t kill the Celtics in terms of +/-, so it may be a risk worth taking on that end. Coming out of college, Powe slipped to 49th despite being regarded as a phenom in his high school days because of serious knee problems. The Celtics snapped him up, and used his stellar play to help them win a championship. Then he had serious knee problems, and now he’s available for a song because everyone wants to underestimate again. Powe might not be an ideal fit, but he has too much potential not to take a flyer on at this value. Play him an odd mix and something we’re not used to seeing work but nonetheless extremely intriguing and exciting, French separatist gangster rap.

Off-Day Seminar Of Some Importance: In Which We Redouble Our Efforts, Manifesto-Wise

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

When I started this site way back in early 2009, I had an unwritten rule that LeBron’s 2010 destination was not going to be a topic of discussion on this site. At all. It’s just an overplayed story, and besides it’s not the favorite subject of Cavs fans. And there’s way too many important things that are going to happen with this team in the next two years to waste time speculating something two years down the road thatNOBODY HAS ANY IDEA ABOUT.

But LeBron goes to New York this Wednesday, and Henry asked me to respond to his angry-making horn pointed in the general direction of Cleveland, and of course I’m thrilled to help him out.

1. Why Is This Such A Story?

This is the first thing that’s important to understand. Calling whatever sportswriter or writer who says LeBron is leaving misinformed or worse isn’t going to make LeBron any more likely to stay. This is something that could happen. Even if he ends up staying, this is something that could happen. If you claim to know different, you are lying, arrogant, or LeBron James, and I’m not sure the latter category knows. There is a very real possibility.

And wasting internet space on the “hey, this 2010 stuff is useless, I can’t believe everyone is going so crazy over it,” is not only more tedious to read than a 2010 article, but is also completely wrong, because this is a story. (To be clear: the opening paragraph only exists because this post exists, if that makes sense. It’s 5 in the morning. I think it’s a story, just not my story.)

So why is this such a story? Understand this about sportswriters: they love a narrative. They go gaga over a good narrative. Cause and Effect makes their day. You report on games. You write a narrative. Sports love to piss sportswriters off by unfolding in such a way that defies narratives. In the Super Bowl, the heroic underdog led by an age-defying quarterback trying to redeem himself from one huge mistake took the lead with the breakout star of the playoffs breaking off a huge catch as his sportswriter father watched for a game-breaking score to cap the biggest comeback in Super Bowl History. Then a quarterback two years removed from a ring who rides motorcycles with his helmet off hit a speedy little-known receiver for a huge game, and he promptly began celebrating the catch with the clock running so that the Steelers needed to burn their last time-out before making another amazing catch to win the Steelers the game. Sports care not for your narratives.

We love Kobe’s rise, fall, and redemption until his team wets the bed against a team of mercenaries in their first year together wearing hallowed laundry.

Well, what you have with LeBron James is a narrative. Whether it’s a positive narrative (young uber-talent gets close to breaking through in small Cleveland, comes to New York, saves the sorry state of basketball in the game’s Mecca and beating heart and wins multiple championships, jumps from greatness to true immortality) or the negative narrative (home and team that does all for him mean nothing to cold-hearted young capitalist, leaves all behind for bright lights and is crushed under weight of own hubris), what we have here is a bona fide narrative. And you don’t even have to rely on the outcome of those pesky games to get a narrative! It’s going to be right there in a press conference!

This is a sexy story. There’s maybe the biggest star in sports, and certainly the biggest with any mystery as to his destiny yet. There’s New York and his hometown. There’s lots of money. There’s a shocking athlete. There’s Nike. There’s Jay-Z, for the love of God. (By the way, these stories have died now that Brooklyn fell through, but there was nothing a little racist about assuming LBJ was going to Brookly regardless of his family, the money, or the basketball, because of how deeply he revered the opinion of his one good friend who’s also a famous rapper? Really?)

There’s a lot of juice in this story and will continue to be, so long as you don’t print the truth, which is “I’m a writer and do not know LeBron James in any significant manner and have nothing resembling a clue what he will do in 2010.” That’s not such a fun story.

And remember, LeBron loves this stuff. He’s narrative-conscious. It’s part of what makes him good. Just like he feels it when the pressure’s on and he needs to do something spectacular to get the Cavaliers to victory and never shys away from bringing out his best in the biggest games and thrives despite being the most hyped player of all time, not to mention 18-year old, that’s the LeBron that loves seeing the New York Times going wild over a Yankee Logo Henna Tatooed on his cheek. Part of what we love about LeBron is what’s going to help us go crazy over this. (Actually, the tatoo thing would probably be the single best prank ever.)

2. Let’s Do Our Best To Figure It Out

To Start: I’m a writer and have had exactly one exchange with LeBron in my life during a pre-game Q+A session. One Q, one A. That’s my contact with LeBron. I have no idea what he will do and why. None. He’s his own man, and a pretty smart one. But here are the factors you’d assume he’d consider, in decending order of importance:

1. Team Success, 2010 Season

They win a championship next year, I don’t see how he possibly leaves. Same with getting just so close to the championship. But if they somehow don’t look like they have enough to win it all in that 2010 playoff run, or even look like they’re mostly having LeBron pull their way through like they did the finals year, I think he gives out-of-town a pretty strong look.

2. Team Success, 2009 Season

Again, a championship is a huge chip in the direction of staying, although even that might not be a huge factor if they can’t keep the momentum in 2010. Would Dwayne Wade have been crazy to leave Miami after the season after they won the championship?

3. What the Knicks or Other Suitors Look Like

If they’re rolling with another bona fide all star-caliber guy, some young guys who are a part of the core, solid role players and shooters, LeBron’s going to be more likely to step in there. If they’re hoping to set LeBron up with Wilson Chandler and Chris Duhon and change and make a run, I don’t think so.

4. What The Front-Court Looks Like

Z, the one guy on the team you feel LeBron truly respects and the team’s second-best player, could show up done in the next two years, and that presents a problem. Ben Wallace was supposed to be done this year. Both have contracts that expire in the summer of 2010. Will the Cavs be able to keep them at a reasonable fee? Will they be worth keeping at a reasonable fee? This will be important.

5. The Development of the Young Guys

Will Boobie, formerly LeBron’s on-court little brother and go-to shooter, still be an indispensible sniper or even a Ben-Gordon model bench scorer? Will Delonte still be a legitimate starting-quality shooting guard? Will JJ Hickson be Baby Amare or Ty Thomas Mk. II?

6. Landing Another Star

Wally Z’s expiring contract is a chance to snag another all-star to pair up with LeBron, as is the 2010 super-plan of snagging not only LeBron but Chris Bosh(who the Cavs almost would not be able to trade for pre-2010) or Amare Stoudamire or any of the other marquee free agents and unleashing SuperTeam upon an unsuspecting league. If this happens, it would be good.

7. Coach/System Player

(I cannot believe I’m saying this)

Mike Brown is a better coach for LeBron than Mike D’Antoni.

(I can’t believe I said that.)

Jordan’s Bulls won championships with a perimeter player as their go-to guy because they were a defensive team that kept the score low until their guy could take over. MB knows that score. MB’s teams have always out-performed themselves in the playoffs. D’Antoni’s haven’t. This season, MB’s shown himself to have prowess with a half-court offense if he has the tools. MB knows LeBron and they have a good relationship, and understands how to get LeBron going on defense and how to work within an offense. Mike Brown is the right coach for LeBron. Mike D’Antoni is not.

?  Family

LeBron is a devoted partner and father. What does his family want? What does his mother want? I have no idea, but I know they’re important to LeBron.

? Hometown Pride vs. City Glamour

LeBron’s proud to be from Cleveland and loves his hometown and being a local boy made Very Good. Or would he rather be king of broadway? I think ALL THINGS being equal he’d probably rather be the latter, but that’s more of a guess that some people seem to think.

? The Legacy Factor

Here’s what nobody has talked about: In 20 years, nobody’s going to care where LeBron played. The people who truly love basketball don’t care about his market reach. If he jumps to a worse team and doesn’t win a championship or even worse, he will have his legacy tarnished beyond what would even be remotely possibly in Cleveland. Alex Rodriguez would look like Guliani in New York. Forget about Cleveland. He stays in Cleveland, he MIGHT not become immortal, but his greatness and personal fidelity would never come into question. We don’t remember Gretzky as a Los Angeles King.

Am I going to count up factors now? No. That’s just what I have on the table. I don’t know where it goes from here. I’m just going to watch LeBron James play basketball.