so the big news today pre-draft is the trade of the big cactus to cleveland…wonder what he’ll be there? the big nickname will have a big challenge figuring something out, but i trust he’ll come up with something…
the more important question is: does this change anything for cleveland in terms of its ability to beat top tier competition in the east, not to mention whoever comes out of the west?
to the eye of this amateur hoops junkie, it helps cleveland quite a lot against boston, but maybe not so much against orlando. shaq will dish out a pounding to kendrick perkins, and he may be able to keep garnett away from the basket, though garnett doesn’t need to be within shaq-distance of the rim to be effective. more importantly, he’ll force boston to collapse in, and while that will clog up lebron’s path to the hole, it’ll also mean fewer defenders able to key on lebron from distances that are still well within his “unlimited” range.
as for orlando, obviously shaq is a load and cleveland should do much better against dwight howard with him in the middle. but…it still does not address the problem of how cleveland deals with the length, quickness and range of the two long forwards, lewis and turkoglu (assuming they can re-sign him). true, howard was a force in the cleveland series, but i’d argue that even if you take away his great games in that series and make him just average, the real problem cleveland had was slow-footed people up front. this trade does nothing to change that. further, i think you have to assume that dwight’s going to get better, likely adding an offensive move or two and hopefully improving his footwork.
of course, there are those who’d argue if dwight was going to expand his game significantly there’d be signs of it already. and his main mentor is a guy whose offensive game was a bit on the mechanical and slow-footed side. still dwight’s young and committed…odds are he’ll be better next year than this, and probably will be able to hold his own against a shaq who may be slowing down. in the one game between orlando and phoenix in ’08-’09 that shaq played in (march 3), with orlando winning 111 to 99, dwight went for 21 points, 8 boards. his season averages were 20.6 and 13.8. so, shaq may have kept him off the boards some, but didn’t slow down his scoring. meanwhile, shaq got 19 and 11, above his season averages of 17.8 and 8.4, and much better than anything ilgauskas managed. so, an upgrade no doubt, if we assume shaq will still be healthy and playing come playoff time next year, and maybe those extra points and boards will be the difference makers should orlando and cleveland meet again in next year’s playoffs (though you’ve got to back out medium-sized ben’s boards, or rather, the difference between ben’s boards and whoever gets his minutes, to compensate).
that said, what is the evidence that cleveland will be able to handle both lewis and turkoglu any better now than last year? hint: there isn’t any evidence. and to go further, if we assume both teams are healthy, and jameer nelson plays for orlando, doesn’t that offset any offensive gain that cleveland may get from having o’neal?
to me, cleveland is still a long, lanky, capable defender away from being able to get out of the east next year, even with shaq. which may mean that, if the lakers want to repeat, they better make sure to re-sign lamar odom, because if they don’t, cleveland may be willing to pay the price for him. adding lamar would, to me, make cleveland the favorite to win it all, because his versatility would fill in all the places that cleveland right now has serious deficits.
In what realm of magic and wonder do the cavs have cap space to sign Odom?
according to espn’s Trade Machine (http://games.espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine), cleveland was $32M over the cap before the trade for shaq. they got rid of $16.5M when they dumped wallace and pavlovic, and took on $21M with shaq, so net net they added $4.5M in salary, leaving them $36.5M over cap, or about where the dallas mavs are right now. that cap figure counts the salaries of ilgauskas ($10.8M), varejao (last paid $5.7M), and szczerbiak ($13.7M)…if you figure they sign Z for less, varejao for more than they made last year, maybe that’s a wash. let wally go, and that’s 13.7M you spent last year that you don’t have to spend this year. lamar made $14.1M last year, but who knows if he can command the same price this year, in this economy…more importantly, you don’t *need* to resign both Z and varejao if you’ve got lamar. the point is, cleveland was already well over their cap limit, but didn’t get done what they needed to do to justify it…i’d guess gilbert might be willing to stay about where he’s at on his cap (give or tak a few mil) for the one year they have shaq there to give him a chance to compete with orlando, who now has vince carter, and to keep lebron when his contract’s up next year…that’s got to be that franchise’s top priority, and as i say, i’d bet gilbert will open the wallet.