If I were the general manager of the Cleveland Cavaliers, would I have been seeking a trade of any kind? Probably not. Entering into the trade deadline last week, the Cavs found themselves in a unique (and potentially dangerous) position. They were the hottest team in basketball, riding a 13-game win streak. They have the best record in the league. They also have the best player in the league, along with a very strong supporting cast. So, why make a deal?
Then came the swirling rumors of a potential deal with Phoenix that would have brought Amare’e Stoudemire to the shores of Lake Erie. While Stoudemire would have brought an offensive upgrade to the Cavs, the rumors all indicated that the cost for Stoudemire was Zydrunas Ilgauskas and J.J. Hickson.
Once again, my “If I were the GM” buzzer was going haywire! Not only was the Cavs front office forcing a deal that did not need to be made, they were doing it at the long-term expense of the team.
As much as I can appreciate the sentimentality of keeping “Z” in Cleveland, it was not the risk of losing him that worried me. He was a “good guy” on the team, and he seemed genuinely happy to play in Cleveland – even through the ROUGH years of the late 1990s and early 2000s (pre-LeBron). I will always have issue, though, with a seven-footer who is unable to play physical defense. And, teams do not need a seven-footer taking three-point shots. It was actually the loss of J.J. Hickson that concerned me as a fan of the Cavs.
LeBron James has consistently given the indication that he wants to play for the team which gives him the best opportunity for MULTIPLE championships. As important as it may be to win the first one this year, he is looking for some assurance that it will not be a one-and-done occurrence. Just ask Dwayne Wade about that feeling. After winning one NBA Championship, the Miami Heat virtually dismantled the team, and now Wade is left on a team that may not even compete in the playoffs, let alone have a shot at the NBA Finals.
LeBron does not want to be in that same situation, which is why I simply cannot comprehend the fact that Danny Ferry was trying to bring Stoudemire to Cleveland for only half of a season, with no guarantee that he would stay beyond 2010, and was willing to give up a great deal of potential in the always improving J.J. Hickson. It just did not make sense to me!
Perhaps it did not make sense to Ferry either, which is why I was impressed to find out that the Cavaliers did not deal for Stoudemire after all. Instead of sacrificing long-term viability for potential short-term gains (that may not even be necessary), Ferry pulled off the steal of the season (perhaps the steal of the DECADE).
In a move that should qualify Ferry as the leading contender for GM of the Year, he managed to upgrade his team on offense by bringing in Washington Wizards sharpshooter Antawn Jamison, all while preserving his team’s long-term viability… and he did it for essentially nothing!
Ferry did have to give up “Z” but that was no surprise. The Cavs may be losing a friendly face, but in terms of production they have only lost seven points, five rebounds, and 20 minutes per game. In return, they gain 20 points and eight rebounds from Jamison. But that was basically ALL that Ferry gave up, and it will likely only be a short-term loss. Most people anticipate that the Wizards will offer Ilgauskas a buyout on his contract, and he would be available to return to Cleveland after a 30-day waiting period, an option that Ilgauskas is very likely to pursue.
Along with Ilgauskas, the Wizards will get the Cavaliers’ first-round draft pick for the 2010 draft. However, because of the championship aspirations in Cleveland right now, that first-round pick is likely going to be between somewhere in the neighborhood of the 28th through 30th spot. Additionally, the Cavaliers would likely ship whomever they selected off to the D-League, and may never see that player on the court in Cleveland anyway.
Ferry made a deal without REALLY having to make a deal! It was BRILLIANT!
Basically, the Cavaliers picked up Jamison, an outstanding scorer who can definitely upgrade the Cavaliers at the four position (which is by far their weakest spot on the floor), all for the cost of a yet-unknown prospect who would not have even made the Cavaliers active roster, and the (likely) 30-day loan of one of the teams sentimental heroes.
It should also be noted that Jamison is a cheaper option than Stoudemire, although he brings much of the same benefits that Stoudemire boasts. In addition, the Cavs are able to retain Hickson, a player with a bright future that could help Cleveland for MANY years to come, and the cost was virtually NOTHING.
I do not care what anyone says about three-game losing streaks, that Jamison’s first appearance in a Cavaliers uniform resulted in an 0 for 12 performance from the field, that the chemistry of the Cavaliers team has been disrupted, or any of the other so-called negatives that all those doom-and-gloomers out there will harp on incessantly. The Cavaliers are a better team WITH Jamison than they are WITHOUT him. Likewise, they are better with Jamison than they are with Ilgauskas. The fact that they may wind up having both men on their roster is just the icing on what is hopefully a championship cake for the city of Cleveland!