Boy was I wrong. Not just wrong, but utterly and phenomenally wrong. The Cavs not only made a deal before the trade deadline, but they dealt six of their players in so doing. In fact, what Danny Ferry achieved is nothing short of the proverbial blockbuster.
So, what exactly did he achieve? Three teams, including the Bull and the Sonics were involved. Here's the rundown as concerns the Cavaliers:
Cavs deal: G Larry Hughes, G Ira Newble, G Shannon Brown, F Drew Gooden, F Cedric Simmons and F Donyell Marshall.
Cavs recieve: C Ben Wallace, G Delonte West, F Joe Smith and F Wally Szczerbiak.
While I can't pretend that I'm ecstatic about this trade, it does qualify as, um, interesting. The centerpiece, of course is Ben Wallace, erstwhile defensive enforcer and master rebounder. Big Ben is a long way removed from his days of low post domination in Detroit. He's 33 and appears, to my eye anyway, to be running out of gas. Never a shooter by any stretch of anyone's imagination, his shooting percentage has hit rock bottom this year at a very disturbing 37%. That's disturbing considering that Wallace scores predominantly on dunks. Wallace never seemed to hit it off in Chicago from day one. He clashed with coach Scott Skiles over, of all things, a headband. While he helped the Bulls into the second round of last season's playoffs, his production never matched what he achieved in Detroit. And yet, and yet...if Wallace found the b-ball culture in Chicago not to his liking, perhaps he'll like Cleveland better. Perhaps he'll be motivated playing next to a superstar who is hellbent on getting a ring.
Wallace bring obvious toughness and playoff experience, and the benefit of knowing the Detroit Pistons roster, barely changed since his time there, up and down. That will help come playoff time. He will bring a defensive presence where Drew Gooden too often fell asleep. And, while he hasn't Gooden's soft touch around the hoop, nor his effective baby hook, nor his steady free throw shooting, he is by far the superior shot blocker, man-on-man and help defender. He will certainly match Gooden's offensive rebounding, a trademark of the team as a whole.
And let's not forget that he has a ring.
The big questions marks, though, are really, really big. How does Wallace, a center, fit in with center Zydrunas Ilgauskas? Can Wallace and Anderson Varejao play on floor together, or will their respective offensive deficiencies make such a tandem impossible? Does Wallace have enough left in his tank to push the Cavs deep into the next few postseasons? Does his bulky contract prohibit the Cavs from improving further in the short term?
I really dunno.
Then there's Wally Szczerbiak (takes me ten minutes to type that name), coming in from Seattle. This is a nice pickup. He's got a fat contract, but his shooting is lights out, which is always nice when you're running with LeBron James. He gives the Cavs explosive offense on a bench that already features Daniel Gibson and Damon Jones.
Delonte West joins his Sonics teammate Szczerbiak. I've never been a fan of Delonte, but I suppose I have to be now. He can't shoot, except for an occasional three, and he's not a great passer, but the Cavs need someone who can reliable handle the point whose name is not Eric Snow. Maybe West will finally find a niche in the NBA. He will defend, and that is what has been sorely lacking this season for the Cavs.
Joe Smith is a solid veteran forward, who, like Wallace, will not commit Gooden-like boners on defense. He's a dependable rebounder and mid-range jumpshooter who is a significant upgrade over Donyell Marshall. And if he doesn't work out, his contract is up this year anyway. Let's hope the presence of Wallace and Smith means we won't see any more of Dwayne Jones, at least not when Varejao returns.
Although Larry Hughes was playing much better of late, Danny Ferry pulled off a big coup in shedding his obscene contract. Hughes has been hurt again and again in his 2+ seasons here, and it's safe to assume he will be hurt again soon. He never fulfilled his promise in a Cavs uniform and too often was a malcontent in Mike Brown's system. He played hard and helped the team win a lot of games, but ultimately, the experiment is mercifully over.
Drew Gooden is perhaps the bigger loss. His low post scoring cannot be accounted for by Ben Wallace. Still, Gooden was clearly not the best 4 on the team. He was the starter, but Anderson Varejao finishes games for a reason.
It seems like Ira Newble had been on the Cavs since sometime in the early eighties. He was constantly injured. While filling in admirably at guard and forward this season, he will not be missed.
Nor will Donyell Marshall, whose shooting was never all it was cracked up to be when he signed a four year contract in 2005. He did lead all bench players in rebounding in 2005-06, but he's a few cheeseburgers and shakes removed from those days.
Shannon Brown, if you ever want to have a career in this league, learn to pass more and dribble less. Good luck.
Cedric Simmons? Who knows what he can do in this league. As of now, he's not much of a player.
Ultimately, it seems that the Cavs have bolstered their frontline and outside shooting. They shouldn't miss the players they dealt too much, but really, everything is riding on Ben Wallace and his 33 year old body. Overall, I don't feel comfortable rewarding Danny Ferry with a McBone Seal of Approval. Not yet anyway.
Wait and see.