OK, the more I think about it, the more I get it. I've shaken off the initial shock and am ready to give a sober assessment of the trade pulled off by Danny Ferry and the Cavs.
By now we all know what we get-got-from Drew Gooden. Great offense at times, excellent defense at times, and many lapses at both ends. I love Drew, but rarely does he dominate a whole game. That doesn't sound like a cog in a championship team to me. So he is replaced by Ben Wallace, who has few offensive tools but will be expected to shoot (read: dunk) only when LeBron and Z are double-teamed. What he provides is: constant hustle, rebounding, steals and blocked shots. Teamed with LeBron, Z, Anderson Varejao and newcomer Joe Smith, Wallace solidifies a mighty frontcourt. This crew will be hard to beat on the boards.
Oh yeah, and Wallace has a ring.
Another reason a Gooden for Wallace swap makes senses: Tony Parker had absolutely no fear in driving the lane in the finals. THAT is why the Cavs were swept. Think Ben Wallace would give Parker an easy path to the hole? No way. Wallace also reinforces the Cavs against the likes of Kevin Garnett, Dwight Howard, Rasheed Wallace and any other dominant big they may encounter. And in the playoffs when everything slows down and gets physical, the real value of the this frontcourt will emerge. Boston counters with KG, Paul Pierce, Kendrick Perkins, Leon Powe and Glen Davis. For the Pistons? It's Rasheed, Tayshaun Prince, Jason Maxiell, Antonio McDyess and Jarvis Hayes. Orlando trots out Howard, Adonal Foyle, Hedo Turkoglu, Rashard Lewis and Brian Cook. I'll take the Cavs' unit every time.
Perhaps the real coup here was bringing in Joe Smith, who probably deserves a place on the NBA all-underrated team. Smith is a better midrange shooter than Gooden, so he should account for Gooden's frontcourt scoring and then some. He'll also rebound and defend and generally be a great big off the bench.
Now, as to the Sonics imports: who would you rather have shooting the ball? Larry Hughes or Wally Szczerbiak? Who would you rather have running the point? Larry Hughes or Delonte West? Szczerbiak's 46% shooting replaces Hughes' unnerving 38%. West had 6 assists in his first game as a Cavs, matching Hughes' season high. West is a tough perimeter defender, something coach Mike Brown loves. Szczerbiak, along with Daniel Gibson and Damon Jones, will feast on open jumpers.
All in all the Cavs have toughened the interior defense and improved the outside shooting. In one fell swoop, Danny Ferry filled these gaps and got rid of Hughes' contract, one of the worst in franchise history. Look, the Cavs won a lot of games with Larry. He played hard and often played hurt. But the reality is: he missed a hell of a lot of games, and when he did play, he chucked major bricks. He rarely got to the line, was not a good passer, and, worst of all, wanted out of a team that went to the finals.
So I get it. I really do. In fact, I feel ready and willing to stamp this deal with the official McBone Seal of Approval: McB.
The Cavs have thirty games to get the pieces back and gel. Should be plenty. Now if they can just stay healthy...
The topic du jour is: who will emerge as the fifth starter on this ballclub? The competition is between Cliff Lee, who is the odds on favorite, Jeremy Sowers and Aaron Laffey. All three are southpaws, and all three have seen success as members of the Tribe pitching staff.
The buzz is that Lee has the best chance because, between 2004 and '06 he won 46 games. Last year he was tattooed to the tune of a 4-6 record and a 6.29 ERA before being demoted to AAA Buffalo. While I certainly hope he can find the stuff that made him an 18 game winner in 2005, I have more confidence in Jeremy Sowers, who has excelled at every level, including the majors, until a disastrous '07 campaign that found him in same Buffalo rotation as Lee. Apparently, though, Sowers has fixed the flaw in his delivery that was robbing him of velocity. Sowers was 7-4 as a rookie in 2006. He has a nice mound presence and a thinking man's approach to pitching. He also seems very amenable to coaching. Lee, on the other hand has not always been so agreeable, nor do I like how hittable he has been against lefties throughout his career. He is, however, 54-36 for his career and should not be written off just yet.
Laffey is the dark horse here. He filled in admirable when both Lee and Sowers were torched last year. He doesn't get rattled and he has a nice, heavy little breaking pitch. He doesn't throw hard, but seems to get a lot of ground ball outs, like a lefty Jake Westbrook.
So, look for Lee to win the spot, but not necessarily to keep it. Hence the opening day rotation should look something like this: C.C. Sabathia, Fausto Carmona, Jake Westbrook, Paul Byrd and Lee.
Even so, one or more of these pitchers will no doubt falter or get hurt, and the services of Sowers and/or Laffey will be called upon this season. The Tribe should be feeling pretty good about starting pitching.
Coco Crisp would like to be traded? Bring him back now!!! He is a major upgrade in left field over the platoon of Jason Michaels and David Dellucci. If not, Kenny Lofton is out there! Come on Mark Shapiro, spare any more of this failed outfieldplatoon experiment, for criminy's sake.
The Browns done real good when they signed RB Jamal Lewis to a three year deal. Hats off to both sides. The Browns didn't break the bank and Lewis realized how nice it is to play behind a terrific offensive line. He should be good for another 1,300 yards and 10 touchdowns or so.
Lewis is a punishing runner who will come to camp in great shape. If he gets hurt, the Browns have capable backs Jerome Harrison and Jason Wright ready to step in.