The Disappointment Zone

Musings from a Cleveland sports fan

WWJD?

Posted by disappointmentzone on 7 February 2007

The best argument in favor of Danny Ferry is “what would you have done instead?” OK. Here we go.

First, I wouldn’t have signed Larry Hughes. Of all the moves Ferry has made, bringing in Hughes with such a lucrative contract was the biggest mistake. Ferry gave Hughes borderline All-Star money even though Hughes is not a borderline All-Star. I’m not sure if Ferry was aware of the sort of career Hughes had had until that point, or that the last season before he signed his new contract was his — gasp! — contract year, but about all that can be said in this regard is that Ferry seemed to think that paying Hughes the money of an All-Star would turn Hughes into an All-Star. Wishful thinking is usually unproductive, but in the case of Hughes it has greatly hindered the team. (1) If Ferry had done more than just glance at a boxscore Hughes’s faults would have become apparent. It doesn’t take any sort of complex statistical analysis to see that Hughes has always been an inefficient scorer and that, outside of defense, he has never really excelled in any area. Even defensively Hughes is a much better ball hawk than shut-down defender. LBJ is a ball hawk. That position was filled. What the team needed was a shut-down defender. Watching Eric Snow guard the Vince Carters of the league last year pretty well demonstrated Hughes’s faults defensively. So move #1 was to not sign Hughes.

Who to sign in his place? Ideally that would have been Joe Johnson, but there was pretty much no chance of that happening. Ray Allen and Michael Redd both opted to stay home. And after that the unrestricted SG free agent list gets pretty slim. But the team could have found a stop-gap SG, such as Raja Bell. (2) Bell ended up signing with the Suns for $24 million over five years. Bell is about as productive as Hughes, but is a better long distance shooter and better lock-down defender, so whatever he lacks in overall productivity he might have been able to make up for in being a better fit for the team. He also would have been $36 million dollars cheaper. Even if the team had to out bid the Suns, it’s hard to believe that the bidding would have climbed to $60 million. And it’s possible that the team could have offered Bell equal money but over a shorter contract — what NBA player wouldn’t want that?? — which would have set the team up for being in a position to make another big signing (or two) right before LBJ’s second contract would expire and would have given them a lot more flexibility along the way to improve the team should there be a tragic injury or something. (3)

Next, I would have signed Donyell Marshall. Of the people Ferry brought in only Marshall has had much of a positive impact. Ferry gave him a lot of money — I don’t remember the circumstances of Marshall’s signing, so that’s all I’ll say about Marshall.

I would not have given Damon Jones $16 million over four years. That’s a lot of money for a journeyman whose best quality is that he can shoot threes. If he could run an offense or play defense, then this would be another story.

As for Ilgauskas: Ferry drove up the price. I think the team signed Z for too much money and part of that is Ferry’s fault. That said, signing Z for a bit less (total contract) or more (per year) but over fewer years that would have been much easier to swallow. The biggest problem for the Cavs right now RE: Z is that he is not being used well by Mike Brown. Not only does this hurt the team right now, but it’s also damaging Z’s trade value.

Of course, this last gripe falls on Mike Brown. I’ll deal with him soon.

1: I am not arguing that signing Hughes was necessarily a bad idea. Granted, Hughes is not the sort of running mate that compliments LBJ — for starters, Hughes can shoot — but if Ferry had been able to sign Hughes for far less than he did I would have had no problems with the signing. It’s not Hughes per say so much as his contract. But Hughes’s play sure does reinforce the extent to which the problem can be placed on his shoulders. And it was probably impossible to sign Hughes to a four year $16 million contract.

2: Hughes did not help the Cavs make the playoffs last season (it’s been said that the team needed to sign Hughes because making the playoffs was important for keeping LBJ). Until Hughes both stays healthy and plays at least average basketball, there is no argument to be made that a stop-gap SG would have hurt the team’s chances of making the playoffs last season, thus putting into jeopardy the chance of resigning LBJ. Flip Murray is a stop-gap SG. The Cavs made the playoffs last season.

3: There was no way for Ferry to foresee LBJ opting for a shorter contract when he re-upped with the team this past summer. But the contract is not radically short. Ferry had to be figuring that 2009-10 would be right around the time that he’d have to make another big push in the market.

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4 Responses to “WWJD?”

  1. Haze said

    ‘Hughes is not the sort of running mate that compliments LBJ — for starters, Hughes can shoot — ”

    ah-HA! Victory is mine!

    :)

  2. Ben said

    Marshall: I’m OK with this signing, even though he’s seemingly declined over the past few years.

    Jones: a bit overpaid but A) the Cavs needed 3 point shooters and he did just start on a team that made the Eastern Conference Finals. 4 mil a year isn’t great, but as far as bad contracts are concerned, 4 mil isn’t that bad.

    Zydrunas: Was Ferry bidding against himself? Probably. But again, NBA big men get overpaid and at least Z is productive.

    Hughes: Hughes stinks. He’s overpaid and has basically been a bust. It’s obvious he’s frustrated out there. I’m not a big Raja Bell guy; I think he’s mostly a produce of Steve Nash and the Suns system. Would a stop gap guy have been a better fit? Right now it looks like it, but I still can’t see Ferry coming back from that offseason saying “Look LeBron, we got you Raja Bell, Damon Jones and Donyell Marshall. We’re serious about winning, please re-sign with us” I think they had to make a splash.

    I think a big part of this is Mike Brown and his offense and player rotations. Hughes and LeBron log too many minutes, he makes Hughes a spot up shooter, he’ll go long stretches without calling a play for Z and he yanks around the minutes of his bench players. Part of me wonders how these guys would look with a coach that knew anything about offense.

  3. The thing is, I don’t think Ferry had to make the re-sign pitch to LBJ in the summer of 2005. If last season proved anything–and this is a point I tried to make in my post–the team won without help from Larry Hughes. What matters more than splashy signings is winning. Hughes hasn’t done much to help the team win.

    I like Bell’s defense. A lot. That’s not the product of Nash. Neither is his career shooting numbers (well, those are a little bit the product of Nash). I don’t think Bell is a superstar but I do think he’s much closer in ability to Hughes than their respective contracts would indicate. If anything he’s certainly better than Flip Murray.

    What I’d like to see is someone say to LBJ: “My job is to manage the team. Your job is to play basketball. If I do my job and you do your job we’ll be just fine.” I realize a certain degree of pandering is necessary, but I wouldn’t be signing the Larry Hugheses of the world to $60M contracts just because LBJ wants them.

    Mike Brown is having problems, I agree. Hughes should never be allowed to shoot from outside 12 feet with more than five seconds remaining on the shot clock. NEVER. It’s not called a cold streak if it’s lasted your entire career. I see Hughes shot selection as mostly his fault. What’s obvious is that any player can hijack the offense (this is as much on Brown as it is on any player). LBJ does this fairly often. When Hughes does this he dribbles around the perimeter and then launches a 20 footer. Those shots are on Hughes.

  4. Evan Farrar said

    The worst, and I mean, the worst decision of Danny Ferry was to sign Z. The Jordan Era bulls proved with a player like Lebron you do not need a big, or even remotely dominant, center. Ferry tied up too much money in an absurdly long contract for Z after Z had arguably the worst playoff run in Cavalier history. They should have dealt him to NY when they had the chance. Danny Ferry has created just what he was as a player: a soft, overpaid, team which doesn’t scare anyone.

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