The Cavs were swept by the Spurs last night. No big surprise there. The Spurs, as they demonstrated in the first three games (and the entire season there unto), are clearly a superior team. For starters, the Spurs have players who can shoot well. So what do the Cavs need to do this off season in order to be in a position to win at least one NBA Finals game? Here’s a quick list:
* Bring in an offensive coordinator whose job will be to oversee the entire offensive scheme the Cavs run next season. Mike Brown should have total control over the defense — he’s clearly a wizard in this area — but limited control over the offense. He’s still young enough (and one hopes wise enough) that he should be willing to play ball with delegating some authority to another coach.
* Bring in a shooting guru to teach LeBron James proper shooting form. Anyone with any basketball sense and working eyes can clearly see that LBJ’s form is terrible. I have no idea how he’s made it through four seasons without anyone correcting his form, but now is clearly the time. Just look at Tony Parker. When Parker entered the league he had a terrible jumper. Then in 2005 the Spurs hired a shooting coach. In 2007 Parker is nearly unstoppable on offense because he can consistently live make mid-range jumpers. Being able to do so only opens up more room for him to get inside, where he is lethal. The same goes for Wade, who is best known for his acrobatic dunks and layups, but whose games actually centers on his ability to kill teams from 18 feet. LBJ is getting by right now on pure innate ability. Just think of how good he could become if he added skill to that list.
* Speaking of shooting, Larry Hughes hesitates on the top of his jumper and snaps his wrist way too hard. He does this on free throws, too, for reasons passing understanding. He would benefit from working with a shooting coach. So would Daniel Gibson. He has decent form but his shoot lacks the sort of arc required to be consistently accurate. He also needs to work on a running teardrop shot (what used to be Parker’s bread and butter). It’s fun to watch him jump against the taller players in the league, but it’s not a sound strategy for long-term success.
* Pavlovic needs to enroll in LBJ’s Finishing School. Pavs is almost the opposite of LBJ in that Pavs can shoot quite well and has the athletic ability to get to the rim, only he lacks the skill required for finishing once he getst here. Strength is probably also an issue here — not only upper body strength, which seems obvious, but lower body strength. He just doesn’t explode off the ground very well. That makes finishing much harder.
* Somehow, someway, get rid of: Hughes, Snow, Jones, and Marshall. Their contracts and unproductive basketball play really hurt the team.
* Somehow, someway, sign: Pavlovic and Varejao. Varejao might have played himself into a smaller contract than he was in line to receive entering the playoffs by furthering his reputation as a flopper and a maverick on the offensive end. Pavlovic probably played himself into a larger contract. I would focus more on trying to keep Pavlovic because he’s a more well-rounded player, but active big men are hard to find. Locking both into contracts would be a boon. Signing one would be nice. Failing on both would be terrible.
* Somehow, someway, bring in: a point guard. I am not of the opinion that the Cavs need to brake the bank this off season attempting to sign a Billups-type PG. Frankly there are no PGs available this year who blow my hair back, mostly because signing any of them will require a Hughes-like contract. I would be patient and try to lure a second-tier PG, one who can make a mid-range jumper and whose best asset is basketball IQ. Why? Because Agent Zero is opting out of his contract next season and if I were Danny Ferry I would do everything in my power to sing Arenas. The Cavs can’t afford another hefty contract this upcoming season (unless Hughes is traded) but it is entirely within the realm of possibilities that, with a few savvy trades, the team could be in a position to sign Arenas in 08. If you aren’t scoring at home, that would give the Cavs with one season with LBJ and Arenas, which should be enough to entice The Chosen One to re-up with the Cavs.
Not signing a Headline Point Guard his off season would also further Gibson’s development, which would make him a valuable asset since he’s rookie contract expires after next year. If the Cavs could lock him up before then to a reasonably long-term deal (3 years) at a fair price all of a sudden the team has another trading chip. Of course, this is assuming that Gibson’s development stays on track. But I don’t think that’s a huge assumption given what we know about Gibson.
* Further expand the team’s international scouting. If there’s one thing the Spurs have made clear it’s that foreign-born players are not novelties. The Cavs need to be ahead of the curve on this.