Oh Glorious Day!
Posted by disappointmentzone on 21 February 2008
Rejoice be those who suffered through The Hughes Era only to escape into the warm embrace of a dominating interior defender, an able-bodied outside shooter, a cheap veteran who can provide a lift off the bench, and a promising young point guard!
Danny Ferry may have dug the Cavs into contract hell in the summer of 2005 when he signed Larry Hughes to that abomination of a contract. There is no doubt that the encyclopedia entry on The Contract Year will forever include a picture of Larry Hughes. But no longer will that entry also reference the idiotic general manager who fell for the inflated contract years numbers, ignoring the shaky past and dreaming of an unreachable future — and then offering a ridiculous contract with that future in mind.
Many general managers have signed players to outlandish contracts. Danny Ferry is no exception here. Where he gains his notoriety is dumping that outlandish contract on another team — a division rival no less! — and in return acquiring, well, another player signed to an outlandish contract, plus a few other attractive pieces. The key difference between Ben Wallace and Larry Hughes, though, is that Wallace can actually help the Cavs win whereas Hughes almost always helped the Cavs lose. So let’s talk about this trade in terms of where the Cavs made gains and where the Cavs lost ground.
Just so we are clear:
Cavs get: Ben Wallace, Wally Szcerbiak, Joe Smith, Delonte West, Second Round Draft Pick
Cavs lose: Larry Hughes, Drew Gooden, Cedric Simmons, Ira Newble, Donyell Marshall
Or, to put it more simply:
Larry Hughes –> Ben Wallace
Drew Gooden, Cedric Simmons, Ira Newble, Donyell Marshall –> Joe Smith, Wally Szcerbiak, Delonte West, Second Round Draft Pick
That’s really how you should look at these trades. Hughes and his contract are essentially replaced by Ben Wallace and his contract. Gooden et al are essentially replaced by the other guys. If you like both of those options then you should like this trade.
Now, more detailed thoughts…
* The Cavs improved their interior defense. With Wallace, Ilgausaks, and Varejao the Cavs have ample size, ample strength, and ample speed inside. Wallace is quick enough to pair with Ilgauskas inside and strong enough to pair with Varejao inside, meaning the Cavs have no bad interior defensive lineups. Wallace also provides the Cavs with an intimidating interior presence. He will never be the Charles Oakley to LeBron’s Micheal Jordan, but he’s about as close as you can get in the NBA today to that sort of tough-minded, tough-bodied defense. Teams will have to think twice before hacking at LBJ.
* With the improved interior defense comes improved overall defense. Gooden was always a spotty defender and Hughes had lost a lot on the defensive end since joining Cleveland three years ago. (Besides, it’s hard to defend someone when you’re wearing a suit on the bench, where Hughes found himself quite a bit.) Hughes gave the Cavs the benefit of being a bigger guard and neither Wally or Pavlovic will be able to truly replace him, but increasingly we’ve seen LeBron step up to take the hardest guard/forward defensive assignment. Three years ago losing Hughes would have definitely meant losing the Cavs’ best defense option for opposing guards and forwards. That’s not necessarily true anymore. Also, Delonte West is no joke as a defender.
* On offense the team can now redistribute the 10-15 usually unsuccessful shot attempts from Hughes among a cadre of quality shooters and scorers. With apologies to Daniel Gibson (and the self-proclaimed best shooter in the world, Damon Jones), Wally finally gives the Cavs the true shooter they’ve been looking to pair with LBJ for years. He should be able to free up some space for LeBron or punish teams for trying to double team him. Delonte West gives the Cavs a true point guard, something they’ve been looking to add for the last two years. West may ultimately end up being the best part of this trade.
* Wally is a free agent after next season so the Cavs will be able to shop him and his expiring contract for another compliment to LeBron.
* The Cavs still have Eric Snow and Damon Jones and their expiring contracts to shop this offseason or next season for another compliment to LeBron.
* Ben Wallace comes off the book in two years, which is also when Hughes was going to come off the books for the Cavs. There is no net loss here. Many of the rumors flying around last night had the Cavs acquiring someone with a terrible contract extending beyond two more years, someone like Vince Carter. That was taken to be the price the Cavs were going to have to pay to rid themselves of Larry Hughes. That not being the case should be applauded… and then studied closely because no one in their right mind would have thought it possible.
* One troubling aspect of this trade is that with fewer than 30 games remaining in the regular season the Cavs have just traded away 40% of their starting lineup. Slotting in one new player is usual. Slotting in two new starters is not. It’s not like Mike Brown as been around long enough to know how to deal with this.
* Of course, with all the injuries it’s probably fair to say that the Cavs have yet to have their ideal starting lineup and that replacing two more starters isn’t going to be a huge issue. The Cavs have been making due all season. This is no different.
* The EC is now:
That’s certainly an improvement on where things stood twelve hours ago. Based on that, this trade is a success.