July 13: Cavs sign guard Anthony Parker to a two-year, $6 million contract
In the Eastern Conference Finals, the Magic exploited two glaring roster weaknesses for the the Cavs. Shaq's acquisition is aimed at addressing addressing one of them. But Orlando also exposed the Cavs' lack of tall, athletic swingmen who can make plays at both ends of the floor. The Cavs desperately needed upgrades over Pavlovic and Wally Szczerbiak, and the signing of 6'-6" Parker was the first step in improving Cleveland's non-LeBron wing game.
Risks: Parker wasn't Ferry's first choice. The Cavs turned to Parker when neither Ron Artest nor Trevor Ariza would take their full midlevel exception. Parker is a solid role player who starred in Europe between stints in the NBA, but he's 34. He contends that due to the fewer games played in the European season, he's been spared a couple seasons' worth of wear and tear on his body. But 34 is still 34, and he's going to have to work that much harder to keep up with the younger, faster players he'll be guarding.
Rewards: Age is the only real downside to Parker. He's a heady defender, good outside shooter, strong enough to drive the ball inside on occasion, and brings with him the veteran smarts gained from a long career in basketball. As a second- or third-option scorer, Parker is likely miscast. But as a jack-of-all-trades off the bench, he's an excellent fit. And all for significantly less than the Lakers and Rockets shelled out for Artest and Ariza, respectively.
July 17: Cavs sign Heat forward Jamario Moon, a restricted free agent, to a three-year offer sheet worth nearly $9 million. On July 24, the Heat declined to match the offer, officially sending Moon to the Cavs
Moon is the other piece of the Cavs perimeter improvement plan. Moon is 6'-8" and naturally plays small forward, but could play power forward against smaller lineups. With long arms and pogo stick legs, he can play taller than his height, and can make athletic plays around the basket. In an NBA career that has spanned just two years, he's already gained a reputation as a vicious dunker.
Risks: Moon didn't make his NBA debut until the age of 27. For six years following college, he lived a basketball vagabond life that included a stint with the Harlem Globetrotters. Like Parker, Moon owes his NBA career to the Raptors' willingness to take a chance on him. Unlike Parker, he was never drafted, hanging on in pro ball through his willingness to change uniforms and log air miles. In translation, that means he's always had NBA-level athletic ability, but it's been a long journey to attain an NBA-level skill set. At an age when most NBA players are beginning the back nine of their careers, Moon is still learning his NBA game.
For all his athletic ability, Moon still won't stuff a stat sheet. He's averaged nearly 27 minutes per game for his NBA career, but his scoring average stands at 7.8 points per game and his rebounds at 5.4 per game. He'll turn 30 next June, so it is logical to question how much longer he'll possess his celebrated vertical jump before Father Time starts to make withdrawals.
Rewards: Moon is a late bloomer, but now he's a late bloomer playing alongside LeBron -- and Moon should definitely play alongside LeBron, not just spell him as the backup small forward.
Moon is the closest thing to an athletic equal that LeBron now has on the roster. If the pair can learn to run together, they should benefit greatly from each other's size, speed and leaping ability. If Moon can maximize the scoring chances that LeBron makes for him, his scoring average could jump by several points per game. LeBron is used to flushing alley-oop passes, but with Moon on the floor, LBJ might actually get a chance to throw a few alley-oop lobs for a change.
August 12: Cavs sign forward Leon Powe to a two-year, $1.8 million deal
Powe is a rock-solid, hard working power forward with a critical flaw: his knees. In May, he had his third ACL reconstruction on his left knee, accompanied by a microfracture procedure. It's why the Celtics cooled considerably on one of the heroes of their 2008 NBA title run, allowing him to become an unrestricted free agent by not tendering him a qualifying offer. In turn, that's why Powe is now a member of the Cavs. He won't be ready for game action until February at the earliest.
Risks: Powe's contract is minimal risk, with the second year held by the Cavs as an option. If he bounces back, he could play himself right into the Cavs' future plans. But there is still risk involved. Powe's signing basically slammed the door on any chance of re-signing Joe Smith, who left for the Hawks, lured by the possibility of more playing time.
That leaves the Cavs to rely on Darnell Jackson and J.J. Hickson, who is still fighting through back problems, to battle for minutes as the fourth big man until Powe can return -- and no one can predict the state of Powe's battered knee upon his return.
Rewards: Powe is a big-game player, so if he's healthy, he's a major addition for the stretch run and playoffs. He'll likely never average more than eight points and five rebounds per game due to his knees and athletic limitations. But he seems to have a knack for pulling out a 20 and 10 game right when his team needs it the most.
The Celtics benefitted greatly from Powe's spotlight performances during the past two seasons. His 21-point outburst in Game 2 of the 2008 NBA Finals will live on in Celtics lore. Hopefully Powe brought his lucky leprechaun with him to Cleveland.
August 15: Cavs and forward Rob Kurz agree to a non-guaranteed contract
Kurz was a non-drafted find by the Warriors last season. He's a 6'-9" power forward with three-point range on his jumper, so he could find minutes alongside Shaq if he ends up in Cleveland -- which is probable, but not certain. Kurz will likely come to camp with the Cavs, but that could change if he somehow finds a team willing to offer him a guaranteed contract.
Risks: It would be a loss if Kurz signs elsewhere. In the battle for the fourth big man spot, Kurz would be a nice insurance policy on Hickson's back. He is the closest thing the Cavs would have to a "stretch four" -- an outside-shooting big man who can take some of the heat off the Cavs' frontcourt, which is stacked with bumpers, grinders, slashers and drivers who make their money close to the hoop.
Rewards: If you truly believe that a stretch four is a key ingredient in the Shaq championship formula, this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.