You have to be a big fan of the move the Cavaliers made on draft day regardless of how much Shaquille O'Neal has left in the tank or how long his tenure in Cleveland turns out to be.
Personally, I love the deal. The monetary difference is negligible, the player received is simply better and more effective than the players sent to Phoenix and if it doesn't work out or if disaster strikes before the NBA trade deadline next winter you still have the biggest expiring contract in the game to deal.
From just an on-court perspective how can you argue that what's left of Shaq is not more effective than the decomposing game and physical status of Ben Wallace and the tease of Sasha Pavlovic's length and athleticism that never manifested itself as an asset where it mattered most?
O'Neal averaged nearly 18 points and over 8 rebounds per night for Phoenix in 30 minutes per game and he did so, for the most part, in an up and down the court system that didn't really suit his game. He also blocked 1.4 shots per game and, at age 37, is healthier overall than Wallace.
Wallace was an imposing presence on the court but that was in large part due to a reputation earned years before he joined the Cavaliers. Big Ben average fewer points (2.9), rebounds (6.5) and blocks (1.3) than Shaq did last year.
Pavlovic just never took the next step in Cleveland and it wasn't completely from lack of consistent playing time. He could dazzle you one minute and befuddle you the next. There are reports that he may not even head to Phoenix. The Suns may buy him out and not even have him report.
Lacking a true low post physical presence the Cavs went out and traded a couple of spare parts for a bona fide load in the middle. O'Neal can lean on opposing centers and wear them down and should fit like a glove in the middle of the Cavs defense. Offensively he's smart enough and has enough left in his legs to truly benefit from LeBron James passing and slashing ability.
Add to all of that the big man's pure entertainment value and it's hard to find any criticism for this deal at all. Unless you consider that the deal could have potentially been done 4 months ago in exchange for the corpse of Wally Szczerbiak. You know, when it could have impacted the recently concluded Cavaliers season. That's still a bit of a raw area for a lot of Cavalier fans.
More to Come
I should know better by now than to watch and follow the various professional drafts. I sat through Thursday's NBA draft with high hopes that the Cavaliers would be an active player in trades and trying to potentially move up for an impact player. And when Pitt's Sam Young fell to the Cavs spot at #30 Thursday I, along with everyone else following along at home, were hoping he'd be the Cavaliers selection.
The Cavs had two big, glaring needs entering the draft: a post player who could hang and bang with the NBA's biggest bodies and an athletic, long-armed wing player who could shoot and defend. The Cavs filled the post player need with an experienced Hall of Fame center in O'Neal and had Young fall into their laps.
I knew there was trouble the moment David Stern stumbled to the podium and fought himself with the pronunciation of the Cavs selection. ‘Sam Young' just isn't difficult to say. And when Stern finally mumbled the name Christian Eyenga from the Congo I nearly choked on my soft drink and fell out of my chair. It's never reassuring when ESPN delays in bringing up your pick's picture and highlights and it's even worse when those highlights are dark and grainy.
But a lot of things are clearer with a night's sleep and the chance to think about them. This selection was no different. The Cavs need to win now. They apparently felt that their ability to do so was not helped anymore by Sam Young than it was by selecting Danny Green out of North Carolina with their second round pick. Their choice of Eyenga was made with the future and present (and to some extent their checking account balance) in mind.
They can hide Eyenga overseas and let him develop while they see if Green can make the team as Pavlovic's replacement. If Green can, great, he makes a pittance in doing so while adding the shooting ability and defensive potential the Cavs crave. If not, they've laid out little in the way of guaranteed money for this draft class.
The choice was never between Eyenga and Young but rather between Young and Green and they played the salary game as well as a hunch that one of them would be available at #46. I have no idea if either of their selections will work out. But I see the Cavs brass thinking and working.
What is clear is the Cavs are not finished building the 2009-2010 version of their roster. They know they need to appease LBJ and win now with James able to walk away after this season and Shaq playing out a one year deal. You typically don't win right away with draft picks so the Cavs will seek to round out their roster with an experienced wing player.
We'll know soon enough who that is and whether they played their cards correctly.
We Hardly Knew Ye
The highest praise I can offer Mark DeRosa is to simply say he's a ballplayer. He can play any number of positions adequately and he hits regardless of which position he's playing. After a miserable start that helped contribute to burying the Tribe at the outset of the season DeRosa came on strong in May and June and got his numbers up to a respectable .270 average with 13 HRs and 50 RBI. He was on pace to hit close to 30 HRs and drive in over 110 runs. That's a significant contribution.
It was that type of production and versatility, combined with a contract that makes him a free agent at he end of the year, that made trading him both possible and necessary.
DeRosa was acquired when the Indians were still under the impression they could compete for a championship. It didn't take long to figure out their optimism was misplaced. So DeRosa was shipped to St. Louis on Saturday for highly regarded relief pitcher Chris Perez and a player to be named later. That PTBNL is also allegedly one of three higher ranked Cardinal prospects that the Indians have two months to watch and select.
This is what passes as excitement for fans of a floundering franchise. You know it's late June or July when your attention turns to maximizing the haul for viable and desired major leaguers. That's what is frustrating about this franchise. It's like ‘Groundhog Day' every season under this regime. If past is prologue we'll see a rebound of sorts from the club and they will fight back to respectability.
Then next April we can watch Eric Wedge bring Mark Shapiro's talent north for another season of high hopes and expectations that will, for whatever reason, fall short. Then we'll start discussing what Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez might bring terms in terms of future talent.
Really looking forward to that.
On the field this weekend the Indians lost two of three to the Cincinnati Reds. They're still blazing trails to new lows with each loss as they've now sunk to 15 games under .500.
I have two words for the ownership of this club: organizational enema. Make sure you don't skimp on the tubing or the containers. There's a lot of crap to get rid of.
It could be a (sometimes lighthearted) look at the last 45 years or so of Cleveland sports and the reasons for ‘the suck'. Could be that we're looking to bring it to you between the holiday season and March 2010.