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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Cavs' 2009 Season Provided Reasons for Hope, Reasons for Concern

The Cleveland Cavaliers stormed to the NBA's best regular season record (66-16), seemed to be invulnerable at home (39-2, including a meaningless late season loss during which the majority of their key players did not play) and swept through the first two rounds of the playoffs, which is impressive and rare no matter what one thinks of the relative quality of the Detroit Pistons and Atlanta Hawks. They seemed to be on course for a Finals showdown with the L.A. Lakers but then the Orlando Magic stunned the Cavs in game one of the Eastern Conference Finals and went on to eliminate Cleveland in six games.

Were the "real" Cavs the team that seemed unbeatable at times or were the "real" Cavs the team that fell to the Magic? In my newest CavsNews article, I attempt to answer that question, compare how Cleveland defended against Orlando with how the L.A. Lakers guarded Orlando in the NBA Finals and offer my take on whether the Cavs should acquire Shaquille O'Neal:

Cavs’ 2009 Season Provided Reasons for Hope, Reasons for Concern

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posted by David Friedman @ 7:06 PM

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4 Comments:

At Tuesday, June 16, 2009 7:48:00 PM, Anonymous Joel said...

The Cavs were built more to deal with a 'traditional' team like Boston than a weird hybrid like Orlando, but a couple of smart moves could change that. I think what they need is more athleticism on the wing and in the frontcourt. A big man who can single-cover Howard (Rasheed Wallace, warts and all, would be ideal in this regard) and a rangy swingman who can occasionally guard smaller PFs like Lewis (Ariza? Barnes?) should be priorities.

I'm with you on Mo Williams: if he plays to his usual standard I think Cleveland wins that series. If they decide he really can't be a legit second option, they have a major problem because it won't be easy to find that player elsewhere. For that reason I suspect they will bite the bullet on the Shaq trade. As a mitigating factor, he is in the last year of his contract so there's a limit to how much damage he can cause if things go south. :P

 
At Tuesday, June 16, 2009 11:32:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Joel:

If Sheed is still willing/able to play at a high level on at least a semi-consistent basis then he could indeed help the Cavs but I'm not sure that is the case at this stage of Sheed's career. Also, the Cavs have to be wary of giving up too much to get Sheed, because even though he could indeed help if the Cavs faced Orlando in the playoffs again Sheed also has a tendency to drift mentally, so the Cavs would still have to have enough productive players to be able to win on the nights when Sheed just isn't there. People seem to forget that the Cavs won 66 games by being a great all-around team that specialized in defense; they are most assuredly not a one man gang.

While it is possible that Shaq could help the Cavs, bringing him in smacks of desperation--and a Cavs team led by a young LeBron James that has already made it to the Conference Finals twice and the NBA Finals once hardly needs to be desperate.

 
At Wednesday, June 17, 2009 7:01:00 AM, Anonymous warsaw said...

To me, the problem with "standing pat" is that Illgauskas and Ben Wallace are going to be around 35 years old next year, and both are injury-prone and slower than average.

This is not a problem against many teams in the regular season, but it will be against the Lakers or Orlando, who have younger, faster and better big mans (Odom had his best game of the year in Cleveland).

And, while I like Varejao, He wouldn't be a starter for any other elite team (just like you say about Ariza)

 
At Wednesday, June 17, 2009 4:03:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Warsaw:

That is a valid point. I don't think that Wallace is a big part of their plans, though, and he may even retire. Z is obviously nearing the end of the line but he is still effective and he is a good pick and pop player. Putting Shaq in the low post will not work any better offensively with LeBron than it did with Nash in Phoenix. The Suns finally figured out that they needed a real big man to deal with Duncan, so I don't blame them for rolling the dice, but if the Cavs are going to replace Z it should be with a younger player or at least one better suited to go against Howard/Garnett, etc., not with a Shaq who is on his last legs.

Varejao actually was coming off of the bench until Wallace got hurt.

Again, I have no objection to the Cavs upgrading by adding a big or a 6-6/6-7 wing player but I think that they should not add Shaq for the reasons I explained in the article and I also think that they should be leery of breaking up their nucleus unless they are really getting a stud player (say, for instance, Chris Bosh) in return. The Cavs had the best record and, arguably, the best defense in the NBA over 82 games and that means that the supporting cast worked pretty well together.

 

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