Created on Thursday, 09 July 2009 Written by MATT HAMMOND
LeBron James wants to win an NBA title. The Cavaliers first must worry about keeping pace in the Eastern Conference.
As most of the big names in NBA’s free agency market have been plucked off the board, the Cavs have fallen behind several Eastern foes in the battle to become the conference’s most talented team.
In the last week, the Detroit Pistons have reached deals with guard Ben Gordon and forward Charlie Villanueva, the Celtics grabbed center Rasheed Wallace and Orlando made a deal to acquire guard/forward Vince Carter.
All three teams made themselves considerably better in those deals. The Pistons made the biggest splash by grabbing Gordon and Villanueva and look to be contenders again in the East.
Wallace is still an impact player around the basket and gives the Celtics another dangerous offensive and defensive threat to go with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo. Talk about a scary good starting lineup.
The Cavaliers had all kinds of problems dealing with Orlando’s athleticism in the Eastern finals this year. Although Hedo Turkoglu left to sign with Toronto, the Magic are even more athletic now with the addition of Carter.
Though he’s not getting any younger, Carter is still an explosive offensive player. He should fit in nicely with Rashard Lewis and Dwight Howard. Guarding those three players is not going to be much fun for the Cavs and everyone else next winter.
In addition to seeing the Pistons, Magic and Celtics add big names, the Cavs have watched as several other impact players on the market have gone elsewhere. There was hope that Cleveland would be able to land Ron Artest or Antonio McDyess to beef up the front court.
However, Artest picked the Lakers and McDyess joined the Spurs. Another option, free agent forward Trevor Ariza, is going to the Rockets.
In the race to add key new members, the Cavaliers have been left at the starting line. Trading for Shaquille O’Neal was a nice start, but too many big-time players got away.
According to several media reports, Cleveland is close to re-signing forward Anderson Varejao. In addition, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported Wednesday that the Cavs are in the process of signing veteran guard Anthony Parker, who averaged 10 points per game last season for Toronto.
Although Varejao and Parker are respectable players, Cleveland has not done enough to keep pace with the powerhouse teams in the East and the rest of the NBA.
Cleveland still lacks an athletic inside player to go with Shaq, Varejao and Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Shaq and Ilgauskas have been injury plagued in recent years. Varejao is a gritty defensive player, but is limited offensively. And I still don’t see anyone on the roster who will be able to successfully guard an athletic center like Dwight Howard.
As for Parker, he is a good outside shooter, but he’s 34-years-old and nothing more than a role player. The Cavs have enough role players. They need more elite level talent.
In a recent ESPN.com fan poll, the Cavaliers were ranked as having the best front office in the NBA. General manager Danny Ferry and his partners now have their work cut out for themselves to prove they are worthy of that ranking.
Next season is a make or break one for Ferry and the Cavaliers’ franchise. LeBron James, the player the whole team is built around, is going to be a free agent after next year.
If the Cavs take a step backward next season and suffer an early exit from the postseason, James may want out of Cleveland in order to have a better chance elsewhere to win a coveted NBA championship ring. Losing James would be a disaster of epic proportions in Cleveland.
The Cavaliers do have great team chemistry and have milked that for everything it is worth. However, the teams with the most talent often win out. Cleveland sports fans have become used to seeing their sports teams get close, but fall short of championships. Unless Ferry can find another weapon somewhere, it looks like the Cavs will continue to do the same.