Leave it to the Cavaliers front office to ruin my last pre-Lockout post. I was all prepped to talk about the team’s lineup following last week’s draft (it featured a bit espousing an Irving, Beardly, Jamison, Thompson, Hickson lineup and talked about how the team’s frontcourt going forward, while log-jammed, was log-jammed with a versatile bunch of bigs, all of whom could play the 4 or the 5 – Jamison excluded here – and that the team was willing to do what I cleverly referred to as “wait and Gee” on its wings – the pun referring to bringing back Alonzo Gee (a move I still espouse) and then waiting on better options to become available).
Well, with just hours left to work a deal that could pass through under the current CBA, Cavaliers GM, Chris Grant, found his better option. He traded J.J. Hickson (a.k.a. The Hickson, a.k.a. Hicksonmania, a.k.a. … seriously, I’m sitting here trying to think of anything else anyone called him and the best I’m getting is “J.J. Miss-Some” which, I’ll be the first to admit, shows an embarrassing lack of effort and imagination) to the Sacramento Kings for 6’9” forward Omri Casspi (a.k.a. … well, um, nothing that I know of) and a protected (or, if we’re being honest, more well-guarded than the Pope) first round pick.
Later, in a conference call with the media, Grant sited his long-held interest in Casspi’s game, as well as the opportunity to achieve greater roster balance (i.e. make room for a player – Tristan Thompson – they like better than the one they already had – Hickson) and continued financial flexibility (i.e. rhey have a year longer to anticipate Casspi’s crippling contract demands than they had with Hickson).
But when you come right down to it, Grant gave up on a 6’9” player with career averages of 9.1 PTs and 5.7 REBs in favor of a player the same height with career averages 9.5 PTs and 4.4 REBs who is under his rookie contract for another three years and a first round draft pick that they will eventually use in some other trade. Call me a pushover. I’m into it.
In fact, Chris Grant is running a hot streak with me. Fresh off talking myself into the Tristan Thompson pick (hey, if you’ve got the guy rated #3 on your board and he’s available at #4, you take him, right? Isn’t all the Thompson backlash just “draft the best player available unless you already have a player at that position who drifts mentally, defensively, falls in love with his jump shot and thinks he’s our team’s best player (aside: he thinks it because he’s been told that … so, that’s not on him), then you draft for need”) – and I am on board with Tristan Thompson, Grant turns his starting power forward who – and let’s be clear about this now – will most likely never reach his full potential (or what we have perceived as his full potential) and, in fact, developmentally is probably at about what he’s going to contribute to a basketball team for a player who can actually hit a jump shot, rebounds fairly well for a small forward and has people constantly using words like “tough,” “mean streak,” and “fire” when describing him. Great. Bring it. Grant is taking clear steps to bring in players who are tougher, better leaders, and better defenders than what he had on the roster a year ago. Of course, Antawn Jamison is still on the roster, so we still suck defensively … but we suck less. Your 2011-12 Cavaliers: We suck less! Thank you, Chris Grant.
Now, I realize that I’m saying a bunch of stuff about J.J. Hickson that I would never have said if he were still on our team. But it’s all stuff that I very quickly believed to be true – which probably means I knew it to be true all along. And I liked watching him play. Motivated J.J. was a joy to watch – he could out-athleticize almost anyone in the NBA … and then you wouldn’t hear his name for a quarter and a half until he showed back up at the end of a tight game bricking jump shots.
What this means for the Cavs: They have a roster that makes more sense. We can probably pencil in Casspi as the starting 3 (although maybe if they resign Gee, they start him because he’s a more athletic defender next to…), defensive sieve, Antawn Jamison, will probably start at the 4 – but don’t expect him to get starters minutes – Varajeo will be our starting center and I’m pretty convinced that we’ll see an Irving-Beardly starting backcourt sooner than later. Maybe you start Thompson at the 4 and Casspi at the 3 to have an inside-out presence that could benefit by having two gifted passers together in the backcourt – or maybe your bench is Ramon, Boobie, Casspi, and some combination of Thompson, Samardo Samuels and Semih Erden (You know what? I’m smelling another trade and it’s got Ramon Sessions written all over it.). That’s not a perfect team. But it’s got some parts. It’s got some depth. It’s got some guys who can do some things on the basketball court. All we can ask, really.
What this means for Sacramento: Jesus… I mean … this could be ugly. No wonder the Kings protected their first-rounder so long. I can’t imagine this move working for them. You’re telling me that a Jimmer-Tyreke-Salmons-Hickson-Cousins team works? I certainly can’t see them stopping anyone … not a single player … I could score on that team. But I just answered my own question. I would not want to coach them, but I will sure as hell watch them.