The NBA all-star break has come and gone and the season will continue for the Cleveland Cavaliers tomorrow night at Washington against the Wizards.
It’s the first of a tough 14 game stretch for the wine and gold which will likely determine whether or not they can finish the season as the #2 or #3 seed in the Eastern Conference.
It was a quiet trade deadline for GM David Griffin because he did all of his heavy lifting in January, curing much of what ailed the Cavs by getting Timofey Mozgov, J.R. Smith, and Iman Shumpert basically for Dion Waiters and a first round draft pick.
Those two deals seemed to have turned the season around for the wine and gold, who responded by winning 14 of their last 16 games.
So, the big moves made today, in which 37 players changed teams, were made a month ago by Griffin, transforming his team instantly, and correcting the moves made during the off-season (except for getting LeBron James and Kevin Love), which failed.
The bad news is the Cavs still have two weaknesses. The good news is that they involve the ninth and tenth men in coach David Blatt’s rotation, an extra big man and another point guard.
The loss to Chicago right before the break demonstrated Cleveland can only go three deep at the center and power forward spots, and if someone is missing (like Love that night with an eye injury) or one of them get into foul trouble (like Mozgov did), Blatt’s alternative is to use James Jones, a three-point specialist, at the #4, or dust off Brendan Haywood, who it appears has nothing left in the tank except his favorable contract.
That means Griffin is left to go after one of the big men who could get a buyout after being traded.
The biggest candidate would Kendrick Perkins, dealt by Oklahoma City to Utah today. The 6’10”, 280 pound center has plenty of playoff experience with 135 games, including three trips to The Finals.
Perkins would clog the middle, and although he is limited offensively, could give Blatt another defensive minded post presence. And he would only need to play around 10 minutes per night.
The Clippers are said to also be interested, as Perkins played for Doc Rivers in Boston, but Cleveland would seem to present a better chance to play in June.
Despite Atlanta’s play thus far, many experts still expect the Eastern Conference to come down to the Cavaliers and the Bulls, and with Chicago having Joakim Noah, Paul Gasol, and Taj Gibson, it would serve the Cavs well to have another experience big man to battle the Bulls’ trio.
JaVale McGee, traded to Philadelphia today, would be another possibility, but the Sixers are said to be keeping the oft-injured big man. He has only played 22 games over the last two seasons, but two years ago averaged 9.1 points and almost five boards a night in 18 minutes.
As for a point, the Cavs can probably afford to stay with Matthew Dellavedova, because James is the primary ball handler, and it would be seamless to use LeBron along with Shumpert and Smith on the floor together with Love and Mozgov or Thompson.
In fact, that group would make the wine and gold very long defensively.
Most of the top teams in the standings did the same as Cleveland today, that is to say stand pat. Griffin was proactive and re-shaped his squad a month ago, giving them a 30 day head start on the teams than made moves today.
Hopefully, that pays off when spring arrives.