Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Mo Williams, No Problems

In the wake of the NBA Finals, it was clear the Cavs had two issues to address if they wanted another shot at Larry Obrien's trophy: (1) A legitimate scoring threat opposite LeBron and (2) An experienced point guard who could initiate Mike Brown's offense and create scoring opportunities for his teammates. In the first day teams can officially sign free agents, why haven't the Cavs been more active in recruiting such a player!? Danny Ferry says he's open to any transaction that will improve the team, and yet his main focus in free agency (at least according to the press) has been a (understandable) wait-and-see policy on restricted free agents Anderson Varejao and Sasha Pavlovic and talks with vetern non-impact players like Morris Peterson and Derek Fisher. Why hasn't Ferry made a stronger picth to Maurice Williams, who's only other suitors seem to be the Milwaukee Bucks (his former team) and the Miami Heat (who could only offer him the mid-level exception). With the NBA's salary cap figures released today, Williams is in line for a contract between $5-10 million a season, and will most likely sign for $7-8 million per. With the Memphis Grizzlies $8 million under the cap, the cost to keep Varejao or sign Williams are looking to be pretty comparable. If Ferry is serious about keeping both Varejao and Pavlovic, this means he could potentially have his choice of a Varejao/Pavlovic or Williams/Pavlovic combo for the SAME PRICE. Which option would put the Cavs in a better position to return to the Finals: Adding a young but experienced PG with start potential who averaged 17 pts and 5 assists last year, or keeping a fan-favorite, energizing big man who came off the bench to average 6 pts and 6 rebs for a team that's strength was rebounding AND who is never going to start as long as Drew Gooden (11 pts 8 rebs) is around? Gooden is an all around better player than Varejao and could certainly average a double-double if given more playing time. Look at the Cavs potential lineup scenarios with either Williams or Varejao:

With Varejao:
Starters: Larry Hughes, Pavlovic, James, Gooden, & Z
Bench: Varejao, Daniel Gibson, Shannon Brown, Donyell Marshall

With Williams:
Starters: Williams, Hughes, James, Gooden, Z
Bench: Pavlovic, Gibson, Brown, Marshall

Sure the Cavs would need to find another big man, but they could sign someone with comparable numbers for well below what Varejao is slated to make. Williams allows the Cavs to move Larry Hughes back to his natural position at SG (hopefully leaving the errant mid-range jumper behind him) and leaves them with an additional scoring threat off the bench (Pavlovic) to complement the developing Gibson (who is more SG than PG himself). Williams will chip in 15-20 pts a night, and all the Cavs lose is 6pts and 6rebs, some of which can be made up by Drew Gooden seeing more minutes. The addition of Williams would give the Cavs a dimension not yet seen in the LeBron era: A playmaking point guard to get James the ball, while at the same time taking a bit of the scoring load off his shoulders. What's even better about a potential Williams signing, is that he is the type of player who can push the tempo and get James the ball where he is his most unstoppable: in the open floor. Unless his market value somehow soars to $10 million per year, all the Cavs would lose in choosing Williams over Varejao is a back-up big man who at best is an offensive liability (Finals Game 3). Varejao was a great energy player for the Cavs last season, and one I have a personal investment in (I bought his navy blue away jersey for the '07 playoff run), but the fact remains that he is an offensively limited reserve who added to strengths the Cavs already possesed (defense, rebounding). Williams plays the Cavs weakest position (PG) and excels where the Cavs need the most help (offense). Mike Brown's system can turn any player into a good defender (Pavlovic shut down Vince Carter in the Nets series), but needs already strong offensive players to make something out of his Voodoo Offense (Brownanomics). Signing Williams, even at Varejao's expense, would launch the Cavs into the instant Eastern conference favorite again, and solidify the weaknesses exposed during the playoffs. Ferry needs to fend off the ghost of Jim Paxson that undoubtedly haunts his office, consult the VP of Common Sense, and make this move.

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