The Cavs took 2 steps up with the trade for C Shaquille O’Neal. Most of the experts are saying that Shaq won’t impact the Cavs that much. That is both true and false. But then they threw away their 1st round pick by drafting Christian Eyenga of the Congo via Spain. One step WAY back.
False: The thing that Shaq gives the Cavs is an inside scorer. Shaq is also a better passer than almost any other C in the league. When the Cavs get the ball inside and the D begins to collapse on him, he can pass to the perimeter for a 3 point shot. That will work if anyone other than LeBron James is capable of hitting a 3 in the playoffs. Mo Williams was brought in to be the other outside scorer and take some pressure off LeBron. That worked well in the regular season and the first two rounds of the playoffs. However, in the series against Orlando, Mo became one of the statues standing watching LeBron take on the entire Magic team. Add to that the fact that Mo couldn’t have hit the Mississippi River from the middle of a bridge and the Cavs get blown out of the playoffs.
The older C Zydrunas Ilgauskas gets the farther away from the basket he seems to play. Over the last couple of years, no one doubled Z. And most of his points have come from 10 feet and out. He has not been an inside scoring force that LeBron needs. He has never been physical. Given the ability of Shaq to catch the ball and score inside, he is a major improvement in the middle over Z.
True: The addition of Shaq does nothing to help pick and roll D which was half the reason that the Cavs lost to the Magic. The Cavs needed the addition of one more outside shooting threat that can also play D against the opponent PF or SF with some quickness. Don’t even think that Cleveland can play Z at the PF against teams like the Magic. Forward Richard Jefferson that was traded to San Antonio from Milwaukee is EXACTLY the kind of player that could have made the Cavs much more effective against the Magic. He also would have helped against the Celtics. By getting Jefferson, the Spurs can challenge the Lakers in the west.
That brings us to the draft. ESPN NFL draft guru Mel Kiper said of a team during one draft “They clearly don’t understand what the draft is all about.” He was right then and it applies to the Cavs’ 2009 NBA draft as well. Eyenga is supposed to be very athletic. Ok, that’s nice. But any prospect that has a highlight tape that looks like it was taken by a $9 cell phone is not worth a 1st round pick—even the 30th pick. I admit I had never heard of Eyenga. I have a list of 150 players that I have seen and Eyenga is not on that list. He was also not on the lists of any website I have been able to find.
The point that Kiper was making is that having a good draft is a product of getting value with each pick. Do the Cavs really think that Eyenga wasn’t going to be there at 47, their other pick in the draft? He would have been there in September of 09 as an undrafted and unknown FA. With that 30th pick, the Cavs could have gotten DeJuan Blair (PF Pittsburgh 16th on my ranking) who is a good defender and rebounder and can score a little. The Spurs will work Blair into the rotation immediately and he will develop into a starter down the line. They could have gotten Sam Young (SF Pittsburgh) or Dante Cunningham (F Villanova). Even Richie Cunningham would have been a better pick. He played for his high school team on Happy Days didn’t he?
I did like the pick of Danny Green (SF North Carolina). He is as ready to contribute as anyone picked around him (47 overall).
So what do the Cavs do now? Get into the Hedo Turkoglu (F FA from Orlando) sweepstakes. Turk could be the guy they need to fill that other F position opposite LeBron. Turk as I predicted has opted out of his Magic contract. The Cavs need to spend the money now to get Turk and pay the luxury tax. If they fail to win it all in 09-10, they will lose LeBron and 90% of the value of the franchise.
That’s what I think. Tell me what you think.
Bill Smith is a former coach of several semi-pro teams, has officiated both football and basketball, done color on radio for college football and basketball and has scouted talent. He is a senior writer for and edits https://fryingpansports.com. He has also published several novels on and edits .