Friday, February 22, 2008

Cavs' Trade Much Ado About Not Much

Add the Cleveland Cavaliers to the list of delusional teams -- the ones that think Ben Wallace is the final piece to a championship puzzle.

The Cavs are puffing out their chests, wrongly thinking that they've rocked the basketball world with their 11-player, 3-team trade made yesterday with Seattle and Chicago. In it, the Cavs acquired Wallace, along with Wally Szczerbiak, Joe Smith, and Delonte West. Leaving Cleveland are Larry Hughes, Drew Gooden, Donyell Marshall, Cedric Simmons, Ira Newble, and Shannon Brown.

Lots of player movement. But what hasn't moved much are the Cavs' chances to escape the Eastern Conference this spring.

It's sensational on the surface, if only for the number of players involved, but I don't think the Cavs improved themselves enough to get past Detroit or Boston. But that's OK; let 'em think they did.

When the Bulls threw outrageous money at Wallace in the summer of '06, I wrote at that time that the Bulls were fooling themselves; that such dollars are only warranted for those players who can put you over the hump. And for all of Ben Wallace's positives, I just didn't think he was that kind of difference maker -- at least not for a team as flimsy as the Bulls.

Nor do I think he's that kind of player for Cleveland.

Almost simultaneous with the trade, the Cavs lost guard Daniel "Booby" Gibson for 4-6 weeks with an ankle sprain.

The Cavaliers, though, are a lot closer to contention than the Bulls were when they signed Wallace from the Pistons. Yet they are not a team, because of this trade, that can beat out the Pistons or the Celtics. They're also a tad older now, across the board. Wallace, Szczerbiak, and Smith are all on the back ends of their careers. And do you really see where they are a significant improvement over Hughes, Gooden, Marshall, and company?

The fascination with Wallace's interior defense amazes me. The teams that win NBA titles nowadays are those whose overall team defense, including that in the paint, works together -- teammates helping each other out and being active. There can be a tendency for other players to get lazy when Wallace is on the court. He's not the force he once was, but he's still better than average. Trouble is, everyone seems to think he's better than he really is in this department.

Except, maybe, Joe Dumars.

Szczerbiak's addition is basically canceled out by Gibson's injury. Smith is a fading scorer.

Cleveland GM Danny Ferry, who made the blockbuster move just before the 3 P.M. deadline, said, "I didn't think we were good enough to win a championship." No argument there. But for all his maneuverings yesterday, I think those words will still ring true at the end of the season.

Bottom line: Pistons fans shouldn't lose any sleep over this trade.

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