Mike BibbyDealing With The Quiet Period In Cleveland Sports

Lets face reality. You can only say ‘the Cavaliers are a fatally flawed team’ so many different ways. With still a month to go before pitchers and catchers must report for spring training, all is deafeningly quiet on the Indians’ front. The Browns just got knocked out, and with the exception of working on an extension for Romeo Crennel and the chance of Coach Chud getting a head coaching position with someone else, not much is going to happen until free agency starts.

This leaves us Cleveland sports fans with precious little to talk about these days. What we’re left with is trying endlessly to figure out what’s “wrong” with this Cavaliers team. The funny thing is, the answer is easier than any of us want to admit. The problem with this team is the players. LeBron is out of this world. He’s without a doubt the best all around player in the NBA and can elevate a team more than anyone else. The problem is, outside of LeBron, the only other consistently good players are…….

And that’s precisely the problem with this team. Z has his games, but after his great start to the season, he has slowed down significantly, perhaps in part due to the extreme minutes he was playing early in the year. Daniel Gibson is a solid player, but doesn’t get enough shots. Anderson Varejao is having a nice season now that he is readjusted to the NBA pace, and he has brought the energy and rebounding spark we had all hoped, with the bonus of an improved offensive game. Drew Gooden is good when he wants to be, but has never been a player who could give you 100% on a game in-game out basis. Devin Brown is a nice complementary piece at best. That’s it. You’re getting absolutely nothing out of anyone else on this roster. If LeBron has an off game, who is there to pick up the slack? And that’s what’s wrong with the Cavaliers. They have the 4th highest salary in the NBA, and it’s spent on bloated long term contracts for underperforming players. Until those contracts can be shed, this team will continue to be what it is…a team that LeBron can carry to victory on any given day (just like today’s game against Toronto), but a team that is not a serious threat to win a 7 game NBA Championship Series.

In the spirit of improving this team, however, much has been written this week about the Bibby trade rumors, particularly with the Kings having been in town Friday night. This subject has been beaten to death, but I figured I would chime in with my thoughts.

The Bibby rumors have been written about in over 10 articles this week. The standard opinion, of course, is that the Cavs don’t have the pieces to get this deal done. That’s the opinion of Bob Finnan with The Morning Journal, as he writes,

“But Bibby and Thomas add up to around $20 million. The only way the Cavs could pull that off would be to send Larry Hughes to Sacramento, or get a third team involved. That’s where things get sticky. Hughes, despite a few bright spots from time to time, is playing perhaps the worst basketball of his career.”

This is an opinion shared by Scott Howard-Cooper of the Sacramento Bee as he writes,

“The speculation season officially began Friday night for Mike Bibby. He entered the Kings’ locker room before the game against the Cavaliers to face a semicircle of local reporters and another round of questions about Cleveland as a possible trade destination ā€“ even if it took everyone conveniently forgetting that the Cavaliers would have trouble putting together an attractive offer.”

For his part, though, Brian Windhorst of the Akron Beacon-Journal isn’t so sure it’s quite as tough as some might think to move some pieces to Sacramento in order to acquire Mike Bibby, writing,

“A year ago, Kings President of Basketball Operations Geoff Petrie was determined to get back a starter-quality point guard if he traded Bibby. That was the problem ā€” the Cavs didn’t have one to trade and couldn’t find one in a three-way deal that Petrie wanted. That has changed somewhat with newcomer Beno Udrih showing promise with the Kings in Bibby’s absence. Petrie has also made it known since then that his goal is to clear salary-cap space for the summer of 2009.

All of which brings the Cavs back into the game without the need of a third team. Nearly the Cavs’ entire roster has contracts that will be up after next season, giving them all sorts of trading pieces if the Kings make that a priority. The Kings would be interested in moving a player signed past 2009 in addition to Bibby. Most likely it would be Kenny Thomas, who is signed for two more seasons and can’t get off the bench.

If the Cavs want Bibby bad enough, they do have the ammunition to give the Kings what they want. It would take a package that would probably involved a talented big man such as Drew Gooden, a prospect such as Shannon Brown or a draft pick and contracts expiring in 2009. The Cavs have numerous ones, especially Eric Snow, Damon Jones or even both.”

For what it’s worth, a deal of Mike Bibby and Kenny Thomas for Drew Gooden, Eric Snow, Damon Jones, and a draft pick does indeed work under NBA rules. So Bob Finnan isn’t totally accurate when he says the deal would have to include Larry Hughes to make up the slary difference. It wouldn’t. This would indeed be a fairly attractive trade for the Kings on a couple different levels. Rather than having Hughes’ contract for 2 more years after this, they would be able to get rid of Snow and Jones after just 1 more year. Plus, they would be rid of Kenny Thomas’s contract, while acquiring a solid power forward in Gooden and an additional draft pick. So you can see how this would be somewhat intriguing for the Kings to think about, assuming they are convinced that they can build a team around Kevin Martin and Beno Udrih.

For the Cavaliers, the question is whether Mike Bibby is really going to be the difference maker they would need him to be. Bibby is not a good defensive player by any means, his numbers have been declining the past couple years, and injuries have slowed him down even more. But when healthy, he is still a dynamic offensive presence and would give the Cavaliers a true point guard who could be a positive contribution to the team. In losing Gooden, the Cavaliers would lose a strong rebounding source, but it would open the door to increased minutes for Varejao to try to make up for the slack.

At the end of the day, none of this is really all that important. In this quiet season of Cleveland sports, we all seem to be looking for something, anything to write about. And in that context, we try to kid ourselves into believing that the Cavaliers have the ability to make a significant trade without taking on some seriously bad long term contracts. In a nutshell, it just isn’t very likely to happen. Just something to think about while we wait for baseball to start.