Cavaliers: High Risk, High Reward

In the playoffs, a handful of front offices really sweat bullets.

On draft day, they all do.

Every single NBA front office knows that at this time of year there are opportunities galore. Draft day is one time when roster can be re-made most easily -- via pick, trade or cap maneuvering for free agents. With opportunity comes a certain responsibility to make the best of it.

Before word of the Shaquille O'Neal trade broke, I had been asking myself: Which front office is feeling the most pressure today?

All the draft focus has been on teams like Minnesota, Oklahoma City and Sacramento. But I can't believe anyone is sweating as hard as the people in Cleveland. This draft season, they get one more chance -- not many left! -- to find the right help for LeBron James before his free agency next summer. Meanwhile, they must atone for not winning the 2009 title, for which they were favored. If it does not all happen quickly, it will have been seen as squandering, to some degree, LeBron James in his prime.

The Cavaliers are all in, and now they have to pray the cards hold up.

The move to get Shaquille O'Neal absolutely changes the math against Dwight Howard and the Magic. If he's healthy, that's a different series. So this is an important step. And it addresses the notion that Zydrunas Ilgauskas is past the point of being a guy who can deliver long minutes night in and night out.

Now that O'Neal is on his way, however, the Cavaliers remain standing in the middle of minefield, needing to make all the proper choices, and get all the right breaks, to make it safely where they want to go:

  • James does a ton of dirty work for the Cavaliers, from fixing problems on defense to running down opponents' fast breaks. He's not just their star, he's also their long and athletic wing. That's fine, he's young and healthy now. But remember how tired he got in the playoffs? I can't help but think that it would be smart to add a high-energy athlete or two to the mix to reduce some of James' energy expenditure.

  • The Cavaliers didn't give up a ton of talent in this trade, but they did give up some depth, which could come into play.

  • If your two centers have both had spells of their careers on injury-induced retirement watch, you probably need a third center.

  • Re-signing starting forward and high-energy big man Anderson Varejao will be no picnic. Losing him would leave a real void.

  • There are not a lot of trade assets to work with on this roster. The team is well over the cap -- constraining trades -- and has just the 30th pick in this draft. Of the non-essential Cavaliers, young power forward J.J. Hickson is the only one discussed as a trade asset.

  • The team does not want to take on any long-term salaries --preserving a strategy that might let Cleveland add a significant player via free agency next summer.

Hanging over all of that, we have to believe that hanging over all of this is the possibility that any mis-step could lead to James' departure.

What are Cleveland's next moves? You have any ideas?

As much as running one of the best teams in the NBA must be a thrill, today's not the day I'd like to be Danny Ferry. There are still a lot of variables, and a ton at stake.


TrueHoop reader Neil says:

A realistic trade that the Cavs can pull off that fits the mold that you mentioned. An athletic perimeter defender that can hit the three.

Cavs send:

Darnell Jackson (non guaranteed contract)
Terrance Kinsey (non guaranteed contract)
J.J. Hickson
30th Overall Pick

Warriors send:

Kelenna Azubukie

Azubukie can be the starting two guard and then West would come off the bench, providing better depth than Gibson. Also, this would relieve a lot of stress on the defensive end for LeBron as Azubukie is a very solid defender. And of course, hitting 44% last year from outside doesn't hurt.

A very simple and small trade, but very possible and I don't see either team turning this down. The Warriors would waive Jackson and Kinsey to save money. Get another solid prospect in Hickson. They want to move Wright and this would allow that. This would also allow them to focus on getting a PG in the draft like Brandon Jennings or Stephen Curry. For whatever reason though, I feel like Jennings and the Warriors are a perfect fit. They also get a late first where they can pick the best available talent or a player to stash over seas.