Remember Danny Green? Put it this way, if you can name the guy the Cavs kept instead of Green you should be writing this blog instead of reading it. Green gave no indication while he was with the Cavs that he would become the lights-out shooter he became in the NBA Finals, but it’s hard to explain how there were fifteen guys on a 19-win team that were better than Green.
The most disturbing thing about that whole episode is that it shows a lack of recognition by Chris Grant of how the NBA is now dominated by wing players who can shoot threes. While most contending teams are stocking up on guys between 6-5 and 6-8 who can bomb away, the Cavs have Alonzo Gee, a tenacious defender with limited offensive skills. This offseason they signed Earl Clark, who can defend a wide range of positions but who has made 37 three-pointers in his career. Last year the Cavs had six players take more than 100 three point shots. Of those, only Kyrie Irving, C.J. Miles, and Wayne Ellington made more than 35%. The Cavs declined their option on Ellington and don’t appear to expect Miles to be a major cog in the rotation next year. That leaves Irving to take threes, unless you feel good about Gee and Dion Waiters, both of whom barely cracked 30% from three.
One option that presented itself and was cast aside was Allen Crabbe. He shot 40% from three his sophomore year at Cal, and had the size to defend several spots. He was projected as a first round pick, but fell to the Cavs in the second round, which meant that they could have brought him to camp without a guaranteed contract. The worst that could have happened was that he got cut in camp. He seemed to have a better chance of helping than the two future second rounders that they got from Portland for him. I have a feeling that decision may look a lot like cutting Green a few years from now.
The bottom line is that this team has one major hole that needs to be filled. When you are 24-58, a lack of perimeter shooting doesn’t really stand out among the morass of weaknesses. But when you are aspiring for a playoff berth everything matters. There will come a time this season when nothing else is working and we need someone to pull a Ray Allen and just drain four threes in a row. Trust me, this could be the difference between fighting New York and Atlanta for the fifth seed and fighting the Wizards for the seventh seed.
So who can we get? The cap space is just about gone, and you need someone who can shoot close to 40% on threes to make it worth the trouble. So it needs to be someone under the radar. Austin Daye would have been a decent solution. He was a throw-in part of the Rudy Gay trade last year who got buried on the bench in Memphis and was a free agent until Toronto signed him earlier this week. Before the trade to Memphis he was making over half of his threes. It may be a small sample size and he obviously has holes in his game that will keep him from being a core player, but he is a guy that defenses would have to respect if he parked himself outside the three-point line, and that would create more spacing for Irving and Waiters to penetrate.
The options in free agency that would be a significant improvement over the current roster are about gone, which means the Cavs would need to make a trade to get a good shooter. One guy who might be available without costing a lot is Quincy Pondexter of the Grizzlies. He shot 39.5% from three last year and would seem to be expendable after the Grizzlies signed Mike Miller and started negotiating with Mo Williams. He is under contract for next year at 2.2 million, with a team option for the following year at 3.3 million, so he would fit under the mid-level exception for the Cavs and would not cost anything past this year if Sergey Karasev develops into a real threat. The Grizzlies are always looking for a way to cut payroll, and if Pondexter is now stuck behind Tayshaun Prince, Tony Allen, and Miller at the wing positions, 2.2 million might seem like an extravagance to them. It would be a similar situation to how the Cavs landed Mo Speights and Ellington last year, when they lost playing time and began to look too expensive for their production to the Grizzlies.
Considering that the Cavs would not trade any of their core players (the six draft picks from the last three drafts, plus Varejao, Jack, Clark, and Bynum) and Gee and Miles play the same position and make about the same money as Pondexter so would not interest the Grizzlies. That leaves trading a future draft pick. That has always been blasphemy to Chris Grant, which is sensible when you expect to be in the top five, but those days are hopefully over. If the Grizzlies would take a second round pick or two for Pondexter, I would make the deal. He would contribute more to this team than Chris Quinn and probably Carrick Felix, and may actually help win a game or two at some point this season.