Although the Cavaliers’ season has been over for a week, the construction of a possible future NBA power is about to enter another stage this summer.
The biggest news coming out of Quicken Loans Arena this week focused on two-time All-Star center Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Reports circulated on Thursday indicating that the Cavs are open to trading Z this summer. Even more rumors chirped in by claiming that the Cavaliers had already received inquiries about Z’s availability and Cleveland’s willingness to deal him.
Ilgauskas: could be moved this summer
There are a number of reasons the Cavs would want to move Ilgauskas. Although Z’s numbers from this season were consistent with his best career statistics, many close to the team don’t believe he fits in well with the Cavaliers’ evolving playing style. LeBron James is an electrifying full-court player who is one of the game’s best in transition. Players like (a healthy) Larry Hughes, shooters like Damon Jones and Donyell Marshall, and hustlers like Anderson Varejao fit that style. Back-to-the-basket centers who are best utilized in a halfcourt set do not. Officials from other teams as well as some of the Cavs’ players told the Akron Beacon Journal that they believe Z is not used as much as he should be in the Cavaliers’ current offensive scheme.
But to be fair, there was a time when Z’s style was the hallmark of the Cavaliers. Z sabotaged that era with his many foot surgeries. Now, with a new franchise cornerstone in place for three seasons, that era is long over. And it certainly didn’t help that, even at 7′3″, Ilgauskas’ reluctance to box out on the boards was exposed in Cleveland’s Game Six loss to Detroit in the East semifinals. It led to four Detroit offensive rebounds and massacred almost any hopes the Cavs had of winning the game in regulation.
Other than that, Ilgauskas fits this new Cavaliers team quite nicely.
But there are, in fact, teams across the league where Z fits in even more nicely. And that should be evident by the fact that Ilgauskas and Varejao are the two players that the Cavs have received the most inquiries about throughout the season. However, keep in mind that Cavaliers general manager Danny Ferry is the one who pushed the hardest last summer to get Z re-signed. Also remember that Ferry is an ex-teammate of Ilgauskas and also remains good friends with him. So, instead of asking yourself, “Who would want Z?”, ask yourself, “Is Ferry man enough to pull the trigger on a trade involving Z?”
If the answer is yes, then fear not: there are many possible takers.
The Lakers, Celtics, Timberwolves, Trail Blazers, and (everyone’s favorite trading partner!) the Knicks are all teams that could improve with the addition of a bona fide center like Ilgauskas. Of those, the Lakers seem to be the most viable trading partner. Z fits Phil Jackson’s triangle offense like a glove. He may not be the second coming of Shaq, but the fact that Z’s strengths are maximized in a halfcourt set should appeal to Jackson. Although Ilgauskas is merely an average rebounder for his size, blame that on his poor defensive rebounding. He is still one of the league’s best offensive rebounders and can create many opportunities for second-chance points. Although the Lakers traditionally like to open up the floor and play a fullcourt style of basketball, Jackson’s triangle is a complicated system that benefits from (but does not absolutely require) an offensive-minded center capable of scoring 15 points per game.
Which brings us to the player from the Lakers’ roster that the Cavaliers can use the most.
Lamar Odom: may interest Cavs
There was a report at the trading deadline this season indicating that the Cavaliers were showing a serious interest in forward Lamar Odom. Cleveland was looking to use Odom as a temporary replacement for the injured Larry Hughes before settling on Flip Murray. According to that same report, the Cavs balked at a deal when Los Angeles requested that Varejao be made part of the trade. Smartly, Ferry declined. But the same report states that “Odom will definitely be moved in the offseason” and “The Lamar Odom experiment has come to an end. The Lakers want to move on.”
The Cavs would be wise to still be in the Odom sweepstakes. While the likes of Kevin Garnett and unrestricted free agent Jason Terry (who will command much more money than the Cavs have under the salary cap) may be nothing more than a pipe dream, Odom is a player who can definitely take the Cavs to the next level. While the Lakers are trying to run more of a structured offense, the Cavaliers are looking to run-and-gun more. Odom fits that style to a tee. He is a long, 6′10″, 230-pound rising star who can play either small or power forward. Odom has played power forward during his season with the Miami Heat in the 2003-04 season and for most of this past season with the Lakers. In each of the last two seasons, he has pulled down more rebounds per game than the Cavs’ leading rebounder. In the last three years dating back to his time with the Miami Heat, he is averaging 9.6 rebounds per game. Keep in mind that Cavs restricted free agent Drew Gooden led the team in boards last year with 9.2 and this season with 8.4.
At the age of 26, Odom is just entering the prime of his career. He has three-point range and tied a career-high by canning 80 three-pointers this season. Although he is just a 32 percent shooter from beyond the arc in his career, he is still a triple-double threat every time he hits the floor. Before LeBron James became the youngest player to record a triple-double in the NBA, that mark was held by none other than Odom. He is an excellent ball-handler for a player his size and can bring the rock up the floor whenever needed. His 14.8 points per game average last year was off his career mark of 15.8, probably hindered by the fact that he was on the same team as Kobe Bryant.
With Ilgauskas making around $9.5 million next year, Odom will be on the books for a little over $12 million. Z has four years left on his deal while Odom’s deal is done after the 2008-09 season. Should the teams want to swap these players straight up, it barely works under the league’s collective bargaining agreement. But the bottom line is: it works.
Although Lamar Odom is not the only player that can be netted via Ilgauskas, he would be the closest thing to netting an All-Star in return for Z. That is, assuming that Isiah Thomas doesn’t give Danny Ferry a buzz offering multiple lottery picks (at least the few he has left that haven’t gone to Chicago in the Eddy Curry deal) and Channing Frye.
It has been quite a run for Zydrunas Ilgauskas, and Cavaliers fans should salute him for his eight full seasons of service with the organization. However, times change. And if the Cavs want to get better under the direction of LeBron James, it’s obvious that Big Z is no longer the right fit on this young, up-and-coming team.
Lamar For Ilgauskas?
I don't really like it personally...