The Cleveland Cavaliers’ quest for backcourt help for Lebron James continues … With Michael Redd apparently unavailable for the time being, Cavs GM Danny Ferry has set his sights on Bucks point guard Mo Williams, first reported Sunday in the News-Herald of Northern Ohio, a Cleveland area daily.
The Cavs want scoring, and that’s our Mo. He was one of the top shooters in the NBA last season, 2nd only to Utah’s Kyle Korver in 2-point jumpshooting with a .508 percentage (Korver, Mo and 2-time MVP Steve Nash were the only players in the NBA above 50%). Mo led the Bucks in three-point shooting (38.5%) and free throw shooting (85.6%), averaging 17.2 pts, 6.3 asts per game.
Yet while Mo was the Bucks best shooter last season, he leaves a lot to be desired as a floor general and playmaker — and he’s terrible defender with a five-year, $43M contract. This doesn’t make him coach Scott Skiles’ kind of point guard. And Cleveland has been knocking.
News-Herald writer Bob Finnan speculated that trade talks may have begun with Cavs point guard Delonte West and two Cavs 2009 expiring contracts — former Bucks Joe Smith and Damon Jones. West, a restricted free agent, is in a contract dispute with Cavs GM Danny Ferry, and has been offered a “take it or leave it” minimum offer — $2.8 million for one year. A sign and trade deal sending West to the Bucks with a higher salary would break the impasse.
I watched a lot of Cleveland Cavs playoff basketball. West was acquired from Seattle in the three-team Ben Wallace-Larry Hughes trade and had been on the team only two months — yet he had stepped in and was doing yeoman work running the offense with Lebron, playing scrappy defense and hitting key shots. He started all 13 playoff games as the Cavs ousted the Wizards and pushed Pierce, Garnett and Allen to the final minute of game seven. Mo Williams for Delonte West and Smith, the crafty 33-year-old forward-center with a soft shooting touch, works for me.
But apparently Bucks GM John Hammond and Skiles are not interested in West. Too much like Mo, probably. Enter Oklahoma City (the team that left its name in Seattle), one of the teams that have reportedly been involved in talks with the Cavs r.e. forward-center Anderson Varejao. (The Bucks have also been one of those teams). OK City, as luck would have it, has a corral of point guards that Scott Skiles could like — draft pick Russell Westbrook, last year’s starter Earl Watson and Luke Ridnour, the point guard during the Ray Allen years in Seattle.
After days of speculation centering on Watson and the possibilities for a larger trade involving power forwards Varejao, OKC’s Chris Wilcox and Charlie Villanueva, who do the Bucks reportedly want for Mo Williams? Luke Ridnour, the third stringer, fallen on hard times since the departures of coach Brian Hill and Ray Allen. With the Sonics last season, West played more minutes per game than Ridnour prior to being traded. The Mo trade would reportedly send Mo to Cleveland, Joe Smith to OK City and Ridnour to Milwaukee. Setting aside for a moment whether or not this deal works within NBA rules …
That had to hurt. I can understand how Skiles sees a little bit of himself in 27-year-old Ridnour, but
… Luke Ridnour???
And people say Mo is a bad defender … But hold on. This trade is now stalled. Apparently, ESPN league sources say, Cavs GM Ferry is “balking at taking on Williams’ contract. OKC and Milwaukee are ready to do the deal. The trade is not dead, but I’m told as of right now it has stalled.”
At least someone came to their senses. I don’t think, however, that this was ever “the trade.” The salaries don’t match. [whole bunch of trade $ mumbo jumbo deleted] Cleveland and Milwaukee are both over the cap, and the Cavs are over the luxury tax threshold.
The Cavs need to find at least $2.3M to send out in order to take on Mo’s contract. This trade could work if the Cavs sawed Delonte West or Damon Jones in two (I’m assuming they would choose Jones) and sent half a player and contract to Milwaukee and half to OK City. Barring that, they could send 1st round draft pick J.J. Hickson, a 6′ 9″ forward to either team, and fill in the other team’s gap with Tarence Kinsey, an athletic 6′ 6″ guard built to play D whom the Cavs signed this month. After all that, the Cavs would still be $200,000 short of being within 15 percent of Mo’s salary. Going deeper to the Cavs bench, guard Billy Thomas or center Lance Allred would cover it.
By now, Danny Ferry is no doubt cursing Larry Harris for paying Mo too much last summer. The Cavs have an $85.5 million payroll, some $13M over the luxury tax limit. Because Cleveland is over limit, the Cavs would have to send a dollar-for-dollar tax to the league based on how much additional payroll Mo’s contract adds. As this deal lays now, the Cavs would pay Mo his salary plus about $1 M to the NBA — a total of $9.3 million. For this privelege, they would give up Smith, a key role player in their front court rotation, and possibly three players including the 1st round draft pick — after pinching pennies with Delonte West.
No wonder Ferry’s balking and the deal is stalled. The price is high. Keep in mind that the Cavs can stand pat and still know that they are a contender for the title. The only team in the East that has proven it can beat Lebron in a playoff series is the Boston Celtics. Would Mo make the difference? Or would a healthy Boobie Gibson serve just as well? Cleveland and Ferry may have picked up the phone to get the ball rolling on this trade, but they’re good enough as a team to risk nothing by waiting to see how the season unfolds.
And Luke Ridnour? Here he is in better times, the 2005 playoffs against Sacramento. This must be the guy that Hammond and Skiles are hoping to acquire: