2008-09 Training Camp Preview: GUARDS
Since the start of the LeBron James Era back in 2003-04, the Cavaliers have supplied him with a plethora of backcourt combinations – some good, some not so good.
The young King has come to Camp with proven veterans (Ricky Davis, Jeff McInnis, Eric Snow, Larry Hughes, Damon Jones); stop-gap veterans (Kevin Ollie, J.R. Bremer, Lucious Harris, David Wesley, Mike Wilks); and promising youngsters (Dajuan Wagner, Shannon Brown, Daniel Gibson). Then, there are guys like Jimmie “Snap” Hunter. (We’ll skip that list.)
The Cavaliers have had their share of backcourt blocs, but as they tip off Training Camp on Tuesday, the Wine and Gold are deeper than they’ve been in years. The point guard position was Cleveland’s Achilles’ heel; now it’s a position of strength. Proven marksmen man the two-guard spot.
The current Cavaliers guard rotation is deep, versatile and explosive. On paper, it’s the best backcourt to come to Camp during LeBron’s run in Cleveland. Now it’s just a matter of the Cavaliers backcourt coterie staying healthy and living up its preseason promise.
Mo Williams – After a quiet first two months of the summer, Danny Ferry pulled off one of the shrewdest deals of the offseason – dealing Damon Jones and Joe Smith for explosive point guard and perennial Cavs Killer, Mo Williams.
The 25-year-old point guard has averaged 17.3 and 17.2 ppg over his last two seasons, respectively. Not only does the former second-rounder provide pure point guard play – (he finished 13th in the NBA last year, averaging 6.3 dimes per contest) – but he also gives Mike Brown an explosive scorer who can create his own shot off the dribble.
The addition of Williams will allow the Cavaliers to run and get easy baskets. It relieves LeBron of ball-handling duties and should scare opponents away from doubling down on him. Williams shot 48 percent from the floor last season, including 39 percent from beyond the arc. From the stripe, he’s an .845 career shooter.
Wally Szczerbiak – When Ferry dealt for Wally Szczerbiak as part of the 11-player blockbuster deal last February, he acquired a former All-Star who had 552 NBA games under his belt – averaging 15.3 points on .491 shooting (including .407 from three-point range) for his career.
In 25 games for the Wine and Gold down the stretch, Wally came off the bench in all but one contest, averaging 8.2 ppg on .359 shooting. In the postseason, the former Miami (OH) star started all 13 games, improving his shooting and scoring (.376; 10.8 ppg) not to mention playing solid defense – not something he’s known for – against Caron Butler in the first round and Ray Allen in second.
Daniel Gibson – The precocious point guard from Texas has already had a storied NBA career, and he’s only entering his third season as a pro.
The former second-rounder almost single-handedly eliminated Detroit in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals as a rookie and improved in almost every statistical category as sophomore – punctuating the point with a 31-point, MVP-winning performance in the Rookie Challenge at All-Star Weekend in New Orleans. Boobie did battle the injury bug in 2007-08 – exacerbated by a shoulder injury that kept him out of the final two games of the Boston series.
Gibson inked an extension early this summer to remain with the Cavaliers. He joins a crowded backcourt, but the cream rises to the top, and there’s nothing that would indicate that Daniel’s growth will decelerate in year three.
Delonte West – When Ferry dealt for Mo Williams, the possibility of then-free agent, Delonte West, returning to Cleveland looked to be in jeopardy. But with just over two weeks remaining before Camp, the Cavaliers GM sealed the deal to bring the four-year veteran back.
The former St. Joe’s star – who started all 39 regular season and playoff games for Cleveland at the end of last year – was the final piece in solidifying the point guard position. He averaged 10.3 ppg in 26 regular season games and 10.8 in the postseason – including 11. 4 points per contest against the Celtics, the team that drafted him four years earlier.
West’s game-winning three-point dagger in Game 4 against Washington – part of a 21-point performance – was just one of the reasons Ferry and the front office had been high on West since his college days. He turned in two more 21-point games against Boston in Round 2.
West – the toughest defender among the point guard triumvirate – figures to be in the backcourt alongside Mo Williams and Gibson throughout the season.
Sasha Pavlovic – Once again, Sasha comes to Camp as the international man of mystery. Depending on how he performs in the coming weeks, the Serbian swingman’s role could range anywhere from starting shooting guard to the fifth guard in Mike Brown’s rotation.
Drafted 18 spots behind LeBron in 2003, Pavlovic has shown glimpses of brilliance as well as extended periods of frustrating inconsistency. He missed all of Training Camp last year because of a prolonged contract holdout, and there’s almost no doubt it affected him for the rest of the year.
Sasha still managed to start 45 games for the Wine and Gold last year, and his point production improved to 7.4 ppg. But he never seemed to get untracked and was slowed by a foot injury midway through the season.
The fifth-year guard was the starting two-guard during the Cavaliers run to the Finals one year earlier, but couldn’t recapture that magic during last season’s playoff run. If he can find a way to bring it every night – and improve his rebounding as Coach Brown has implored him to – Pavlovic can finally begin to live up to his potential. (And give the Cavaliers another dangerous weapon in the backcourt.)
Eric Snow – Once the rock of the Cavaliers backcourt, a bad knee has slowed the Canton native over the past year. Snow was limited to just 22 games last season, averaging just 1.0 ppg in those contests.
Snow started all 82 games for the Wine and Gold back in 2005-06, but his production has dipped since. He's still one of the best basketball minds on the roster, but that might be more evident off the hardwood.
The 13-year veteran has been synonymous with veteran leadership and will one day be a head coach in the NBA. Depending on his health, the only question is: when?
Tarence Kinsey – Acquired mid-way through the offseason, Kinsey comes to Camp looking to wedge his way into a crowded backcourt.
The 6-6 sophomore from South Carolina had a strong rookie campaign in Memphis two years ago – averaging 7.7 ppg in 48 contests (12 starts). His production dipped significantly in 2007-08, but the Cavaliers like his length, athleticism and ability to get to the basket.
If everyone stays healthy, minutes could be tough to come by for the former Gamecock. But as far as backcourt depth, Kinsey is a solid asset over the course of an 82-game season.