Joe Dumars might not have pulled off the headline-grabbing trade that Danny Ferry did in picking up Ben Wallace, but don’t underestimate Juan Dixon. Anybody who can win the MVP of the Final Four – as Dixon did when he carried Maryland to the 2002 title – you know he can play.
Being a combo guard and maybe not quite having the size that would make him an ideal NBA off guard has probably relegated him to role-playing status, but I believe he plays his role very well. He’s quick, we know he can score and because of his quickness he’s dangerous defensively. He’s a welcome addition to any team. Despite the fact the Pistons are guard-rich, I expect he’s going to play some. If you really look at that second unit, you’re looking at a group that at least as times, when Jarvis Hayes’ shot might not be quite right, could use another scorer. No one ever said Juan Dixon couldn’t score in this league. He’s a guy who understands his role, whatever it’s defined to be. If you need points, he can produce them.
Let me say this, too: I’m a Flip Murray fan. I love watching him play. I’ve really enjoyed having him here. I think he’s a straight shooter and a very professional NBA guy who’s a terrific one-on-one player and a good ball distributor. I do expect the Pistons will waive him so that he can go out and prove, as he did earlier this season, that he is still very, very productive, if he gets minutes. I’m hoping for the best for Flip, but I have no doubt that he’s going to land somewhere and make some noise from here until the finish line of this season and get a nice contract for next year, which he deserves. He couldn’t have been more professional about this situation here. If anybody looks at some of the big nights he had prior to mid-December, they’ll know he’s a guy who can at times and almost take over an NBA game.
Having said that, it seems that Dale Davis will be a Piston soon, now that Primoz Brezec has been dealt away for Juan Dixon. I think it’s a great move, if indeed Dale agrees to come back and play in the Motor City. Dale could have helped even more last season, but he really wasn’t needed. I expect him to play at least sparingly, though, for the rest of this season to get ready for what I’m convinced will be a postseason that certainly includes some Dale Davis time. When you play the best big men in this league, it’s great to have Dale Davis coming off your bench to provide the strength and the savvy that he has.
As for that 11-player mega-deal the Cavs, Chicago Bulls and Seattle pulled off, there are two camps as to what it does for Cleveland. One says Larry Hughes and Drew Gooden are no longer weapons for the Cavs. Larry Hughes has great size and can score and defend, so losing him was a calculated risk by Danny Ferry. And dealing Gooden, if you look at how he’s played against the Pistons in big games, was a risk as well.
But we’ve all seen Ben Wallace perform when it’s all on the line and Ben will bring some toughness, both physical and mental, to Cleveland’s rotation. Although they also get Joe Smith and Wally Szczerbiak, who can score – one from long range and one from mid-range – and a very competitive guard in Delonte West, I’m sure as far as Cleveland is concerned, Ben is the key to the deal. He’s won a championship and played in the Finals twice. If they’re able to learn how to play between now and the end of the regular season with their new pieces, Cleveland will be an intriguing team. They won’t lack toughness.
The Cavs certainly could have pulled even with Orlando as the No. 3 team in the East, but they still have to get acclimated to one another, so all of that remains to be seen. From here, it still looks like the Pistons and Celtics are the teams to beat in the East.