Rob Kurz

The Offseason Report, Part Seven: Investing in the Not-Too-Distant Future

In June, Danny Ferry brought in Shaquille O’Neal to rule the paint . . . or at the very least, to occupy it.In July, he signed Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon in an effort to vastly improve the team’s perimeter defense.  And in the process, he also got another proficient long-range shooter and an athletic scorer, who will be turning open lanes into highlight reel footage.He also locked down Anderson Varejao to be a core member of the Cavs for years.

So what did Ferry have on tap for August?

Upgrading the bench.

The Cavs were a deep team during the regular season last year.  When they were healthy, it was difficult to find everyone a steady spot in the rotation.  And when players like Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Delonte West and Ben Wallace went down with injuries, they were able to adapt, seamlessly, and remain dominant.

In the playoffs, the bench was inconsistent and seemed a step off their games.  There were chances for a reserve to step up in the Orlando series, but no one seized the opportunity.  So even though the chemistry was so tight last season, some new blood was needed.

That’s one of the reasons we didn’t pick up the option on Tarence Kinsey, whose contract for the upcoming season was non-guaranteed.

Initially, I was disappointed to see him go.  In the extremely limited role he had last season, he had some good moments that made me think he could be a nice, athletic player to have at the end of your bench.

Also, he was a fantastic cheerleader . . . if not a little TOO excitable.  He was regularly caught on camera going absolutely ballistic about something.  Or anything, really.  If LeBron James made a three-pointer in the fourth quarter, regardless of the score, Kinsey would have to be physically restrained by J.J. Hickson and Darnell Jackson.

The Cavs also shed Wally Szczerbiak (who contributed last year) and Lorenzen Wright (who didn’t).  And of course, they had previously turned Ben Wallace and Sasha Pavlovic into Shaq.

The Cavs wanted Joe Smith back, but he opted to take similar money from the Atlanta Hawks because they could offer him more playing time.  It seemed like a weird decision, since he’s been in Cleveland for two playoff runs and has to know how close to a title we are.

And he might have re-upped . . . if we wouldn’t have signed Leon Powe.

 

Days before Joe signed with the Hawks, we signed 25-year-old power forward / center Leon Powe, who had been a major contributor off the Boston Celtics’ bench the last few years.

Leon was only available because he blew out his knee in the playoffs last season, and won’t be ready until the All-Star Break, at the earliest, this season.  The Cavs landed him for 2 years / $1.77 million, the league minimum for players with three years of service.  The second year is a team option.

If Powe is able to return to form at all, the Cavs won’t waste a second picking up that option.

There is a little risk here.  There’s a chance Powe won’t be able to do anything this season . . . or next season, for that matter . . . and while he’s under contract, he’ll be taking up a roster space.  But from all the reports I’ve heard, Powe is on, or ahead of schedule in his recovery.

Best case scenario:  Powe comes back in March and we are able to ease him into the rotation to add some serious toughness in the paint.  That way, he’d be all set for the playoffs.

Best worse case scenario:  Powe isn’t able to play much this year, but he is able to fully recover for next year . . . when we’ll still have him at a value and on (hopefully) another title-contending team.

(Here’s a video on Powe . . .)

So if this guy is so solid, how did we get him for the minimum even with his injury?

Well, we can thank Boston for that.  Because of their tenuous situation with Kevin Garnett, who’s recovering from a serious knee injury, the Celtics couldn’t afford to wait on Powe . . . and didn’t offer him a contract in June.  That made him a free agent.  And naturally, he felt a little slighted by that.

There are a lot of reasons Powe may have liked the Cavs:

1.)  They were another contender, who would be battling Boston in the Eastern Conference.  Beating Boston would be the perfect revenge for him on a team that gave up on him.

2.)  The Cavs’ new practice facility, Cleveland Clinic Courts, sounds like it’d be a state-of-the-art place to rehab.

3.)  The Cavs had patience . . . and were interested in him even though he was hurt.

After the signing, his agent, Aaron Goodwin, said: “A lot of teams will tell a guy, ‘Come see us when you’re healthy.  The Cavs were saying, ‘Come here now and we’ll help you get healthy.’”

The timing of all this could work out well for the Cavs.  This will allow the team to work with J.J. Hickson and Darnell Jackson more early in the regular season to see if either of them are ready to make a step to the next level.

There’s also Rob Kurz, a 24-year-old “stretch” forward from Golden State.  He signed a non-guaranteed contract with the Cavs and will be in training camp with them in October.  He’s expected to make the team, and will get a good look, with Hickson and Jackson, in the early part of the season.

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