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This summer, the Cavs essentially traded Ben Wallace for Shaquille Oâ€™Neal and swapped Sasha Pavlovic for Anthony Parker; technically, the Cavs shipped Wallace and Pavlovic to Phoenix in exchange for Oâ€™Neal and then signed Parker as a free agent. I already offered my take on the O’Neal acquisition, but the Parker deal could end up being very significant; Parker has played more minutes than Oâ€™Neal in each of the past three seasons and logged a total of 7708 minutes from 2007-2009, compared to the 5135 minutes that Oâ€™Neal played during those years.
Pavlovic is bigger, stronger and possibly even more athletic than Parker but despite Pavlovicâ€™s physical gifts he has proven to be a very injury-prone player; after his rookie season in 2004 he has not played in more than 67 games in a season. In 2006-07, Pavlovic was relatively healthy and he played a career-high 1534 minutes for a Cavs team that made it to the NBA Finals, taking over the starting shooting guard spot down the stretch when Larry Hughes got hurt, but in the past two seasons Pavlovic has been unable to stay healthy or be consistently productive. Pavlovic is just 25 but because of his recurring ankle problems he seems to be an â€œoldâ€ 25.
Parker provides the Cavs a lot of lineup flexibility. He could start at shooting guard, enabling Delonte West to come off of the bench as a point guard or shooting guard depending on matchups; Parker could also back up West at shooting guard and/or he could back up LeBron James at small forward. When the Cavs go â€œsmallâ€ with LeBron James at power forward, they could utilize a potent three guard attack with West, Parker and 2009 All-Star Mo Williams. At 6-6, 215, Parker provides the size and athleticism that the Cavs had hoped to get from Larry Hughes. Parker posted career-highs in assists (269) and steals (100) last season.
There are two possible downsides with Parker:
(1)Â Â Although he only played three years with the Raptors (and parts of three other seasons with the Magic and Sixers), Parker is 34 years old; he spent most of his pro career playing overseas and even though he did not play as many games as he would have if he had been in the NBA during that time he still accumulated some mileage and he is at an age when most pro guards begin to break down physically. As indicated above, Parker has been much more durable than Pavlovic (or Oâ€™Neal, for that matter) in the past three years but Father Time catches up to everyone eventually.
(2)Â Â Despite his athleticism, Parker does not draw a lot of fouls; he has attempted just 460 free throws in 291 career NBA games. Neither West nor Williams are good at drawing fouls, either, so LeBron James remains the only player on the roster who can consistently put the opposing team in foul trouble and help the Cavs get into the bonus. The Cavs have several good free throw shootersâ€”including Williams, West, Parker and Zydrunas Ilgauskasâ€”but if the Cavs are not able to get into the bonus then they will not be able to take advantage of that marksmanship.
Overall, the Cavs have added two starting quality players while only giving up two players who did not play huge minutes during the 2009 season; the Cavs have clearly upgraded themselves from a talent standpoint and it only remains to be seen what player rotation Coach Mike Brown will use and if this team will look as good on the court as it does on paper. It will not be easy to match the league-best 66 wins that the Cavs racked up in 2009; the 2009 Cavs consistently played hard at both ends of the court and it will be vital for the new guysâ€”particularly Oâ€™Neal, who has been known to coast at timesâ€”to fully embrace that mindset. Of course, the most important thing will be for the Cavs to be healthy come playoff time; that is when Oâ€™Neal and Parker must prove that they can add something to the mix that was missing during the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals.