Despite their impressive first half, the Cleveland Cavaliers have lacked scoring from the perimeter and off the bench this season.
Hoping to make life easier for All-Stars LeBron James and Zydrunas Ilgauskas, the Cavaliers acquired Welsch from the Boston Celtics prior to Thursday’s trade deadline for a 2007 first-round draft pick.
”(Jiri) is somebody that we’ve liked for a while,” Cavaliers general manager Jim Paxson said. “He’s a very versatile player. He’s got good size, he’s got toughness. He can put the ball on the floor and he can defend.”
Welsch, a first-round pick in 2002, should help the Cavaliers improve their spotty 3-point shooting. After going 1-for-7 on 3-pointers Wednesday, Cleveland ranks 27th in the league from beyond the arc.
The 25-year-old Welsch has made 32 of 99 3-pointers this season, and is averaging 7.5 points and 2.5 rebounds in 20.5 minutes per game.
“Coming down the stretch, you need as much firepower as you can get,” Cavs coach Paul Silas said. “And another shooter should do that for us.”
Welsch will come off the bench for the Cavaliers, whose reserves have scored just 19 points in Cleveland’s last two games.
“We’ve been outscored handily as of late,” Silas said. “It’s not a major concern but you’d like to have more production so I can rest people. But I’m committed to doing whatever it takes to win at this point. If that means I’m going to play certain guys a lot of minutes, that’s what is going to happen.”
With defenses having to worry about Welsch on the perimeter, the floor should open up for James to drive to the basket.
“He’s a great player,” James said of Welsch. “He’ll definitely help us. Another shooter to stretch the defense.”
Indiana did not make any deals before Thursday’s deadline, but is playing its best basketball of the season. The Pacers are riding a season high-tying four-game winning streak, including Wednesday’s 93-91 overtime victory over Miami.
Jermaine O’Neal scored all three Indiana baskets in overtime, including a turnaround jumper from the baseline with 11 seconds remaining. O’Neal finished with 29 points, 14 rebounds and five blocked shots for the Pacers, who opened the season with four straight wins.