February 24, 2011
He's from Michigan, after all, and people from Michigan (with Ohioans returning the favor) tend to laugh down their sleeves at people from the state situated to their south. Michiganders might do the same at people from Indiana, as well, but Dan Gilbert never bought the Pacers.
He also declined to rebuild or see what he could get for Mo Williams(notes) and other vets in the market last offseason after LBJ's long-awaited departure, preferring to talk about winning championships before LeBron James ever did. Then the Cavaliers went 10-47 to start the season, and all the Cavs can get for Williams (injured and out of shape for most of the year) is the rights to pay Baron Davis $28.65 million over the next two seasons so that the Cavaliers can have the Los Angeles Clippers' first round pick in 2011.
That, my friends, is as good as a reading of this deal will get.
Because the Cavaliers just sold their soul to a player who has shown absolutely no interest in living up to his abilities since he was drafted out of UCLA in 1999.
Think about Baron Davis' NBA timeline, and think of the good, heady, on-point play he's provided. There's his second year, after his coach Paul Silas shamed Davis as a rookie by starting David Wesley ahead of him. And 2000-01, as well, and parts of the start of next season. That fabled 2006-07 turn, when Baron Davis was everyone's second favorite player. In spurts, at times, for the last two months -- though it should be noted that Davis in no way resembled what we saw in 2007 after working his way into shape last December.
Beyond that? He's been a consistent letdown, a consistent millstone on both ends, firing way too many 3-pointers at terrible percentage rates, and allowing defenders to blow by him constantly. And this was in Los Angeles, his hometown, with his producer buddies observing his embarrassing play. How is he going to do in Cleveland? Worse, how is he going to do in Cleveland in 2013? Baron Davis has been playing like an apathetic 34-year-old since he was 25. How's he going to do when he's actually 34?
Compounding all of this is Cleveland's coach, Byron Scott. I'm not sure Cleveland GM Chris Grant understands that Byron actually did coach the New Orleans Hornets for years (otherwise he wouldn't have hired the guy, regardless of his time spent with Davis), and he certainly can't be buying whatever bunk Byron told him yesterday about him and Davis getting along this time around. That never, ever happens.
I appreciate Grant doing what he can under Gilbert's rule, but this is just too much to take in. This isn't just an overpaid vet and the price of doing business. This is someone who will turn off your fans and his teammates. As Davis has done in every stop he's been to.
In return, the Cavaliers gave up Mo Williams. No, they could have given up Williams last summer, instead of ridiculously assuming that this team had a playoff core. Instead they decided to let an out-of-shape and unhappy-without-LeBron Williams show up to camp, play iffy basketball and routinely injure himself because of his weight issues. With his value at an all-time low, Cleveland sells, sells, sells!
What do they get? A Clipper lottery pick, which would be a pretty good thing in just about any other year. The problem is that this is one of the worst drafts in memory. It's the job of a draftnik to keep interest in drafts high, even if the upcoming draft in question looks terrible, so they routinely have to pump thin drafts up. And yet draftniks have been all over Twitter these last few days mocking the mock drafts that they're going to put together while holding their nose as June approaches. Even they admit that the 2011 draft will be bunko.
The pick is unprotected, which means the selection (currently eighth overall) could vault into the top three. There is a less than 5 percent chance of that happening, but it has happened before -- Baron Davis wouldn't have been drafted by the Hornets were it not for such a jump. But these jumps are rare, and NBADraft.net currently has the eighth selection being used on Donatas Motiejunas. Which is just ridiculous, because everybody knows that Kawhi Leonard is going eighth. Come on!
Williams will get better, playing alongside Blake Griffin(notes) and loving life in Los Angeles, and he has a very tradeable contract with two years and $17 million left on it (the final year is a player option he's bound to pick up). The Clippers cut nearly $12 million in salary, and didn't saddle Vinny Del Negro with another middling youngster on what is already an incredibly young team. What they get is a consistent shooting guard to take over for Davis (who couldn't stay healthy, even when he was trying this year) and Eric Bledsoe(notes), who is not ready to run the point at this level. They've also cleared more room to have cap space in 2012 that they'll never use.
Cleveland gets its pick, and apparently the price to pay for having what will be about the eighth pick in the draft is $12 million and the pain of having Baron Davis run the show for your terrible team. The man who couldn't get up to play alongside Blake Griffin will now get to run the show alongside J.J. Hickson(notes), three time zones away from his hometown, so that the Cleveland Cavaliers can have a chance at Donatas Motiejunas.
Because Dan Gilbert, we're convinced, hates Ohio. Maybe building another casino will help, Dan. Another bit of community development, y'know?