Let that sink in for a minute. James Jones...who was brought in for his 3-point shooting...was pressed into duty as the Cavaliers third big man.
Kevin Love was out with an eye injury and that gap pushed Jones up the depth chart. Jones getting 30 minutes was not due to coach David Blatt having an unhealthy Dellavedova-esque fascination with his play. It was just a standard issue, injury-related, depth choice. It is also the perfect illustration of why GM David Griffin needs to get another big.
As an aside: This also highlights a different story line that we had earlier in the season with LeBron. Coming into the season, his weighing significantly less was supposed to highlight his desire to play more exclusively at the 3. It certainly comes into question though if the loss of weight also may have affected his ability to adequately play the 4, but that's for a different time.
And as it happens, two semi-quality big men just became available. But who should the team pursue (if they should pursue either)?
At one point in his career, Stoudemire was a player to be feared, a player that warped defenses and shifted game plans. But after a host of injuries over a 12-year career, he is no longer that player. When the Knicks gave him a super long, super max contract (super because the contract seems super stupid now), they were immediately rewarded with a 25.3 ppg, 8.3 rpg and 1.9 blocks per game season. It's strange to think about, but that initial season for the Knicks was five years ago and time has quickly degraded Stoudemire's game.
He is no longer as explosive an athlete. He is no longer serviceable on the defensive end. His rebounding is pedestrian. He is a shell of the player he once was.
But on a vet minimum contract, Stoudemire might be worth something to a contender. For the Knicks, this season, he's averaging 12 ppg, 6.8 rpg and 0.9 blocks. He's getting 24 minutes per game, a number that would likely be cut quite a bit if/when he joins a contender. The shocking aspect about his stats is that they really are not as bad as they look. Sure, he has a career low in win-shares, but that largely is hinging on playing for a team that only has 10 wins.
Looking strictly at advanced metrics, Stoudemire is above his career average in rebounding, assists, blocks, and shockingly usage percentage, while maintaining a PER of 19.7. While he might not be heavily reliable from a health standpoint (he hasn't been in years), Amar'e can certainly remain an effective player if used properly, though maybe not what this team needs on the defensive end.
If a contender were to reduce his minutes and closely monitor his health, he might be able to regain some of his old form while offering relief for the players in front of him. He'll likely clear waivers on Wednesday (unless a team wants to pick up his $23 million tab for the Knicks) and then become a free agent. Most pundits are reporting Dallas as the front-runner to land his services, with Phoenix in the passenger seat.
That's fine by me. I'd rather the Cavaliers take a flier on the other big man likely to be bought out...Larry Sanders.
Milwaukee is allegedly in the middle of buying their disgruntled Center out. The 26-year old, when operating at peak performance, is a dynamic defensive force and impressive rim protector.
Drafted in 2010 (the last year that Stoudemire could still be considered a star), Sanders has been the definition of a mercurial personality. When things are clicking, he is one of the best defensive big men in the league. When things are bad, he misses stretches of games amid rumors that he's thinking of departing basketball altogether.
But if Sanders wants to play basketball (and he keeps saying that he does), then he will likely want to prove that the last several months in Milwaukee were a fluke and not indicative of who he is, on or off the court.
And if he can achieve an echo of his best season (9.8 ppg, 9.5 rbg, 2.8 blocks) then Sanders could solve a lot of interior issues for a lot of teams.
One team that could use some more assurance in the middle of their D is Cleveland. MozGod has been a great addition to the squad. But if he suffers foul trouble or gets injured, the Cavs will be left with an undersized Tristan Thompson and an injury prone/soft Kevin Love. Sanders could solve all of that. Sanders brings size, some ability to finish on pick-and-rolls and toughness. He doesn't need the ball to succeed, which should groove with LeBron, Irving, JR Smith, Love and most of the rest of the team.
The downside is this: He's a headcase. We know it. The Front Office knows it. Everyone knows it.
But winning a championship requires smarts AND luck. Signing Sanders would be viewed as shrewd if it worked out and idiotic if it didn't. But the defining factor would actually be luck. Lucky that the guy is available, lucky if he signs with the team and luckiest if he plays like he wants to be there.
On the other hand, we ARE still stuck with Delly playing 20+ minutes a game...