Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Wish List?

Henry Abbott reports (via The Painted Area) that Theodoros Papaloukas is looking to join the NBA. Papaloukas is a 6'7" point guard/playmaker who's dominated European basketball (and the United States in the 2006 Worlds). Here's a scouting report on the guy (link courtesy of The Painted Area).

I am cautiously endorsing Cleveland signing this guy. As I mention below, we really need a point guard/playmaker in Cleveland--someone to bring the ball up, get us into our offense, and handle the ball at the top of the key so that LeBron can start working to become lethal in the elbow/low block area. Papaloukas certainly fits that bill--he's got great court vision, he's tall, and he can post up most smaller point guards. Papaloukas would also allow us to create matchup problems for many teams--we could have a real big backcourt that would be pretty tough to guard (imagine Papaloukas as a 6'7" PG, Hughes/Pavlovic as a 6'7" slasher, and LeBron as a 6'8" SF) with Gibson and the other of Hughes/Pavlovic coming off the bench, and Gooden and Varejao down low. Wow--that would be a fun team to watch. Plus, Papaloukas has a good mid-range game, which the Cavs sorely lack.

On the flip side, though, my first concern is that Papaloukas isn't the purest outside shooter. I wonder if there's such a thing as too many slashers (Hughes, Papaloukas, LeBron, Pavlovic) such that the offense would stay cluttered and directionless. Though, Papaloukas could play a bit of post on smaller PG's and open up the floor for the other guys--and LeBron in the post could have the same effect. Plus, maybe Gibson and Pavlovic might be enough from 3-pt land if the latter gets a bit more consistent.

My other worry is this: Papaloukas at PG is like having Larry Hughes at PG, if Larry Hughes could make passes and initiate the offense (OK, fine, the only similarity is their size). But if we plug in Papaloukas, do we really have space for Hughes any more? I mean, right now, the guy is perhaps the fourth- or fifth-best offensive option on the team . . . Papaloukas would push him even farther down. Now, I'm not sure if Larry Hughes has much promise in Cleveland, but I don't know if we could move him even if we wanted to (especially not at 14 million per) and I worry about the effect him sitting would have.

Ideally, we could move Hughes and trot out a starting lineup of Papaloukas, Pavlovic, LeBron, Gooden, and Varejao, with Gibson on the bench. That lineup would be tough to defend--a great penetrator/facilitator, a good shooter/slasher, LeBron, and two reasonably athletic big men who could focus on rebounding more than scoring.

That being unlikely, we still desperately need a point/guard playmaker on this team. I'm not sure if there's anyone out there who would be better than Papaloukas, so maybe it's worth taking a shot. Or maybe, just maybe, we could send Larry Hughes to New York, to help Isiah complete his quest to trot out a complete lineup of past-their-prime former slashers?

UPDATE: We could also sign Papaloukas as a bench guy--someone to come in and fill the Ginobli role of mixing things up and providing instant life for the offense. The problem is, we still wouldn't have a starting point guard then, unless the Gibson experiment works out (Larry Hughes is NOT the answer at the point). I still think it's worth getting him--though most of his success in Europe has come off the bench, I'm sure he could develop into a good starter and solve our PG problem. If not, maybe we bring him off the bench and take our chances with Gibson at the point (hoping that he improves a lot) and always have a ready offensive facilitator when he struggles. Papaloukas does have plenty of experience (though not in the NBA game) and could help offset Gibson's youth and relative inexperience.

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