Scott over at WFNY jogged our memory on the Kyrie acquisition a couple days ago. (See tweet at right.) He’s right of course: the Clippers included a non-protected first round pick in the Baron Davis for Mo Williams + Jamario Moon trade. The Clippers’ pick, not the Cavs’, was the lottery winner that turned into Kyrie Irving.
But there’s more to this story.
The Clippers have a history of making bad choices, but these are not the Stepien-era Cavs. The 2010 Clippers rolled out Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, DeAndre Jordan, Baron Davis, and Blake Griffin. They thought they were playoff contenders. But they started slow (4-17), Kaman and Gordon got injured, the season was shot, and they decided to re-tool for 2011. They became sellers at the trade deadline.*
If you’re in re-tool mode and you’re a young team with a #1 overall rookie all-star to build around… 31 year old guards don’t figure into the plan. Baron Davis had a nice run with the Hornets and Warriors, averaging 20 PPG with a 42% FG% when he moved to LA. But things went sideways fast. Injuries and age caught up with Davis, his 3P% slipped below 30% and then there’s his contract. Davis had $27M due him over the next two years. The Clippers needed to dump that salary if they wanted to play in the free agent market. And free agency is where the Clippers needed to be, not the draft. They needed ‘the one piece.’ No rookie project will do.
Good luck finding a team owner willing to spend $27M on injury-prone, [slightly] chubby, very clubby, 30% shooting, 31 year old PG. Even with the draft pick which is 72.5% likely to be #8 (2.8% chance at being #1), that’s a tough sell.
We don’t know, but we expect that the Clippers shopped the Davis + pick deal all over the NBA. With three hours left before the deadline, the Cavs had the best deal on the table and the trade was made. Looking harder at the numbers:
Davis is still owed nearly $28 million over the next two seasons and the balance of his $13 million contract this year. Moon’s contract expires after this season. Williams is owed the balance of his $9.3 million salary this season and, with player options of $8.5 million for each of the next two years, potentially could get out of his contract altogether. The savings should give the Clippers more flexibility in free agency the next two seasons.
Davis owed: $28M + (13 * .25) = ~$31M
Williams: 8.5 + 8.5 + (9.3 * .25) = ~$19M
Moon: 3.0 * .25 = ~1M
The delta is roughly $11M.
Baron Davis was waived in December 2011… that’s nine months.
In other words: Dan Gilbert spent $11,000,000 for the 2.8% chance to draft Kyrie Irving.
Ain’t that more than you can reasonably expect from a team owner?
Not the first time Gilbert has over-spent for the Cavs
When LeBron left, many jack-asses blamed the Cavs for not getting LeBron a supporting cast. The facts are more complex. Long story short: if you’re a decent NBA free-agent, do you volunteer to be Antawn Jamison on the 19-63 2011 Cavs? You do not. Any arguments on the ‘failures of the Cavs’ front office’ regarding LeBron need to consider LeBron’s part in making Cleveland a toxic FA destination.
But that prevailing narrative is out there and whenever I hear it, I think about another Gilbert-funded attempt to get the Cavs over the top.
Let’s go back to 2009. Cavs are 66-16. Cavs are 8-0 in the first two playoffs series. (Hey jackasses: 74-16? Is that a good enough supporting cast?) Enter the Orlando Magic and Dwight Howard:
Game 1: Howard is 14-20, 30 pts. Magic are 9-20, 45% from three point land. Cavs lose by one.
Game 2: Heroic LeBron buzzer beater. Howard 3-8, 10 pts. Magic still shoot 43.5% from 3.
Game 3: Howard shoot 19 free throws, 24 points. Cavs lose by ten (in spite of 41 from LeBron).
Game 4: Howard 10-16. 27 pts; Magic 17-38, 45% 3P%. Lebron 44. Cavs lose in OT.
Game 5: Cavs win, Magic shoots 32% from 3.
Game 6: Howard 14-21, 40. Magic up 18 at half, win by 13.
The message: we need someone to shut down Dwight Howard. The double-triple-team thing is no good because that leaves the perimeter open for Lewis-Turkoglu-Alston-Pietrus to drill threes.
It’s a Magic/Howard specific problem. 74-16 demonstrates this. It’s one piece needed to body-up Dwight Howard… Zydrunas is over-matched.
Enter Shaq. 37 year old Shaquille O’Neal. $20,000,000/year, 37 year old, injured, slow Shaquille O’Neal.
“What’s that you say Danny Ferry and Mike Brown? We need to get the best available defensive, wide-body, lane-eating, low-post player to match up with Dwight Howard? $20,000,000? Done. Make it happen. We need to get LeBron a supporting cast.”
We know what happens from there. Cavs go 61-21, beat Bulls 4-1. Lose to Celtics 4-2.
In the Boston series, what I saw was too much offense going through Shaq, too much Mo Williams against Rajon Rondo. We don’t know the back story on Delonte but gotta think if he were right, the Rondo factor is lessened. Looking at Delonte’s minutes in those playoffs, it’s clear something was up starting with the last three games.
But I digress.
The point here is, again: THANKS DAN GILBERT.
You’ve done your part and then some. $20,000,000 for 37 year old Shaq; $11,000,000 for 31 year old B-dizzle.
This is what we want from an owner, is it not?
UPDATE: for reference here is a Tom Pestak piece flawlessly cataloging the work done by the Cavs to support LeBron.
Investing in depressed downtown = goodness.
In addition to his commitment to making the Cavs great, we can’t not note his commitment to making Detroit and Cleveland better.
Take his involvement in Detroit. There’s not exactly a stampede for Detroit real estate. Why would there be?
- In 2012, Detroit had the highest rate of violent crime of any city over 200,000;
- Unemployment is at 18%;
- The city is insolvent with $15B in debt.
But Detroit is Gilbert’s hometown. He’s got a profitable business and he can take his jobs anywhere. Bloomfield, Ann Arbor would welcome him. Hell… there’s a lot of back-office and call-center, he could out-source to Bangalore. Lots of companies do.
Nope, not Gilbert. Says here there are 7600 Quicken Loans jobs in Detroit. A week ago 2000 people showed up to apply for 500 more jobs. As his son would say, “What’s not to like?”
In addition to the jobs he brings, he’s investing in the city. Gilbert:
… wants to revive two square miles that were once the thrumming heart of this city. To do so, he has already spent roughly $1 billion acquiring nearly three million square feet of real estate, and is ready to close another deal, for the Greektown Casino-Hotel and nearby parking lots, that will add one million more square feet to his holdings.
He’s doing some of the same in Cleveland:
Since Gilbert bought the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball team in 2005, he has renovated Cleveland’s renamed Quicken Loans Arena (The Q), opened a mortgage banking center that now employs 300, built a $25-million practice facility for the Cavs, and is deep into construction for a $350-million Phase I of his future Horseshoe Casino in a former department store downtown, with a 16-acre new casino to follow in a few years. Gilbert’s investments in and around downtown Cleveland will total close to $1 billion.
Remarkably, such community commitment is met by some with suspicion, disdain, and contempt. You don’t have to search hard to find charges of exploitation of the most vulnerable associated with Gilbert’s investments.
“He’s doing it for money.”
Well…, yeah. And your point?
If I open a coin operated laundromat, bar, McDonald’s franchise… I’m doing it for the money and I suppose you could say I’m preying on the society’s most vulnerable too.
The laudable thing about Gilbert is that, with a net worth of $3.5 billion, he could just buy Contrafund and call it a day. He’s all set. But instead he’s investing in communities most in need of investment.
That that gets lost in snarky reviews of the Comic Sans letter is nothing short of a shame.
And so when the Cavs are awarded the #2 pick in this year’s draft tonight (We all know Sacto is getting #1, do we not?), be sure to factor in the good karma that our owner has accrued through his off-court investments and we can all thank him for that.
It’s really hard to ask for more from an NBA owner or from our wealthiest citizens. Someone needs to say it so I will: thanks Dan.
* Clips won their division two years later going 56-26. The cap flexibility allowed them to acquire Chris Paul. Given they had no idea their 2.8% pick would win the lottery, it’s hard to kill them on the trade. They made a plan and followed it.