Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Eric Snow is not the Anti-Christ

Can we all lay off Eric Snow?

Cavs fans hate the guy and, I won't lie, I've taken my share of shots at him. But it's time to calm down.

We all know Snow's negatives by rote: he can't shoot, he's overpaid and he can't keep up with the league's quicker guards. And we know all Snow's postivie traits just as well: defends big guards well, a veteran presence, he can set up the offense and he tutors the young guys.

To a lot of fans, his offensive ineptness far outweighs his defense skills (especially since he's lost a step or two). I don't necessarily disagree.

But I think the contributions Snow has already made to the organization far outweigh the negative effects he has now, mainly this: trading for Snow enabled the Cavs to re-sign LeBron James. There. I said it.

Now before you start laughing, let's take a look at this.

Before the Cavs traded for Snow their point guards were... anyone? Come on, you know this. That's right, Jeff McInnis and Kevin Ollie. Wasn't that awesome? Anyone remember who came before them? Smush Parker and Milt Palacio. Hell, remember LeBron's rookie year, the "Darius Miles point guard experiment"? That worked for about a week until everyone figured out that Darius has no ball handling skills whatsoever.

So after LeBron's rookie season, the Cavs went into the offseason with Jeff McInnis and Kevin Ollie. Not good. Remember, the Cavs missed the playoffs that season, and they were already on the clock with LeBron's rookie contract. They needed to show LeBron (and the national media) that they were serious about winning.

Jim Paxson and Paul Silas knew they couldn't count on McInnis to stay a good solider for an entire season. He had already been run of Los Angeles and Portland, and with the clock ticking on LeBron's rookie contract, they couldn't just roll the dice with Jeff. They needed a back up plan.

So they traded Kedrick Brown and Kevin Ollie to Philadelphia for Eric Snow. Now, not taking the contracts into account, that is a good deal. A point guard who started on a team that went to the NBA finals for Brown and Ollie? Who wouldn't take that?

The problem was that Philly signed Snow to a terrible deal and Philly was basically just dumping his contract. But Cavs were behind the 8-ball. They needed a competent PG and they needed him now. They'd deal with the contract later on.

Trading for Snow enabled the Cavs to breath easy on McInnis and it allowed them make LeBron the permanent small forward instead of saddling him with the point guard duties. As we all know, McInnis eventually started to pout and began to wear his jersey backwards in practice (he meant it to mean something, but it came off as "retarded"). Eventually he was asked not to travel with the team for their last road trip (I think it was just one game, in Toronto).

That season the Cavs finished out the playoffs again (by one game). It was LeBron: Year 2 and still no playoffs. The Cavs were a mess; owner Gordon Gund sold the team to Dan Gilbert, a young, Daniel Snyder type owner. Gilbert fired coach Paul Silas mid-season and GM
Jim Paxson shortly after the season ended. Finally the Cavs settled down with the signings of Mike Brown and Danny Ferry.

Now, imagine if the Cavs didn't have signed Snow. Jeff McInnis would've submarined that entire season. Kevin Ollie was the back up and he'd have led that team nowhere. I guarantee that the Cavs would've finished more than just one game out of the playoffs. Who knows how bad they would've looked.

To me, Snow's tenure in Cleveland is very similar to coach Silas. Silas was brought in to bring legitimacy to an organization that lacked it for almost a decade. He brought order and stability and Snow did the same, just on a lesser scale. The Cavs didn't have a legitimate point guard on the roster. They couldn't risk a whole year of McInnis (or another season of Kevin Ollie's mustache). Snow brought some stability to the Cavalier offense; the Cavs didn't have to rely on LeBron to set the offense up and he took a lot of the ball handling responsibilities. Snow was also a guy who had been to the finals. He also had played with a star who dominated the ball (Iverson) and he'd bring a (winning) veteran influence to the roster.

And his contract? 1) The Cavs had a huge amount of cash to spend last offseason, so it wasn't like Snow's deal was stopping them from making moves. 2) If they stay with the McInnis/Ollie combo, they could've/would've been awful and who knows how happy LeBron would be here. What's the use of having that extra $8 million if LeBron doesn't re-up?

If the Cavs had a terrible season (ie: not only missing the playoffs by a game), who knows if the Cavs sign Larry Hughes (or Marshall and Jones for that matter). The Cavs looked like a team on the rise, which was part of the reason that the free agents chose to come here. I don't think you could say that if the McInnis/Ollie two headed monster was still roaming the Gund Arena floor.

But now it's 2006. The Cavs won 50 games last season, they won a playoff series and took the Pistons to game 7. Plus (and most importantly), LeBron re-upped. The Cavs are coming into the season as Eastern Conference contenders and have an outside shot at the NBA title. True, he stabled the Cavs ship and took the them to the playoffs but now he's older, slower and his offensive game is well, offensive.

The Cavs have outgrown Snow (like they did Silas). They could use an upgrade.

Everyone sees it. His (lack of) jumpshot hurts the offense, defenses don't even cover him. Plus, now that the Cavs spent their cap money, that contract looks a whole lot worse. But for all the bitching and moaning we do about Snow now, let's remember the other options.

Ollie and McInnis weren't gonna do it. The Cavs big priority two summers ago was shooting guard, not point. Even so, they signed Damon Jones, the starting point guard from a Miami Heat team that was a Dwyane Wade injury away from the NBA finals.

Plus (like my Zydrunas argument), who were the other options out there? In hind sight, who should the Cavs have went with? What point guard has been on the block the past few years? Gary Payton? Starbury? Steve Francis? What about this past offseason, where Snow's contract hampered the Cavs free agent aquisitions? Speedy Claxton? Bobby Jackson? These guys are the answers?

Look, I'm not saying Snow should be the guy. Hell, I've been one of the biggest Daniel Gibson supporters out there. Eventually, the Cavs are going to need a point guard who can hit the open jumper. I get that. But let's all remember that at the time, Snow was a good pick up. He filled a gaping need (a point guard who isn't insane or Kevin Ollie) and he enabled the Cavs to grow as a team (or at least not implode).

Trust me, I can't wait for the day where the Snow isn't starting for the Cavs. But for all his faults, the guy helped the organization a ton. He wasn't a bad pick up and he's not a bad guy to have around the team. At point he shouldn't be starting for a contender, but the Cavs could do a lot worse.

Jeff McInnis is probably available.


Benjamin Warburton said...

How about our reserves hanging with Dallas last night? Promising, but we did allow the Mavs to get an offensive rebound in the last minute......David Wesley is going to be a lot more important than people realize. With Donyell upping his game and using his size more, Wesley and Jones are going to get open shots and Wesley is a proving shooter (37% 3 pt for career). I think a mix of him and Shannon Brown/Gibson eventually, is going to be a potent combo and mix of styles. Wesley can also pass well. How about Chicago getting all this mad hype? People talk about how the Bulls needed frontcourt presence and offense and claim Ben Wallace provides that. Um, HOW exactly does Ben Wallace fix that? He cant shoot, he has no footwork. He happens to be a linebacker who had the priviledge of playing on a great defensive TEAM the past 4 years. The Bulls are not gonna live up to the hype and I have more confidance in the Orlando Magic right now as far as being a surprise team.

Ben said...

Yesterday on PTI, Tony Kornheiser said if the Bulls have a huge year, Ben Wallace could get the MVP.

If that happens, it would be a travesty worse than the back-to-back Nash MVPs.

I mean, with Nash you're giving it to a guy who can't play any defense. But with Wallace, you'd be giving it a guy with no offensives skills at all.

A lot of people wrote off the Wesley signings because of how he played last season. But last year Houston was forced to play him 30+ minutes a game. In Cleveland he's going to get 15-25 minutes. That should keep fresh and productive.

Erik said...

Snow won't be confused with even Terrell Brandon in his prime, but there is something to be said for character guys who make few mistakes.

Yeah, it would be great to have Steve Nash Pistol-Peteing the ball up, down and crossways to LeBron and Larry Hughes. But do the Cavs really need a stat-stuffing PG who needs the ball in his hands all the time?

LeBron needs his touches. Hughes needs his touches. Z needs his. If early indications are true, Gooden might warrant more than a few touches. And we need a point who needs a bunch of touches, too?

The people who say the Cavs can't win with a PG like Snow are the people who would trade Snow and Z for Stephon Marbury in a heartbeat.

With ballhandling to spare in LeBron and Hughes, the Cavs need a PG who can be like Trent Dilfer was for the 2000 Ravens. Snow doesn't have to win games for Cavs; he just has to not lose them. And he's good at that.

Ben said...

Dude, I would so take Terrell Brandon in his prime right now. That guy was awesome. He was a rookie when I first started really paying attention to sports.

Sports Illustrated did a feature about ranking the NBA point guards, and Brandon came out number 1. I have that cover autographed (the first Cavalier on the cover of SI before LeBron)