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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Ben Wallace to Cavs in 11-player deal

The acquisition of four-time defensive player of the year Ben Wallace completely transforms the trajectory of the Eastern Conference. It's very realistic to expect the Cavaliers to catapult to one of the the top two teams in the conference if James and Wallace are able to mesh together.

CLEVELAND (TICKER) —LeBron James wanted the Cleveland Cavaliers to improve their roster. The Cavaliers shook it up Thursday, acquiring Ben Wallace in an 11-player, three-team megadeal.

The Cavaliers also received guard Wally Szczerbiak, forward Joe Smith and guard Delonte West in a deal involving the Chicago Bulls and Seattle SuperSonics. The Bulls also sent the Cavaliers their second-round pick in 2009.

The deal was completed right before the league’s 3 p.m. EST trade deadline and, according to Cavaliers general manager Danny Ferry, sets up a bright future for his club.

“We’re very excited about what these players bring to us by adding a new dimension, and that we were able to impact this team without compromising future draft picks,” he said. “This again demonstrates (owner) Dan Gilbert’s dedication to this organization and city.

“At the same time, we have great respect for the guys that are leaving us and feel like they all contributed to our success.”

The Bulls received guard Larry Hughes, forward Drew Gooden, forward Cedric Simmons and guard Shannon Brown while the SuperSonics got swingman Adrian Griffin and forwards Ira Newble and Donyell Marshall.

Chicago executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson admitted that Thursday’s deal was made with the development of his team’s young roster in mind.

“We are all very much aware that this season has not advanced as we anticipated. With that said, we will continue to evaluate and re-shape our roster where necessary, until we can get to where we want to be as a team,” Paxson said. “This particular trade gives us the opportunity to solidify a couple of positions, as well as provide our team with some much needed scoring.

“The continued development of our young, big frontline is crucial and this move will allow them to gain valuable minutes on the court, which in turn will allow us to make the key decisions we are going to be faced with in the very near future.”

It was a long-awaited trade for Cleveland, which grew unhappy with the oft-injured Hughes and sought a revamped roster in its push for a second straight trip to the NBA Finals.

Most importantly, James said during All-Star Weekend that he thinks the Cavaliers should make a deal to keep up with other clubs in one of the most active trade seasons in recent memory.

The face of the Cavaliers - and possibly the league - James’ voice most likely carried a lot of weight in a deal which landed Cleveland Wallace, a four-time Defensive Player of the Year, and a slew of expiring contracts.

The trade came just days after the Cavs’ offer for veteran point guard Mike Bibby, who many feel is the perfect compliment to James, was reportedly rejected by the Sacramento Kings. Bibby then was traded to the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday.

Instead, Cleveland chose to change its frontcourt with the acquisition of Wallace, who is primarily a defender and rebounder but brings the toughness needed to compete in the postseason.

However, he is just two years into a four-year, $60 million free agent deal from the Bulls, who most likely realized that the 33-year-old forward is on the downside of his career. Wallace has averaged 5.1 points and 8.8 rebounds this campaign.

While he is not Bibby, the 24-year-old West is a capable combination guard with some promise. But he has yet to blossom in his first season with the SuperSonics after three with the Boston Celtics, averaging just 6.8 points and 3.2 assists this campaign.

Szczerbiak, who has averaged 13.1 points this season, spreads the floor and gives the Cavaliers another shooter on a team which allows James to freelance and find teammates on the perimeter.

A former first overall pick, the 32-year-old Smith has averaged 11.2 points and 5.3 rebounds in his first season in Chicago. But his value most likely is his contract, which expires at the end of the season.

The contracts of Szczerbiak and West expire after the next campaign - and Wallace’s deal is up after 2009-10, allowing the Cavaliers some flexibility when James can opt out of his contract and become a free agent that summer.

In the short term, the Cavaliers rid themselves of Hughes, who has been a disappointment in Cleveland, averaging just 12.3 points, 3.6 rebounds and 2.4 assists in his third season with the Cavaliers.

He also grew unhappy with his role in an offense which forced him to stifle his desire to slash to the basket.

The Bulls, who have been rumored in numerous deals in recent seasons, finally acquired a back-to-the-basket scorer in Gooden, who is capable in the post and one the game’s toughest rebounders.

The fourth overall pick in the 2002 draft, the 26-year-old Gooden has averaged 11.3 points and 8.3 rebounds this season.

While the 22-year-old Brown has shown some promise in 15 games this season, Simmons - who is the same age - has appeared in just seven contests and has not provided much for the Cavaliers.

The rebuilding Sonics received three expiring contracts, as Newble’s is up after this season while Marshall and Griffin come off the books after next campaign.