Start writing those checks, Gilbert

This could be fun. As the NBA heads into its free-agency period, the Cavaliers have more money than any other team in the league to play with, roughly $27 to $30 million. ESPN’s Marc Stein says Danny Ferry has two priorities: sign Michael Redd and re-sign Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Beyond that, the Cavs may still have enough money to ink a guy like Antonio Daniels or Earl Watson to play the point.

Obviously, the Redd signing would be huge. An OSU alum and Columbus native, the 6-6 shooting guard is one of the most lethal outside shooters in the game and, at only 25, he’s coming off a career-year, scoring 23 points per game last season with Milwaukee. This is the kind of scorer the Cavaliers so desperately need, a guy who can stretch opposing defenses and open up the lane for LeBron to create. Of course, if they miss out on Redd — a distinct possibility considering the Bucks can offer him significantly more money than the Cavs — the fallback option is Ray Allen, who ironically was shipped out of Milwaukee a couple years ago to make room for the up-and-coming Redd. No doubt Ferry would rather have the younger Redd but Allen, not exactly a geezer at 29, is even more dangerous from beyond the arch and may actually prove to be a smarter investment. I don’t care who it is, as long as the Cavs figure out a way to get either Redd or Allen. In fact, I’d be thrilled with Joe Johnson or Larry Hughes as well.

I’m not as sold on Z, though. I know that he’s one of the best centers in the East and I know that he seems to have moved beyond all those foot problems, but I just don’t think he meshes well with LeBron on the court. With LBJ on the floor, this team has the potential to be one of the most exciting teams in basketball, a la the Phoenix Suns, who ran just about every one of their regular-season opponents out of the arena. The 7-3 Ilgauskas obviously doesn’t fit into that kind of up-tempo gameplan. With Z on the floor, the offense screeches to a halt as the Cavs play half-court basketball, and LeBron’s proven over the years that he’s much more dangerous on the fly than he is in half-court mode. Considering it would take $10 to $12 million annually to lock Z up, I think that money would be better spent elsewhere on two or even three additions.

Who’s out there that could make a difference in the middle for the Cavs? It depends on what exactly you’re looking for. In his own ESPN column, Chad Ford details all the best free agents in this year’s class, and guys like Tyson Chandler, Stromile Swift and even Kwame Brown caught my eye. These are all athletic guys who can run, rebound and block shots. Ford even went so far as to compare Chicago’s Chandler to Ben Wallace. Who wouldn’t want Ben Wallace in the paint? Admittedly, Chandler, Swift and Brown have their problems offensively but if you combine LeBron with Redd, Allen or Johnson, you don’t need to get 18 a game from your center. I’ll take 10 points, 10 boards and 2.5 blocks from my center if you’re getting 20-plus from LeBron and Redd.

All of that said, I won’t be disappointed if they re-sign Z, because the Cavaliers proved last season that they can be competitive with Z on the floor, even if he can’t defend the pick-and-roll. I just hope Ferry makes some intelligent decisions this summer because the Cavaliers are in a prime spot right now. Choose the right guys and they’ll be playing for a title within the next three years. Choose wrong, though, and we’ll see LeBron playing for another team in three years.

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