Z just doesn’t fit

The more I think about the possibility of re-signing Zydrunas Ilguaskas, the more I think it would be a bad move. The Cavs are faced with the unique opportunity to completely rebuild their team around their best player because they’ve got a boatload of money to spend in the free-agent market and a roster in need of serious overhaul. With the amount of cash Danny Ferry has burning a hole in his pocket, he can go out and pick up three new starters this summer to complement LeBron.

First, they need a shooter, with Michael Redd, Joe Johnson and Larry Hughes atop the list. They’re also looking for a point guard, with Antonio Daniels and Earl Watson, who play defense as well as they run an offense, representing two solid possibilities, along with Lithuanian point guard Sarunas Jasikevicius. And then, of course, they need a center. Before Danny Ferry was hired, Dan Gilbert apparently was ready to let Z walk. Since then, though, Ferry has reportedly convinced Gilbert that keeping Z is the right move. I’m not convinced.

Here’s the thing with Z: He’s a very good offensive center, second only to Shaq in the East. But he’s often a liability on the defensive end of the court, he’s asking for $10 or $12 million a year for five years and, as we know all too well, he’s got a brutal injury history. Granted, Z’s been remarkably healthy the past three years but that could very well mean he’s overdue.

Overlooking the injury issue, though, there’s one more significant reason re-signing Z doesn’t make sense for the Cavaliers: he just doesn’t fit. As I stated in an earlier post, LeBron has proven the past two years that he’s much more dangerous on the run than he is in the half-court set. The problem is, when Z is on the floor the Cavs are always in the half court. If Ferry ends up re-signing Z, then the offense will be built around Z, which doesn’t make any sense considering LeBron’s your best player and, quite possibly, the best young player in the game. If the Cavs bring Z back, they’ll be forced to be a half-court team, which limits LeBron’s productivity. How does that benefit the Cavs?

It’s easy to understand why Ferry thinks so highly of Z: He’s been watching Tim Duncan dominate in San Antonio the past few years. But the difference is, Duncan is the Spurs’ best player; Z is not the Cavaliers’ best player, nor is he nearly the player that Duncan is, offensively or defensively. Use that $12 million to plug several holes on the roster — go get an athletic big man who can block shots, rebound and run the floor, a guy like Tyson Chandler, Stromile Swift or Samuel Dalembert, and then beef up the bench with one or two other contributors. Z has proven to be a potent scorer and consistent rebounder with the Cavs but this isn’t his team; it’s LeBron’s. And Ferry needs to realize that, while Z is a good player, he just isn’t a good fit for this team.

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