Saturday, February 23, 2008

Cavaliers Clean House, Add Playoff Pieces

Friday’s game against the Wizards was like watching a really expensive pick-up game with all the unfamiliar players on the floor. Ten of the fifteen players on the roster were either inactive or signed as emergency injury replacements. The starting five consisted of LeBron, Z, and what’s left of the Cleveland bench after the trade. Despite the plethora of journeymen, spare parts, and D-Leaguers on the floor, Cleveland was able to steal a win against the struggling Wizards. You know you’re in a nasty losing streak when Damon Jones personally destroys your defense. Jones hit seven 3-pointers and combined with LeBron for 60 points. It’s as if Jones was inspired by the recently departed Larry Hughes (Jones will go 2-20 next game as a tribute to Larry’s legacy in Cleveland).

Meanwhile, the newest Cavs were stuck in a sky box, munching on hot wings and looking kind of bored. It’s too bad these guys can’t play before taking a physical because having to entertain Danny Ferry for three hours can’t be much fun. The best part of the whole game was the look on Wally Szczerbiak’s face after LeBron dropped a one-handed jam through traffic; the poor guy just had this terrified “wow” on his face as the camera panned over.

On the Trade

The more I think about Ferry’s deadline deal, the more I like it. The only player I was sad to see moved was Gooden, but his contract was good for only one more season anyway and it was unclear how interested Cleveland was in resigning him. The departure of Larry Hughes, his jump shot, and his contract is awesome. In fact, that may be my favorite part of the trade. Ferry rolled the dice with his deadline deal and is relying on a rebound (no pun intended) from Wallace and reliable production from Szczerbiak and West. The payoff could be significant, but with the way the payroll is structured and the fact that most of the departed were dead weight anyway, the risk does not seem particularly high on Cleveland’s end.

I think Ferry really redeemed himself with the trade. First of all, he made LeBron happy (sort of). Second, he was able to dump various unproductive experiments like Shannon Brown and Hughes while getting real value in return. He even got a partial refund for the draft pick wasted on Brown in the form of a 2nd rounder in 2009 from Chicago. Ferry was able to improve the team on multiple fronts, while maintaining payroll flexibility for the future (no easy task).

I tried to address the impact of the trade on Cleveland by going through each new player and how they may fit in. We’ll know Coach Brown’s rotations for sure when the Cavs face Memphis on Sunday.

Ben Wallace

Position: Center
Age: 33
Vitals: 6-9, 240

Wallace will be expected to fill the rebounding void that Drew Gooden left behind. Wallace is averaging 8.8 RPG, but has the potential to be an even greater force off the boards. Unlike Gooden, who was unlikely to exceed more than 8.5 RPG this season, Wallace has historically been a much better rebounder. Wallace averaged 10.6 rebounds just a year ago with Chicago and will likely outperform Gooden this season, even with a down season.

Wallace’s trademark is his tough interior defense. He’s earned a reputation as an enforcer and should get the job done on defense where Ilgauskas occasionally seems overmatched. It will be interesting to see how Wallace does in Coach Brown’s defensive scheme against dynamic big men like Kevin Garnett and Dwight Howard. The Cavaliers are betting on a resurgent Wallace to shut down Boston and Detroit’s size inside during the playoffs.

Wallace’s kryptonite is his offense and has averaged just 6.2 PPG over the past three seasons. There’s really not much to say other than it’s terrible and isn’t going to contribute to many wins. There is a chance Wallace could take advantage of all the attention LeBron receives on the perimeter and get some extra scoring opportunities inside, but I doubt much will change in that regard. If the Cavs are smart in who they surround Wallace with, his offensive shortcomings won’t be as prevalent. It will be interesting to see if Varejao and Wallace switch it up at forward and center. I’m not sure Varejao is able to handle more offensive responsibility, but he’s shooting a career best this season with 7.8 PPG and a .511 FG%. Varejao may earn more minutes regardless with Gooden gone. A second configuration could be Wallace at forward and Z at center, giving the Cavs extra size on defense while maintaining a mid-range threat in Z.

After coming off so many winning seasons with the Pistons, it’s possible that Wallace’s frustration with the Bull’s terrible season was coming out in his performance. There’s still a risk Wallace will continue to play his worst since the ’99-‘00 season, but a change of scenery and a winning environment could go a long way. I predict a strong bounce-back from Big Ben as the season wraps up.

Wally Szczerbiak

Position: Forward
Age: 30
Vitals: 6-7, 244

The addition of Szczerbiak will provide LeBron with a badly needed sniper to pair with Daniel Gibson. In the short-term, Szczerbiak will allow the Cavs to maintain their three-point game while Gibson’s ankle heals over the next six weeks. Having Szczerbiak and Gibson on the floor may benefit LeBron the most by drawing some of the defensive pressure off him and directing it to the perimeter. Damon Jones may also see more minutes in Gibson’s absence. Jones has quietly posted a .428 3PT% this season, matching Wally’s percentage. Szczerbiak is not as feared a shooter as Gibson this year, but should be an effective weapon coming off the bench.

Unfortunately, all Szczerbiak is really good for is shooting; the rest of his stats are weak across the board. To be fair, I’m not sure how much of Szczerbiak’s sagging stats are from his role on the bench in Seattle and he may be a more complete player than the numbers indicate. It’s ironic that the two headliners in this trade appear to be complete opposites, with one specializing in defense and the other offense. I think Szczerbiak’s offensive production will be able to compensate for the loss of Hughes or Gooden, but not both. Given how maddeningly inconsistent Hughes was this season, finding alternative options on offense may not be too difficult once the Cavs get healthy again.

Delonte West

Position: Guard
Age: 24
Vitals: 6-4, 180

West will likely get the nod as starting point guard for now, but I would like to see Gibson take over that role later in the season. Neither guard will have to worry about setting up the offense all the time, given James’ playmaking ability and leadership role. I haven’t heard much about West, but he seems to be lacking in opportunities during his career. He averaged 32.1 minutes per game while posting 12.2 points, 3.2 assists, 2.8 rebounds, and a solid .427 FG% with Boston last season. West’s performance took a dip in Seattle this year, shooting .388.

According to Branson Wright of the Plain Dealer, West is “a point guard who can run the pick and roll, run the offense and more importantly, knock down the open shot.” West appears to have the potential to be a decent point guard if surrounded by quality players to facilitate his skills. The lack of talent and reduction in minutes in Seattle may be the culprit behind West’s poor season so far. I think West may be a pleasant surprise for Cleveland if given the opportunity.

Joe Smith

Position: Forward
Age: 32
Vitals: 6-10, 225

The one thing I keep hearing about Joe Smith is how overlooked he has been in this trade. I would have to agree, since Smith will be a significant upgrade over Donyell Marshall and helps to bolster the new-look Cavs bench. Smith is averaging 11.2 PPG, 5.3 RPG, and a .466 FG% on 22.9 minutes per game. For comparison, Marshall averaged 3.7 PPG on a .295 FG% and has only played in 11 games this season due to injury. While Smith does not shoot beyond the arc like Marshall, he will provide the Cavs with strong interior scoring off the bench.

On Payroll

Cleveland’s overall payroll will increase by $4.5 million this season, but the quality of the players they’ll be paying is higher than before the trade. Hughes, Gooden, Marshall, Simmons, Newble, and Brown will make a total of $30 million this year. The biggest reason for the post-trade payroll jump is Szczerbiak’s $12 million salary being almost twice as much as Gooden’s. If the Cavs decide they don’t need Szczerbiak after this season, his expiring contract could be easy to move.

Cleveland Contracts Moved (data from Hoops Hype):

Arriving Player 07-'08 08-'09 09-'10 10-'11
B. Wallace $15,500,000 $14,500,000 $14,000,000 $0
W. Szczerbiak $12,000,000 $13,000,000 $0
D. West $1,889,759 $2,762,828 $0
J. Smith $5,200,000 $0

Total: $34,589,759 $30,262,828 $14,000,000

Departing Player

L. Hughes $12,000,084 $12,827,676 $13,655,268 $0
D. Gooden $6,400,000 $7,100,000 $0
D. Marshall $5,566,965 $5,950,894 $0
I. Newble $3,441,900 $0

C. Simmons $1,629,120 $1,742,760 $0
S. Brown $1,044,120 $0

Total: $30,082,189 $27,621,330 $13,655,268

Difference: +$4,507,570 +$2,641,498 +$3,44,732

Wallace and Hughes are the highest paid players involved, but both have the same contract lengths. The bonus with Wallace is that he’ll become cheaper as his contract expires, while Hughes will get almost $1 million more each season. I also believe Wallace will provide more value than Hughes over the remainder of his contract.

Overall, the Cavs did not take on any extra contract years, providing them flexibility to make a free agent signing as these contracts expire or get moved before 2010. Depending on how well the Cavs draft picks work out, the aging roster could clear out just as the younger players are ready to step up.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Boobie Shoots, Howard Flies at All Star Fest

The Cavs' Daniel Gibson received an invitation to the NBA All Star game's three point shootout on Saturday. While he didn't clinch his second trophy of the weekend, Gibson still had a respectable second place finish behind reigning champion Jason Kapono. Gibson scored 17 points in both rounds, finishing ahead of Richard Hamilton, Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki, and Peja Stojakovic. Kapono tied former Cavalier Mark Price's record, with 24 points in the final round of the event. I know it's all just for fun, but I think it's exciting to see any Cleveland team represented in an All Star event (seriously, how awesome is it to see Boobie walk onto the court between Nowitzki and Nash?). Gibson actually did better than I expected, since it was his first All Star weekend and he was probably a little nervous.

The night before, Gibson went crazy in the Rookie-Sophomore game. Boobie nailed a record 11 three pointers on 20 shots and walked away with the game's MVP award. Judging by the 136-109 score, these guys weren't playing much defense anyway, but at least Gibson got a good workout in over the break.

The real highlight of the night was Dwight Howard's real-life interpretation of NBA Jam. Howard may have single-handedly saved the flagging, 31 year old dunk contest with his creativity and showmanship. Many fans were comparing the originality, difficulty, and athleticism of Howard's dunks with those of Vince Carter back in 2000. I'd put Howard's series of three dunks in the top five of all time, easy. There's really no point in my describing the dunks further, but if you haven't seen them by now, they are worth a look. The Superman dunk can be found at the 2:40 mark:

The technical difficulty of Howard's first dunk was superior in my opinion, but the entertainment factor and sheer power of his Superman dunk makes it my personal favorite. I can't remember the last time I enjoyed a slam dunk contest that much. It's too bad LeBron has never given it a go given the insane elevation he can get on his dunks.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Parting Ways

I'm not exactly known for my optimism when it comes to the Indians, but I've been forcing myself all off-season to believe Sabathia would sign a contract extension before Spring Training. The odds of that happening took a near fatal blow yesterday as Sabathia posted an announcement on his official website that contract negotiations would be called off until after the 2008 season. Here's the meat of the announcement:
There will be time after the season for the Indians and my representatives to discuss my contract status. I remain hopeful that these discussions will result in a contract extension that will keep me with the franchise for many years to come. In the meantime, in order to avoid any distractions, my representatives and I will not make any further comment about my contractual situation beyond this statement.
First off, why was this announcement made through Sabathia's website and not as an official press release on the team website? According to Anthony Castrovince, "Shortly before he posted a message on his official Web site Wednesday night, [Sabathia] told the Indians what he was about to tell the rest of the world." That alone indicates a significant breakdown in negotiations, as if Sabathia's party had left Shapiro hanging in limbo much earlier. The situation is bad enough as it is, but it seems awfully suspect when a player informs a team he's breaking off negotiations at the same time he makes a public announcement on his own. That's not in line with how the Tribe usually does business and makes this sound even worse.

I don't think the way Westbrook and Hafner's negotiations were renewed and finalized after the regular season started are a valid comparison to Sabathia's situation. According to Shapiro, "there's not a lot of common ground" between the Tribe and Sabathia right now. Westbrook and Hafner were much closer to agreeing on the contracts' terms by the time the season started, thus making it possible for a quick resolution. If Sabathia were open to negotiating during the season (he's not), it would probably drag on for most of the season, at least.

Sabathia says extending negotiations into the season would be a distraction, but lets be honest here: his presence at the bargaining table has been minimal so far. Sabathia's agents are the ones doing the negotiating, so what kind of distraction is he referring to? I'm willing to question if Sabathia has even discussed his contract with Shapiro in person at this point. If both sides were still dedicated to getting a deal done, you can bet talks would have extended until April.

Frankly, I'm tired of all the BS being thrown around. Sabathia has said all the right things and maintained a positive demeanor throughout the off-season, but it's now perfectly clear that whatever loyalty he may have had to Cleveland is gone. I'm not saying Sabathia should have blindly taken the first contract put on the table, although reports indicate it was comparable to those of Roy Oswalt, Mark Buehrle, and Jake Peavy (5 years at $17-18 mil a year, including 2008). My point is that even with all the fluffy sound bites being leaked from both parties, the drive to reach a compromise has clearly died.

From a business standpoint, Sabathia is subjecting himself to significant risk in waiting until free agency. Jay at LGT sums up the gamble Sabathia is taking in snubbing the Tribe's offer:
There is no conceivable reason why he wouldn't instruct his attorneys to strike the best deal possible right now. At this moment, his value is at its peak, and he faces significant risk of a devaluing (or even career-ending) injury in the coming year. He simply stands far more to gain by re-signing with the Indians now rather than doing so at the end of the season, and the Indians' bottom line is not going to move much in that time. The inescapable conclusion, therefore, is that he does not intend to settle for a shorter contractual commitment with the Indians, now or at any future point.
I agree, in that Sabathia's value is at its peak and he is taking a big risk on being healthy at the end of the season. Jay is also correct in stating that the team's offer is not likely to change much in the future. It would have been foolish for Shapiro to not put the best offer on the table during the team's last shot at exclusive negotiations with its ace pitcher.

The only comparable value Cleveland will take from retaining Sabathia in his final year is that it vastly improves their chances at a deep playoff run. There is no reliable option to replace Sabathia's slot in the rotation this season (I'm citing Carmona's one full season and Miller's inability to stay healthy). Given the paltry returns for Minnesota in the Santana trade, the Indians stand little chance of getting a potential ace, like Phil Hughes, in return. The loaded trade offers Boston and New York were advertising earlier are long gone. Despite his "no-trade" stance on Sabathia, Shapiro should at least be listening to offers now. Just don't expect an offer to come along that will help the team win in 2008.

The Tribe made a generous contract offer; one of the largest in team history, yet it was not enough to even keep negotiations alive. Has anyone heard of a counter-offer from Sabathia's agents? There's no loyalty to be had at this point, it's all about the money. I'd also like to go on the record as saying Sabathia does not care about winning. He can't possibly care about winning a championship; where is he going to sign that will give him a better chance than the elite team Cleveland is fielding right now? New York? Boston? LA? They have the money, but Cleveland has shown it can meet or exceed the talent of any team in baseball.

So why don't you stop hiding behind your agents, man up, and tell us what you really want C.C.?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Grover and Elarton Return...Sort Of

Former Tribe manager Mike Hargrove and second baseman Joe Gordon were elected to the Cleveland Indians Hall of Fame on Friday. The former Indians will be presented with their own plaques in Heritage Park at Jacobs Field on August 16 when the Halos are in town. The Hall of Fame's inaugural class was in 1951 and now has 33 members.

Hargrove is among the most distinguished Cleveland managers, helping to guide the team out of the perennial basement and back into contention during the 1990s. Hargrove compiled two AL Pennants and five straight Central Division titles between 1991 and 1999. He also saw several all-time greats emerge during his tenure in Cleveland, including Albert Belle, Sandy Alomar Jr., Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, Kenny Lofton, and Omar Vizquel.

In addition to being one of the winningest and longest tenured managers in team history, Hargrove also played first base for Cleveland from 1979 to 1985.

Notable Cleveland Managers:

Tris Speaker
- 8 years (1919-1926), 617-520 record (.543)

Lou Boudreau - 9 years (1942-1950), 728-649 record (.529)
Al Lopez - 6 years (1951-1956), 570-354 record (.617)
Mike Hargrove - 9 years (1991-1999), 721-591 record (.550)

Joe "Flash" Gordon spent the final four years of his career with Cleveland and was a member of the 1948 World Championship team. Gordon was an outstanding second basemen and had two of his best offensive seasons in 1947 (29 HR, .346 OBP, .496 SLG) and 1948 (32 HR, .371 OBP, .507 SLG). He led the team in HR and RBI while batting cleanup in 1948.

Despite a career 120 OPS+, Gordon was better known for his slick defense. Gordon paired with
shortstop Lou Boudreau to form one of the best infield defense combos in baseball. For fans who may not be familiar with Gordon and Boudreau, Bob DiBiasio elaborates:
It was held in the highest regard in the history of the franchise. Then Omar [Vizquel] and Robbie [Alomar] brought it back to life [in the '90s] with the debate over which was the better shortstop-second base combo. It took 50 years to bring the conversation full circle in who could match Boudreau and Gordon.
Gordon is being honored posthumously, as he passed away in 1978.

Shapiro Goes Bargain Hunting

Cleveland signed Brendan Donnelly to a minor league contract last week. He is currently recovering from an August Tommy John surgery on his elbow and is not expected to pitch for the first several months of the season.

Donnelly played for Anaheim from 2002 to 2006. He was a member of the Angels' juggernaut bullpen that featured Scot Shields, Francisco Rodriguez, and Troy Percival. Donnelly has only been in the majors for six years, but debuted late at age 30.

Donnelly is a setup man by trade and has a career ERA+ of 154 over 315.7 IP. Donnelly's best years came from '02-'06 when he posted an ERA+ of 203, 278, and 150, respectively. Despite a drop off in performance over the last three years, Donnelly has remained an above average reliever. He started the 2007 season with Boston before suffering a right forearm strain that kept him benched for the rest of the season.

I'm surprised the Tribe was able to acquire Donnelly so easily, as the only question mark is how well he recovers from surgery. Donnelly was effective for Boston with 20.7 IP, 3.0 K/BB ratio, 156 ERA+, and 1.16 WHIP. For comparison, Aaron Fultz had a 158 ERA+ in 37 IP last year. Even if it's all potential at this point, Donnelly appears to have enough left in the tank to add legitimate depth and experience to the Tribe bullpen late in the season. It's a long-shot, but depending on how strong Donnelly looks in Buffalo, he could be available to give Lewis and Perez some much needed rest late in the season.

Elarton Invited to Camp

Former Cleveland pitcher Scott Elarton was given an invitation to Spring Training last week. While Cleveland did sign Elarton to a minor league deal so he could attend camp, they are not interested in keeping him on the roster. The Tribe is doing Elarton a favor by giving him a place to work out for other major league scouts and show off his surgically repaired shoulder.

To be honest, I'm not sure how common a move like this is. I can't think of another example of a team inviting a player to camp with zero intention of signing him, but I bet it's happened at least a few times before. Either way, it's a classy thing for Cleveland to do, especially for a guy trying to get healthy and make a comeback. I always liked Elarton when he was with Cleveland. He never had the best stuff, but something about his work ethic and funky, stutter-arm delivery was appealing to me. So good luck in your comeback, Scott.

Finally... Productions posted a series of short videos called Béisbol Dominicano earlier this month. Episode Five is about the Tribe's Dominican baseball academy and is worth a look. I forgot just how young some of the prospects at the academy are, but the fact that the club makes sure they get a high school education (regardless of how their baseball careers pan out) is pretty awesome. It's the second link in the middle row on this page.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Cavs Injury Update and Z's Season

The Cavaliers have been flying high lately, going 11-3 in December and defeating Boston for the second time this season to kick off February. As luck would have it though, the Cavs had to go into Atlanta with four major players out with injuries. Varejao has now missed six games with an ankle injury, while Pavolvic is scheduled to sit for another month with a sprained left foot suffered January 21 against Washington. Gibson decided to join the fun by straining a hammy versus Houston, with Gooden straining his groin for good measure.

And…Larry Hughes stubbed his toe and missed the last five minutes tonight. No, seriously.

The situation has gotten so bad, Brian Windhorst jokingly listed the M.A.S.H. 4077th in the box score against Atlanta tonight. Gooden is listed as day-to-day, while the Plain Dealer thinks Gibson will miss the three games leading up to the All-Star break.

With LeBron already carrying the team, Ilgauskas and Hughes will have to be at their best for the Cavs to finish strong going into the break. Coach Brown obviously can’t count on Ira Newble to have 18 points and 8 boards each night, although Newble’s effort was a big reason they beat Atlanta. Despite the current situation, I’m not overly concerned with the long term state of the team; they’ve already weathered a lot of injuries, but managed to tread water and have looked strong when healthy. The most recent example is Cleveland going 5-2 without Varejao and Pavolovic. Things might get a little ugly again for a few games, but after seeing them play so well when they were healthy, I know the team will bounce back again. Also, did I mention that 11-3 December?

On one hand the timing of Gibson and Gooden’s injuries is horrible, with the next three games against Denver, Orlando, and San Antonio. On the other hand, the All-Star break will buy everyone not named LeBron time to get healthy. I know it won’t happen, but I wish LeBron would take it easy during the All-Star festivities. From what I’ve heard, he’s still not 100% after his ankle injury and a degree of restraint during the exhibition match would be wise.

On Big Z

Over the course of the season, I’ve heard several conflicting opinions on Ilgauskas’ impact on the Cavs this season. Apparently, Z was a candidate for the Eastern All-Star team’s reserves, but did not make the cut. I thought it would be relevant to see how Z’s season has been thus far and see how he stacks up with the East’s All-Star centers. Below are Z’s stats from the last four seasons, including this season:

Year GS Min PPG FG% FT% Ast Reb Blk
04-05 78 33.5 16.9 .468 .799 1.3 8.6 2.1
05-06 78 29.3 15.6 .506 .834 1.2 7.5 1.7
06-07 78 27.4 11.9 .485 .807 1.6 7.7 1.3
07-08 48 30.9 13.9 .477 .821 1.6 9.6 1.6

I was expecting Z’s numbers to be a little better this season, but they are still solid compared to recent years. Ilgauskas has handled a slightly larger workload with fellow big-man Varejao missing so much time. Ilgauskas’ average points per game are down slightly, but are still two PPG better than the Cavs’ 50-game campaign last season. Two numbers that stand out to me are his shots made and rebounding, both of which may explain Z’s decrease in points production. Ilgauskas has sacrificed some of his scoring to gather up rebounds. Z is averaging 9.6 boards per game; more than in any of his past three seasons.

Another cause for Z’s drop in PPG may be the way Coach Brown is utilizing him. One of Ilgauskas’ best weapons is his mid-range shot. The threat of Ilgauskas’ shot can open up more opportunities for James inside, but will result in more lower-percentage shots for Z. My theory is that Z is getting more shot opportunities (or at least feints to draw the defense), giving up scoring chances in the paint to Gooden and James. added a shot tracker tool to their website recently (a nod to Mistake by the Lake for bringing this to my attention), so let’s see if my theory holds up. Below are Z’s shots taken for the 07-08, 06-07, and 05-06 seasons:




According to the charts, Ilgauskas had 5.72 shot opportunities per game in the paint for this season, 5.64 in 06-07, and 7.2 in 05-06. It looks like my theory about Z getting more of his scoring opportunities away from the hoop was at least part right. His FG% declines right along with his shot opportunities closest to the hoop (predictable, but it was unclear where his shots had been coming from).

Granted, at least some of Z’s numbers are likely down because of age, but I just don’t see enough of a drop across the board to warrant much criticism. Z’s role on the court has just shifted slightly, changing the sources of his offensive production.

Ilgauskas played a key role in the Cavaliers resurgence in December averaging 10.2 boards and 16.6 PPG on 53.3% shooting. He also had great efforts against tough opponents like Washington, Phoenix, the Lakers, and Boston in his last 10 games (see below).

Opponent Result FG% PPG Reb
@Mia W .455 13 11
Was W 1.000 24 6
Pho L .600 21 10
@Lal W .400 16 11
@Por W .333 7 13
@Sea L .231 17 9
Lac W .447 22 13
Bos W .818 21 10
@Hou L .438 8 8
@Atl W .615 17 11
.533 16.6 10.2

While LeBron was busy being his usual spectacular self, Ilgauskas' contributions were overlooked during the team's winning streak (as usual). Big Z has been on fire heading into the All-Star break and will continue to be tested as the injury depleted Cavs face a tough three-game series against Western Conference teams to close it out. It’s crucial that Ilgauskas step up until the Cavs can get healthy again and continue to make LeBron’s job easier.

Finally, how does Ilgauskas stack up to the East’s All-Star centers?

Player GS Min PPG FG% FT% Ast Reb Blk
C. Bosh 42 36.1 22.7 .488 .850 2.2 9.1 1.1
D. Howard 51 38.9 21.8 .557 .599 1.4 14.6 2.5
Z. Ilgauskas 48 30.9 13.9 .477 .821 1.6 9.6 1.6

Well, not that great. I’m definitely not calling Ilgauskas’ lack of a bid a “snub,” far from it. Anyone who tries to argue Chris Bosh or Dwight Howard stole a roster spot from Ilgauskas is one serious Cleveland homer. Despite being compared to players 10 years younger who make up the core of their respective teams, Z makes a decent showing for himself. Like I said, the PPG aren’t a fair comparison because of the crucial roles Bosh and Howard play compared to Z, but Ilagauskas is competitive in FG%, assists, blocks, and rebounds. This is just a rough comparison in relation to the All-Star game, but I think a strong case can be made for Z still being one of the top centers in the East.