Commentary

Fantasy Spin: Mo Williams a solid value in Cleveland

Updated: August 14, 2008, 11:06 AM ET
By Guy Lake | Special to ESPN.com

Sometimes the rumor mill produces the truth. Mo Williams is indeed a Cavalier. Mo to the Cavs is a rumor I have been following for weeks and my esteemed colleague, Keith Lipscomb, claims to have been following it for years. Years? Really? What goes on in the depths of Cavaliers fans' message boards is a subject best left to Lipscomb. We can all agree that the Cavs have needed a quality point guard ever since Andre Miller departed in 2002.

The brass tacks of the deal are well covered by ESPN's Chris Broussard, but the essentials are as follows: Mo Williams goes to the Cavaliers; Joe Smith and Desmond Mason go to Oklahoma City; Damon Jones, Luke Ridnour and Adrian Griffin go to Milwaukee. Let's break it down team by team.

Anyone who watched this team last season knows how desperate the Cavs were for a point guard to facilitate the offense and a second scorer to take some pressure off LeBron James, especially late in games. Mo Williams gives them both.

Looking over LeBron's career in Cleveland, the highest scoring average maintained by a fellow Cavalier belonged to Zydrunas Ilgauskas back in 2004-05 when he averaged 16.9 points per game. Last season, Ilgauskas was again the second-leading scorer on the team, averaging 14.1 points per game.

Mo Williams
Ned Dishman/NBAE/Getty ImagesMo Williams has averaged 17 points and six assists in each of the past two seasons.
I like Williams to top both numbers. He averaged 17.2 per game last season and 17.3 in 2006-07. Last season, he was hampered by illness, an abdominal strain and ligament damage in his right thumb (his shooting hand), yet was able to get his points while posting a career-high 48 percent shooting from the field. With Ilgauskas another year older, there is nothing to indicate Williams will be anything other than the No. 2 scoring option in Cleveland. By the way, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Williams successfully underwent surgery to repair the ligaments in his thumb and will be fine for training camp.

There has been some grousing on various message boards and comment fields that Williams won't accept being the second option. I don't see it. Thinking you may be a better player than Michael Redd is one thing, but LeBron James is another species altogether. Unlike failed sidekick Larry Hughes, Williams' offensive skill set should mesh well with LeBron. Williams is primarily a jump shooter, with 78 percent of his attempts coming off jumpers last season. Hughes, on the other hand, is a natural slasher, and when forced into shooting jumpers -- as he was in Cleveland -- his offense suffers gravely. Williams will be asked to do what comes naturally: shoot both off the dribble and on the catch from LeBron's drives and dishes.

Although he's characterized as a shoot-first point guard, Williams can pass the rock. He averaged a career-high 6.3 assists last season and 6.1 per game in 2006-07. This far exceeds the numbers of Cleveland's recent point guards. With LeBron and Ilgauskas to pass to, Williams' assists should remain the same or even rise slightly. Whereas before this trade I would have downgraded Williams due to the presence of Ramon Sessions in Milwaukee, now I have him right back where he was: a fifth-round value in midsized leagues, good for points, 3-pointers, assists and field goal percentage. If he can get over the nagging injuries, he could be a real value at that point in your draft.

Looking at other Cavaliers, Joe Smith's departure will open up minutes off the bench, and Anderson Varejao is in the best position to increase his playing time. Ben Wallace was down to 26.3 minutes per game with Cleveland and is fading into the statistical winter of his career. With his rebound rate in steep decline (just 10.4 rebounds per 40 minutes last season), there is little reason to increase his playing time. Varejao, on the other hand, is willing and able (12.1 rebounds per 40 minutes). Bump him up accordingly. Another dark horse to keep your eye on is rookie J.J. Hickson, who was nasty in the Las Vegas summer league. He could get some minutes at the 4 with his aggressiveness around the rim.

Delonte West, provided he re-signs with the Cavs, could find himself at shooting guard. I consider this a good thing. West at the 2 helps Cleveland defensively and gives the team another capable ball handler without asking him to be a pure point guard. We will need to revisit his status during training camp to see if he is still with the team and if so, what role Mike Brown has crafted for him.

Daniel Gibson is likely to lose time with Williams logging his 35-plus minutes per game. If West splits, Gibson's value rises because Williams can swing to shooting guard and the two can log time side by side. The better bet would be that Gibson drops to about 25 minutes per game and loses value.

Consider this move addition by subtraction. I am a Mo Williams booster and, as you saw above, I think he is fine addition to Cleveland. On the Bucks, however, he makes less sense. Before the trade, you could argue that the Bucks had too many scorers. All five of their starters were capable of scoring in the mid-teens and up. If Williams had remained on the team, the offseason addition of Richard Jefferson would have meant reduced scoring for a number of players. There's only one ball allowed on the court, after all.

Michael Redd (17.3 field goal attempts per game last season) and Richard Jefferson (16.2) are gunners on offense. They do not bring much else to the table. Andrew Bogut's scoring and shooting attempts rose during the course of last season, enabling him to average 16.3 points per game after the All-Star break. If anything, I expect more from Bogut on offense in his fourth NBA season. Charlie Villanueva has a bit of the gunner in him as well, as his 38-point explosion against the Raptors on April 9 demonstrates. In short, this team needed another scorer like I need more male-pattern baldness.

Ramon Sessions
David Sherman/NBAE/Getty ImagesRamon Sessions averaged 13.1 points and 13.1 assists per game in his seven starts last season.
Ramon Sessions steps in as a pass-first point guard, and everyone should benefit from his presence. Sessions had an insane April, averaging 11.5 points and 11.3 assists (including one dazzling 24-assist game), but let's be a bit cautious here. I like Sessions and was furious I just missed him in a recent expert draft -- he went early in the 10th round of a 12-team draft -- but the track record for this kid is pretty short. He started last season in the D-League and has played exactly 17 games in the NBA. I love him around the seventh round of midsized drafts, but his average draft position is likely to rise as the preseason hype machine gets going.

Luke Ridnour is one reason why I say don't overreach for Sessions. Make no mistake, Ridnour was awful last season, but he is an NBA point guard with skills. If Sessions slips, Ridnour has enough ability to steal minutes. My money is on Sessions; however, I would be remiss in my duties if I failed to point out that Ridnour helped create time-shares at point guard in Seattle and has a chance to do so again in Milwaukee. If you were wondering, I do not consider Damon Jones a threat to anyone's minutes.

Thunder is it? Or is it not? Well, let's just say the team didn't make a name for themselves with this trade. Oklahoma City added an aging Joe Smith at power forward, a position at which they already have Chris Wilcox and Nick Collison. I can't foresee Smith getting much more than 20 minutes per game in this situation. Desmond Mason will back up Jeff Green and have no increase in value, which wasn't much to begin with. So, they added some depth at forward and two expiring contracts. In other words, not much to see here in fantasyland.

The biggest news for Oklahoma City is that it has trimmed its flock of point guards. With Ridnour out of the picture, it should be a simpler time-share between rookie Russell Westbrook and Earl Watson, resulting in more minutes for both. However, I like Westbrook to add minutes and value at Watson's expense as the season progresses. This trade can be seen as big vote of confidence for Westbrook from the Oklahoma City front office.

Guy Lake is a fantasy basketball analyst for ESPN.com. He can be reached at guy.fantasy@gmail.com.

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