Wednesday , Aug , 10 , 2005 C.Y. Ellis

Cavs got LeBron some help

By Warren Blatt, Sports Network NBA Editor

(Sports Network) – After missing the playoffs for the second straight season with All-Star LeBron James on their roster, the Cleveland Cavaliers made some significant signings this offseason that could help them get back to the postseason for the first time since 1998.

Cavs got LeBron some help

There is no doubt that James is the cornerstone of the Cleveland franchise. The 20-year-old James, who was the 2003-04 NBA Rookie of the Year, has averaged 24.1 points,6.4 rebounds and 6.6 assists in 159 games during his two- year career. However, the Cavs won just 35 games in James’ rookie year and 42 in the 2004-05 campaign.

James and fellow All-Star Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who signed a multi-year deal during the offseason to stay with the club, give Cleveland a potent one-two punch. The 7-3 Ilgauskas is one of the better centers in the league, as he averaged 16.9 points and 8.6 boards in 78 contests last season. A seven-year veteran, Ilgauskas is a two-time All-Star and has played in just four playoff contests during his career.

Cleveland management realized that it needed to get James more help if the phenom was going to lead the Cavaliers to the next level. New general manager Danny Ferry was able to sign unrestricted free agents Larry Hughes and Donyell Marshall.

The 26-year-old Hughes participated in 61 games for Washington last season and played a major role in the Wizards earning their first postseason berth since 1997. He registered career-highs in points (22.0 ppg), rebounds (6.3 rpg), assists (4.7 apg) and steals (2.89 spg). Hughes played just under 39 minutes per contest and made 43 percent of his shots from the floor. The St. Louis product also averaged 20.7 points and 7.1 boards in 10 playoff games.

Hughes, who led the NBA in steals, was named to this year’s All-Defensive Team. He has played in 444 games during his seven years in the league, and has compiled career-averages of 15.2 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.3 assists per contest. The 6-5 versatile guard, who has appeared in 18 playoff games during his career, can play both guard spots and is athletic enough to take up some minutes at small forward.

Marshall gives the Cavaliers an outside threat up front. The 6-9 Connecticut product, who is 32-years-old and will be entering his 12th season in the NBA, played in 65 contests for Toronto last season and averaged 11.5 points per game to go along with 6.6 rebounds. He shot 46.8 percent from the floor and made 28.6 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc.

The Cavaliers also have Drew Gooden in the mix. However, it would not be a surprise if Gooden is playing for another franchise when the 2005-06 season starts. Keeping Gooden could be the best move for Cleveland, as the 23-year- old power forward is a decent scorer and a solid rebounder.

Last season, Gooden played in all 82 games for the Cavaliers and averaged 14.4 points and a team-high 9.2 rebounds. The 6-10 forward, who was selected out of Kansas by the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round (fourth pick overall) of the 2002 NBA Draft, is already playing on his third NBA team.

James is going to be the one who leads the Cavaliers to glory. Cleveland management made some excellent personnel moves in the offseason that should help James get the club over the hump and into the postseason.

By surrounding James with versatile players such as Hughes and Marshall, Ferry has made life more difficult for Cleveland’s opponents. The Cavaliers have more scoring and also added some experienced players.

With the re-signing of Ilgauskas and the additions of Hughes and Marshall, James should be primed to lead the Cavaliers back to the playoffs.