Small Forward Newcomer: Omri Casspi

DALLAS TX - FEBRUARY 16: Forward Omri Casspi #18 of the Sacramento Kings makes the slam dunk against the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center on February 16 2011 in Dallas Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that by downloading and or using this photograph User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

While the Cavaliers were able to address the point guard and power forward positions in the NBA draft, SF remained unchanged. When the Cavs selected PF, Tristan Thompson out of Texas, it became clear that J.J. Hickson's time in Cleveland was coming to an end. The player that was once considered a building block for the future found himself on the wrong side of a positional logjam. The day before the CBA expired, Cleveland made a deal with Sacramento to send Hickson to the Kings in exchange for SF, Omri Casspi and a conditional draft pick. While many think that Chris Grant and the rest of the front office might have been able to get more than for the still-talented Hickson, it did address a direct need. As the previous two posts showed, the Cavaliers are severely lacking at the 3-spot and whether or not you think Casspi is the longterm solution, he is the likely starter on opening night (whenever that may be).

I'm not really interested in analyzing the trade at this point in time. Instead, let's focus on what we know for sure. Casspi is on this team and J.J. Hickson is gone. Casspi has played 2 years in the NBA after being selected with the 23rd overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft. While with the Sacramento Kings, Casspi averaged 9.5 points and 4.4 rebounds in 24.5 minutes per game. He is not a particularly strong defender, but very few of the Kings players are. The one phrase that scouts and people that have watched him frequently tend to use to describe him is "sneaky athletic". He doesn't appear like a freakish athlete, but he will occasionally unleash a high-flying dunk or highlight reel finish. This points to him having the ability to become a solid defender as he matures. Given the right situation with a coach that emphasizes defense, Casspi will probably be serviceable on the defensive end of the court. 

Offensively, Casspi has an interesting skill set. At 6-foot-9-inches, he has more than adequate size to play the small forward position. Compare this to Christian Eyenga who measures in at merely 6-foot-5-inches. The size is a luxury that the Cavaliers would be happy to have at the 3-spot. It gives Byron Scott much more flexibility with the roster and would allow him to move Casspi to the 4-spot if they were to run a particularly small line-up out there. Casspi also boasts a decent jump shot that is bound to improve as he develops as a player. His career TS% of 52.4 is nothing to write home about, but he has shot relatively well from behind the arc in his career (37.1%) and has shown the ability to knock down the open jumper. 

Ultimately, the three things to remember about the acquisition of Omri Casspi are as follows:

 

  • He is not LeBron James. This may seem obvious, but after watching a team that had focused on the SF position for so many years, fans will tend to expect a similar output from that position. Teams are able to be extremely successful without enormous contributions from their small forwards. If Casspi can become a viable option for Kyrie Irving to look for on offense and hold his own on defense, he should be a decent part of this team. By no means should Casspi be the focal point of the Cavaliers' offensive attack, but the Cavaliers should be able to build firepower elsewhere. 
  • J.J. Hickson was on his way out. Once Tristan Thompson was drafted, you knew it was only a matter of time. Hickson was in line for a payday once he became a free agent and it didn't appear that the Cavs were going to give it to him. Instead of letting him walk for nothing once his contract expired, Chris Grant did the proactive thing and took the opportunity to trade him for something of value once he felt that he had found a suitable replacement at power forward. This is not to say that we should have no expectations for Casspi, but rather that we need to look at the deal in context. Do not compare Casspi's production to that of Hickson while he is in Sacramento. Instead, if you insist on making comparisons, look at Casspi's production value over our other SFs and Hickson's production value over Tristan Thompson. 
  • Finally, remember that Omri Casspi is merely 23 years old. He has time to develop and is not a finished product by any means. I know that someone will inevitably point out that J.J. Hickson is also quite young (almost 23 years old) and he can also get significantly better. However, the Cavs feel as if they have found a younger, more promising power forward in Thompson and were no longer willing to continue the J.J. Hickson-experiment. 
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