The Cleveland Cavaliers defeated the Los Angeles Lakers last night by a score of 93-87, even without injured starting point guard Mo Williams. For their game tomorrow against the Thunder, they could also be without new starting point guard Delonte West, who hurt his finger in the fourth quarter of last night's game. Boobie Gibson (is it okay still call him Boobie? Am I even allowed to say Boobie on Ridiculous Upside) is the last remaining point guard on the roster, but he's been in Mike Brown's doghouse for much of the season. I really can't envision him playing the 43 minutes West did in Williams' absence.
UPDATE: According to the Akron Beacon Journal's George Thomas twitter account - Delonte West left ring fracture. Out tomorrow...after that day to day after finger settles down. There's now a definite need for a call-up.
That was the long way of saying that the Cav's are running out of ball handlers. They'll probably need to find one soon, probably this morning for tomorrow's game, especially if West is expected to miss any time.
Looking through my rolodex of available D-League players that might whet the Cavaliers appetite, I settled on recently released Coby Karl, top point guard prospect Dontell Jefferson, the Mo Williamsesque Mustafa Shakur, former Cavs Summer League invite Will Conroy and last, but not least, the darkhorse of the group: Cedric Jackson, the rookie out of Cleveland State currently playing for the Erie BayHawks.
The available free agent point guards out there are endless, but if I were the Cavaliers, I'd probably try finding one that's played this year such as one-time uber-prospect Shaun Livingston or former Cav Mike Wilks. The other option would be a guy like NBA veteran Antonio Daniels.
Coby Karl (Idaho Stampede - 28.3 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 3.3 apg, 50% FG, 31% 3pt) - Karl played in the preseason and a few regular season games as well for the Cavs until they released him on January 6th so they wouldn't have to guarantee his contract. Because of this, Karl would be the safest option because he already knows the Cavs system. That, also makes him, by default, the most likely option. To explain his D-League numbers before you think I'm joking: he's averaging over 40 minutes a game in his three games with the run-and-gun Stampede, a team without a true identity after losing Anthony Tolliver to an NBA call-up and Cedric Simmons to an overseas contract the game before Karl arrived. The biggest knock on Karl, obviously, is that he's not exactly a pure point guard, though that hasn't stopped the Cavs from deciding he can be an emergency ball handler in the past. Looking on the bright side, and thinking back to last season, the Cavs essentially did this same thing with Jawad Williams. That seems to be turning out alright.
Dontell Jefferson (Utah Flash - 18.7 ppg, 5.5 apg, 3.8 rpg, 44% FG, 36% 3pt) - Jefferson has been the top point guard prospect since rejoining the D-League after the Bobcats cut him in the preseason. The things Jefferson has going for him are his defense, his size (6'5") and his, albeit brief, NBA experience as a call-up for Larry Brown's Bobcats last season. If the guy can get minutes as a rookie for Larry Brown, he can obviously play. Jefferson is not the greatest shooter in the D-League, but he excels at getting to the foul line, mostly via the pick-and-roll. Regardlesss, DJ's defense is his calling card. While his D-League numbers are faltering a bit, he does have NBA talent and could be the safest option from a point guard standpoint.
Mustafa Shakur (Tulsa 66ers, 19.4 ppg, 6.4 apg, 4.3 rpg, 51% FG, 30% 3pt) - The former Arizona guard just plays a good, smooth game of basketball - He sees the court very well and has a good sense of when to take it to the hole and when to dish the ball to an open teammate. Shakur's not great at shooting off of the dribble, but rarely does he miss off the catch-and-shoot, so that helps - a lot - when LeBron drives and kicks. Defensively, he's better than average, having the speed and size to play at the NBA level. Of the options listed, Shakur will have the best chance to take over some of the scoring that Williams provided.
Cedric Jackson (Erie BayHawks, 16.5 ppg, 8.2 apg, 4.7 rpg (as a starter), 40% FG, 30% 3pt) - Jackson's the best defensive player on this list not named Jefferson. The Cleveland State alum was actually the Horizon League defensive player of the year last season. With the Cavs D-League affiliate, the Erie BayHawks, he's recently earned himself his spot in the rotation as a full-time starter - Since January 6th, the 10-13 BayHawks have won six of their past eight games, all Jackson starts. Jackson doesn't really have a jump shot (the numbers aren't lying), but he does very well at working off the pick-and-roll and getting to the bucket, either finishing below the rim or getting to the free-throw line. The Cavs' brass should be very familiar with him as he played right underneath their nose at Cleveland State and is now playing for their affiliate in Erie. While this is probably a long shot, I'd welcome this call-up because, if nothing else, it'd be a nice way to reward the rookie's solid play with a 10-day contract and see how he does on the big stage. He's also a pure point in the same way Williams is a pure point, if you catch my drift.
Will Conroy (Rio Grande Valley Vipers, 14.0 ppg, 8.2 apg, 4.0 rpg, 46% FG, 33% 3pt) - Truth be told, I don't really like Will Conroy, as my readers have come to understand. Still, he merits consideration because he played for the Cavs two Summers ago in Vegas and is one of the better point guards in the D-League. He was also named last year's D-League Sportsman of the Year. He's currently in third place in technical fouls per game, having three in 10 games played. He's playing well otherwise, however, looking to pass before he shoots - this is actually something new for the D-League's career leader in points.
Shaun Livingston (Currently unsigned) - You know Livingston's story. You probably saw the injury that looked like a career-ender, but he was able to come back from it. After getting a call-up last season from the OKC Thunder, it seemed like he was on his way back to a full-time NBA gig, but the Eric Maynor trade cancelled those plans because the Thunder had to cut two players and Livingston ended up being one of them. The Cavs could do worse than a 6'7" point guard with great court vision.
Mike Wilks (Currently unsigned) - Wilks is the other player that had to be released when the Thunder traded for Eric Maynor. The good thing about Wilks is that he played with the Cavs during the 2005-06 season before being traded for Flip Murray so the Cavs would know what they're getting. I also like Wilks because he is what I'd consider an organic D-Leaguer: he used his time in the D-League to become an NBA roster fixture. Wilks parlayed 9.6 points on 42% shooting and 3.9 assists over 60 D-League games from 2001-2003 into an NBA job, numbers that aren't exactly impressive, so I have to assume that he's able to contribute outside of the box score. Though 30 year's old, he should still be fairly fresh -Wilks was forced to miss last season after a devastating knee injury in Orlando and after playing in just four games with the Thunder this year.
Antonio Daniels (Currently unsigned) - Daniels requested a buyout from the Minnesota Timberwolves earlier this season because he wasn't satisfied being the third point guard behind two young players. I'm not sure if he'd be willing to be the back-up to Williams, or even come in on a 10-day contract, but it's worth a shot, from both sides. The 34 year-old Daniels has played in 867 NBA games, including 220 starts, so he's obviously got some talent - though currently, it's mostly on the defensive end.
Here are the guys I didn't include:
Maureece Rice and Walker Russell - They're currently available and apparently stateside, but I'm guessing they're injured. If they're not, they should be playing in the D-League instead of doing whatever they're doing.
Curtis Stinson - He's leading the D-League in assists, but he's got Will Conroy's attitude without the resume.
Russell Robinson - I initially wanted to put him in here, but as Jon noted here, Robinson's assists totals this month have been 5-4-3-3-3-1-1-1-1-2.
Anybody else you'd suggest?