Thursday afternoon, the Cleveland Cavaliers executed the NBA's final trade before the 2011 lockout when they acquired small forward Omri Casspi and a future first-round draft pick from the Sacramento Kings for young big man J.J. Hickson. Unlike a lot of NBA trades of late, this one was made with only basketball in mind; it wasn't motivated, on either side, to save money or free future cap space.
In Hickson, the Cavs lost a young, proven, rotation-caliber player with room to improve, as his iffy 2010/11 campaign demonstrated. His 45.8 percent shooting is unacceptably low for a big guy, but somewhat understandable, given that he didn't have LeBron James feeding him open shots near the basket. However, he took a big step forward in terms of rebounding, averaging a career-best 11.1 boards per 36 minutes, a great figure. In April, as the season drew to a close, he posted 19.5 points, 12.3 rebounds, and 52.1 percent shooting in 33.1 minutes, offering promise for the future.
But his future now lies in Sacramento, with the Cavs finding the 22-year-old expendable after taking Texas power forward Tristan Thompson with the fourth overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. Enter Casspi, the 23-year-old sharpshooting Israeli. What can he add to Cleveland's mix?
Casspi's strongest skill is his three-point shooting, as he owns a career mark of 37.1 percent from beyond the arc. Though not an elite figure, it's high enough to ensure defenses can't ignore him entirely. Given that the Cavs ranked just 23rd in three-point accuracy last season (34.2 percent), Casspi's range makes him a welcome addition.
His issue is inaccuracy from inside the arc, where he's connected on just 46.6 percent of his attempts throughout his career. And because threes only account for 36.9 percent of his total field-goal attempts, that means the majority of his offense is lacking.
According to Synergy Sports Technology, Casspi shot 33.7 percent on two-point jumpers last season, which is alarmingly poor for such a gifted shooter. His low percentage on jumpers off the dribble (21.2 percent) is more evidence of his ineffectiveness when opposing teams run him off the three-point line.
HoopData.com shows Casspi is a career 66.1 percent shooter in the immediate basket area, a positive sign. We can thus conclude that he's a reliable offensive player when shooting threes off the catch or when he manages to get to the rim. It's his in-between game that's lacking, which is why improving that aspect of his offense needs to be his, and the Cavs', top priority entering next season.
Casspi rebounds his position well, grabbing 10.2 percent of available rebounds when on the floor, according to HoopData. However, he could stand to improve that number, given his height (6-foot-9) and reasonable athleticism.
Defense is another area where Casspi struggles, particularly in one-on-one situations. Synergy's data show opponents scored on Casspi 47.4 percent of the time in isolation settings, getting 1.011 points per play. Thus, Casspi ranks in just the 17th percentile of the entire NBA in that area.
It's clear that Casspi has a lot of room to grow, and perhaps this summary doesn't paint him in the best light. However, Cavalier fans ought to be excited about the newest player to wear the wine-and-gold. For all his shortcomings, Casspi is just 23 and represents a huge improvement over the skeleton crew Byron Scott rotated at small forward last season.