Revisiting the Cavaliers’ Giant 2008 Trade

Blake Griffin was only the first. As the NBA trade deadline approaches and players change jerseys you will read buckets of insta-analysis informing you which team “won” or “lost” their respective trades. While this insight can have value, it often takes a long time for trades to bear fruit, rotten or otherwise.

Ten years ago, the Cleveland Cavaliers were a part of a trade that moved eleven players and a draft pick, but still couldn’t save the season. Today, we look back at the players, pieces, and eventual outcome of what took place the day Danny Ferry made headlines throughout the NBA.

The Stage

The Cleveland Cavaliers 2007-08 season can only be described as a letdown. Fresh off the franchise’s first Eastern Conference Championship, the Cavs struggled to a 29-24 record right before the trade deadline. The club’s uneven play necessitated some changes.

The Chicago Bulls, 21-32, were on their way to the Draft Lottery for the first time in four seasons. More importantly the $30 million dollars they owed to Ben Wallace was burning a hole in their wallets. The Cavs’ deep pockets arrived at the scene, looking to provide some relief in return for an influx of new talent.

A year before moving to tornado country, the Seattle Supersonics were a meager 14-38 approaching the trade deadline. They needed to move some contracts and add new bodies as well.

On February 21, 2008 the three teams signed on for a trade.

The Players

Supersonics got: Donyell Marshall, Ira Newble, Adrian Griffin

Bulls got: Shannon Brown, Drew Gooden, Larry Hughes, Cedric Simmons

Cavs got: Joe Smith, Ben Wallace, 2009 2nd Round Pick (Danny Green), Wally Szczerbiak, Delonte West

Seattle Outcome

Donyell Marshall appeared in only eleven games as a Cavalier in the 2007-08 season, one of which featured his uniform being initially put on backwards. He suited up fifteen times for the Emerald City Ballers averaging 3.8 points and 12.3 minutes per game.

Marshall, 34 by season’s end, briefly played for the 76ers the following season before retiring from the NBA. He now coaches the Central Connecticut State Blue Devils.

Hopefully Ira Newble was able to visit the Space Needle because he was not in Seattle long. The Sonics waived Newble after only two appearances. He played six games for the Lakers that season before his NBA career came to an end.

Lastly Chicago sent small forward Adrian Griffin to the Sonics. Griffin appeared in thirteen games off the bench. His NBA career ended that season. In summation the Sonics added three veterans at the end of their careers, went 6-24 down the stretch, finished 20-62, and moved to Oklahoma City.

The good news is they saved $26.55 million on Wally Szczerbiak’s contract.

Wally Szczerbiak Delonte West Ben Wallace Cavs

Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Chicago Outcome

In an unusual twist, all four of the Bulls’ new players came from the division rival Cavaliers. Shannon Brown was not the biggest name at the time of the deal, but he may have had the best career. A first-round pick in 2006, Cleveland yo-yoed Brown between the main roster and the D-League for two seasons before shipping him to Chicago. He played on only six games for the Bulls before signing as a free agent with Charlotte. In 2009 the Bobcats(!) dealt him to the Lakers where he finally found a home.

Brown became a key bench presence in LA averaging 7.5 points, 1.8 rebounds, and 1.1 assists per game. He won two rings alongside Kobe, and was a part of a national campaign to have him be a part of the 2010 Dunk Contest before bouncing around among Phoenix, San Antonio, New York, and Miami.

Drew Gooden (who was added to Cleveland’s roster in hopes of replacing the backstabbing Carlos Boozer) played hard down the stretch for the Bulls averaging 14 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists per game. He would then proceed to be traded three times in the following two seasons. He enjoyed a few seasons with Milwaukee and Washington before injuries ended his career in 2016.

In 2005 Larry Hughes signed with the Cavaliers ostensibly to serve as the Robin to LeBron James’ Batman and help lighten the scoring burden. Injuries nearly wiped out his 2005-06 season and even when healthy he was not able to contribute as much as fans had hoped.

His numbers remained consistent in Chicago, but Hughes was traded to New York in 2009 and to Charlotte in 2010. His career wrapped up with a nine game Orlando cameo in 2011-12. Lastly the Bulls added Cedric Simmons who apparently went to North Carolina State and was out of the NBA by the end of the 2008-09 season. The best part of the Bulls season came in June when they drafted future MVP Derrick Rose with the first overall pick.

Cleveland Outcome

The Cavaliers pulled the trigger on this deal looking for an inside presence, shooting, and a refreshed lineup that could get them back to The NBA Finals.

Some of that worked out. Joe Smith (no not that Joe Smith) appeared in 27 games averaging 8.1 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 0.7 assists per game all while dropping an album. Cleveland would go on to trade him then sign him up again in the next year.

Ben Wallace, he of the four All-Star Game appearances and four Defensive Player of the Year Awards, joined the Cavs looking to make a defensive impact. He averaged 4.2 points, 7.4 rebounds, 0.9 steals, and 1.7 blocks per game as a Cavalier.

Wallace stuck around through the 2008-09 season before the Cavs packaged him to Phoenix to acquire Shaquille O’Neal. He wound up resigning with Detroit and retiring in 2012.

Delonte West provided some offensive spark when he joined the Cavaliers (10.3 points per game). He hung around until 2009-10, dealing with a few issues along the way, before going to Boston then Dallas where he would deliver a wet willy to a young Gordon Hayward.

The unspellable Wally Szczerbiak arrived with one express goal: Make three pointers. In that respect, he underwhelmed. Wally World averaged 0.8 threes made on 2.1 attempts (36.5 percent) in 25 games which was well below his 40.6 percent career mark. After the 2008-09 season Wally underwent a career ending knee injury.

After the deal Cleveland went 16-13 and finished fourth in the Eastern Conference. The Cavaliers gutted out an ugly six-game series win over the Washington Wizards (Cleveland won by 30 points then lost by 36 points in consecutive games.) In the conference semi-finals the Wine and Gold (and Navy) caught a Team of Destiny at the wrong time. The Boston Celtics—then with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen—willed a seven-game series win en route to an NBA Championship.

The Verdict

So, who won the trade? Would you believe San Antonio?

The Bulls included their 2009 second round pick as tax for the Ben Wallace contract. With the 46th overall pick the Cavaliers selected UNC shooting guard Danny Green. As a 22-year-old rookie Green appeared in only twenty games earning 5.8 minutes, 2.0 points, 0.9 rebounds, and 0.3 assists per game. He mostly bounced back and forth between Cleveland and the D-League as the Cavs did not have much need for him as they racked up a 61-win season.

On October 19, 2010 the Cavs waived Green with San Antonio picking him up a month later. By the 2011-12 Green enjoyed a regular role in the Spurs’ rotation. A stout defender, Green earned All-Defensive second team honors in 2016-17 and has a career three-point percentage of 39.7 percent. When Cleveland cut him the Cavs had just lost LeBron James to Miami and had nothing to lose. Maybe Green would not had developed into the same player amid the Cavs’ brutal crash and rebuild, but he would certainly have a role on the team now.

As far as the participants go, Cleveland won the trade itself though they did not accomplish the goals they had set out.

The Cavs’ current front office surely knows that they need to make a deal in the next week. As the specter of the Kyrie Irving deal continues to hang over them next to “what if” trades for Paul George or Eric Bledsoe, General Manager Koby Altman needs to find the right pickup to right the good ship Cavalier. If not, there is a good chance of history repeating, and the last thing this team wants to see in 2018 is the Boston Celtics in the second round.