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Hahn: Knicks' Jeffries would boost Cavs' defense

New York Knicks forward Jared Jeffries #20 blocks

New York Knicks forward Jared Jeffries #20 blocks the shot of New Jersey Nets guard Rafer Alston #1 during the second quarter. (December 6, 2009) Credit: Joe Epstein

As Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol prepare to sign extensions with the Lakers to avoid opt-out free agency in the summer, the Cavaliers remain in a Code Red in their attempts to convince LeBron James to do the same.

The Cavs clearly are among the top teams in the Eastern Conference - perhaps simply because of James' greatness - but their championship contender status isn't nearly as secure as it was last season.

Danny Ferry, who is aware of all of the above, has been extremely active, as most general managers are around this time of year, when trade talks elevate beyond the point of exploratory conversations.

The Cavaliers have considered several options to upgrade their roster. According to an NBA source, among those is a deal to acquire Pacers forward Troy Murphy, who would provide much-needed perimeter offense, size and rebounding to the power forward position.

It is a no-brainer for the Cavs, but there still are catches.

The first is that Ferry would give up popular center Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who has spent his entire career in Cleveland but is clearly on the decline (and not happy with Mike Brown for the recent DNP snub on the night he was supposed to set the franchise record for games played).

The second is that the deal would cost Cleveland $11.9 million in salary-cap space in 2010-11 (the final year of Murphy's contract), which means they likely wouldn't be able to go after another high-end player through free agency to ride shotgun with LeBron. There had been suggestions that the Cavaliers might try to sign Chris Bosh or Amare Stoudemire.

But if Ferry believes the time is now to load up for a championship run, he shouldn't stop at Murphy. In fact, given that Brown is a big proponent of defense, Ferry also should think about adding a stopper that the team so clearly lacked in the loss to the Magic in the Eastern Conference finals last spring.

It is here we will dare to suggest the Knicks' Jared Jeffries.

The 6-11 forward has the versatility to defend opposing point guards - for instance, he's been very effective against Rajon Rondo - and also can switch out on perimeter forwards such as Rashard Lewis, who torched Anderson Varejao and the Cavs in that series.

The Cavs like the more athletic Jamario Moon in a defensive role, but Jeffries has a much higher defensive IQ. His play during the past two weeks also has offered a glimpse into the intangibles he can bring to a playoff team, mainly because he doesn't need the ball (nor do you really want him to have it) and he doesn't need to get major minutes.

He's very smart and can be effective in a specific role. And, like Murphy, his contract expires in 2011, which would free up almost $19 million in cap space for free agency.

Of course, trading Jeffries to the Cavs - there would need to be a third team involved, because the Knicks wouldn't want any of those long-term contracts off Cleveland's roster - potentially would open $6.8 million more in space for the Knicks, which would help their cause in luring LeBron this summer.

New York Sports