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KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS



Published: Wed, June 29, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS

CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Cavaliers got themselves a draft pick Tuesday, just not for this year.

In his first move as general manager, Danny Ferry made a deal to free up yet more salary-cap space, trading shooting guard Jiri Welsch and cash to the Milwaukee Bucks for a second-round pick next year.

It clears Welsch's $2.1 million salary and reduces the Cavaliers' commitments for next season to just $21.1 million. With the new cap expected to come in around $49 million, the team will have nearly $28 million to spend in the market when the free-agent period begins Friday.

The Cavaliers also received a $2 million trade exception they can employ in future moves and replaced next season's second-round pick, which is owed to the Orlando Magic as part of the Drew Gooden deal.

In addition, it clears out the logjam at shooting guard, where the team already has Ira Newble, Luke Jackson, Sasha Pavlovic and is expected to add another in free agency.

Welsch, who has been traded four times in his three-year career, came to the Cavaliers from the Boston Celtics for a first-round pick in 2007 in a trade deadline deal in February. The Cavaliers made the move to pick up a shooter for the stretch run toward the playoffs.

It turned out to be a failed move, as Welsch was injured in his first game and then entered a prolonged shooting slump that left him out of the rotation, and the Cavaliers fell out of the playoffs. He averaged just 2.9 points and 1.8 rebounds and shot just 23 percent from the field in 16 games.

To make the Welsch deal, the Cavaliers had to take the lottery protection off the draft pick they owed to the Charlotte Bobcats, because teams cannot trade first-round picks in consecutive years. So in order to trade the 2007 pick, they had to make sure they were giving away the 2005 selection.

Under the original terms of the trade for the pick, the Cavaliers would've kept their first rounder had they missed the playoffs. The Bobcats used the Cavaliers' pick, No. 13 overall, to select forward Sean May from North Carolina.

Swapping Welsch for a second-round pick just a few months after using a first rounder to get him doesn't present the greatest image. But it shows to what lengths the team has been going to free up more money to sign new players to put around LeBron James.

In the past two weeks, the Cavaliers declined a $1.76 million option on forward Robert Traylor and released guard Lucious Harris to save $2.75 million. For at least a week, interim general manager Mark Warkentien has been burning up the phone lines trying to find a taker for Welsch.

By dumping him, they've given themselves more than $3.5 million in additional flexibility. Combined with what is expected to be a $6 million increase in the cap, the Cavaliers have stockpiled the most cap room in team history.




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