Today on the 1080 the fan radio, Kevin Pritchard did a quick interview recap of the draft, how he felt and what the future holds for the Blazers. The key word he used when talking about the Zach move was "timetable", as in " Zach didn't fit into our timetable that we have laid out so it was best to move him."
I will admit my knee jerk reaction was that the Knicks screwed us on the deal and that we could have gotten more for Zach, like at least a future 2nd rounder or two (even though there is a "backend" to the deal that we won't know for 10 days; rumor is that we get Malik Rose and they take Darius "the dumpling" Miles off our roster). But with how important managing the Cap is in Pro sports, I am all for making absolutely sure now that in 2,3 and 4 years when we are going to be signing our true Franchise players to longer deals that we won't have to let the great one's go.
Truth is, Timetable is the key and Pritchard wants us all to know it. I have been a big pusher for the "youth movement" here in Portland and Anti-Strong Vet (especially SF) because we aren't ready for our playoff pushes yet with our REAL Nucleaus (Roy, Aldridge, Oden and crew). I sat at the bar (On Deck Sports to be exact) during the draft and listened to a few guys still yammoring about us picking up Chauncey Billups because we NEED an upgrade to J.Jack or packaging a trade for an experienced SF-scorer... but the fact remains, we should not blow our wad this early on a guy who's skills might be slipping when we due hit the primetime with our CORE, even though the salary of a 4-6 year deal could hinder us from truly putting together a run... ONCE WE ARE READY.
Again, we have to preach patience. We, as fans, need to look at what we have (aka Glass is Half Full) and not what we don't (glass is half empty) because truly in the big scheme of things these next two seasons, '07 and '08 are the seasons that are building the confidence, skills, and chemistry that are going to hopefully give us quite a few championship contentions.
Glass is Half Empty: 1.) Yes, we truly could use a great outside shooter for next season 2.) There is plenty of room to upgrade the point from Jarrett Jack 3.) We still don't have a difinitive stater/star at the important position of #3/Small Forward.
My answer is a cocky "So What!" worrying about those items is forcing an issue that really makes no difference right now because we have two and three seasons to really figure it out.
Obviously we have:
SG - Brandon Roy: Prototypical Combo-Guard who scores, creates, distributes and carries the Leadership tag on this talented group.
Uber-Center - Greg Oden: Defensive wizard in the post and the kind of athleticism/size mixture that defines prototypical. This cat averaged 15/10/3 in college with his strong side wrist in a cast. Boo-yah.
PF - LaMarcus Aldridge - the length, athleticism and range on both sides of the ball to be an elite NBA FC/4/5. He has a complete game and doesn't need to get the ball fed to him like Z-bo did to make it happen on the stat sheet. He is Elite.
So, we now have THREE Potential Superstars if you as a fan expect more, drop it. We will see some great development from our other talents over the course of the next two years, or they will be dumped... it is pretty obvious by the moves we have been seeing that aggressive drafts can replace half a roster at a time.
What we have to develop:
GF - Martell Webster: I won't be surprised to see Nate/KP pushing to get Martell in the starting role early as a make or break move for his career in Portland. If he can put it together by the All-Star break, Fans and the Team will know who the answer at SF is. If not... trade bait next draft.
F - Travis Outlaw: Pritchard said on the radio that they have every intention to keep Outlaw as part of the Core here. Tr-Out is explosive, isn't scared to shoot and is a phantom shot blocker with speed, hops, and still has upside to brag about. He will definitely be a 2nd Unit player for us unless Martell falters huge (because we know Ime is not getting 28 minutes per game this year). Outlaw will be a key scorer for the 2nd unit and will continue to build an "Uncle-Cliffy-esque" fan base as a 6th/7th man.
PG - Jarrett Jack: 3rd year Pro J.J. gets the nod for another season and fits the timeline of the team so he can still show the guys upstairs if he is going to get the keys to this car for the long haul or if we truly need to upgrade. If you are one who ABSOLUTELY KNOWS that Jack isn't the answer at PG, then you are obviously too egotistical to discuss anything with (especially sports or hot chicks). Jack will prove his worth over the next two seasons or be dealt. The fact is that he IS good enough for our team over the next two years.. especially now that we have PG's Sergio Rodriguez, Rudy Fernandez, Peteri Koponen, and Taureen Green all in developmental try-outs for our long-term vision (and two more years worth of first round picks in the upcoming years to fill this effectively).
PG's - Sergio Rodriguez: has the speed and flashy play to make the group of athletic big-men we have assembled turn into a new class of Phi Slamma-Jamma. Shooting needs to improve, but he is cool and fast.
Combo-Guard - Rudy Fernandez: Indications are that he is in Euro leagues for one more year due to contract reasons, which is great. Even better is his pedigre as a big guard (6'5) who can man the point, play off the ball and create shots both inside and outside. I really feel this is our #1 back-up plan to two things getting Sergio or Jack out of town because either doesn't develop as promised, or to Martell filling or not-filling the outside shooting role that we are lacking. Rudy can do both and we get to wait at least a season to pull the trigger on finding out. But, he has proven to be a big-time baller even as a youngster in critical Euro league play.
PG - Peteri Koponen: This kid is also 6'5, which gives us lots of depth with big point men for the future, and the pick of the litter of these great international talents that we have drafted. Koponen was one of the fastest risers in the draft due to workouts; he alegedly plays with a lot of natural control of the game, is primarily a distributor and is TOUGH. And is only 19, so he could wait 2 to 3 seasons before we pull him over.
PF - Josh McRoberts: STEAL of the Draft. I know there are Dukie haters, and rightfully so. But at 6'10 240 and elite level athleticism for his size, has a very versatile game and isn't scared to push, shove and be tough down low, I am calling him the best pick of the 2nd round. I will agree with all of you who don't think he is going to be a superstar in the NBA, NO Duh, but he is a baller and will be a very solid role player in the NBA. I thought he was laker bound in round one and could have helped them immediately. Instead he is one of our guys in what looks to be an amazing front court for years to come. Foul trouble in the post... not the Blazers.
FC - Channing Frye: Drafted in 2005 as the #8 overall pick, the 6'11 Frye is a long athletic former Arizona Wildcat who is versatile and can run the floor: obviously there is a pattern here. We have options. He isn't a star in the making but he does have skills and fits our plans and Timetable.
SF - James Jones: This guy we got from Pheonix, he is a 6'8 SF from Miami (the U) and was drafted in the second round in 2003 by the Pacers. I think the big deal with this pick isn't as the SF answer. It is clear that Outlaw and Webster are more talented, but his salary works as a replacement to either Dickau or Freddie in the Z-Bo deal, as an insurance policy we grabbed him for the roster so we wouldn't have to scramble and give up a guy our Brass still hasn't decided on for the long term. He is a token for that move, and could be more, but I feel just the insurance policy we need to make sure Z-bo (and Ideally Darius too are gone for good).
PG - Taureen Green: You gotta like getting the two euro guards in round one that will be overseas at least a year, and a winner like Green to fill Dickau's slot on the roster as a player that we don't need to sign a guaranteed deal with. SO essentially he gets a contract based on what we see in Vegas and is further insurance for the PG position. I loved this pick. He is fast and has won two championships. The preps-to-pros guys (Travis and Martell) should learn a lot from this kid at training camp just from his pedigree. He is a win for the Blazers even if he doesn't stick.
Other than that, we have:
C-Joel Pryzbilla for 3 or 4 more seasons as a key big defensive back-up center if we need it. He is a great player off the bench and hopefully we can keep him around, you always need all the help you can get in the playoffs, especially in the post for D.
SF- Ime Udoka: Pritchard also labled Udoka as a core member of the Blazers and that they are going to sign him if it is right for both parties... i.e. unless some other team offers him more than the scraps Paul Allen will send his way. I like Ime, but there is no way he gets anywhere near those 28 mpg he did unless we have injuries to Martell, Outlaw, and Jones.
FC- Raef LaFrentz is under contract for 2 more years, showed at the end of last season that he is still a gamer off the bench, can score, is in general a mismatch and when he is off the books opens us up for a bigtime contract.
Combo-guard Steve Francis: Formerly known as Franchise, now in Portland his nickname is Enigma. We got him for sole reason of purging crappy characters who the fan base is tired of, and this guy USED to have tons of game. But, the truth about his contract is that even if we buy him out his contract is still on the books for 2 years, so he either plays a year or two and fills in for the scoring option if we aren't getting what we need outside our core, or we buy him out and use the roster spot for another prospect.
PF- Joel Freeland will be in Europe for 2 more years to indefinitely. I guess not indefinitely we did get him in round 1 so at some point he gets his contract and has to be part of our roster. Lets hope he continues working and we can see something out of his 6'10 frame.
Gone is Magloire, it didn't work out for the former all-star and we can't really leverage a sign and trade without impacting our near-term cap concerns for the CORE.
Darius will be gone to New York, I am already counting on it.
Boy is this a load of players, but after months of debating on this website, it looks like we have a great group of future stars and future solid role players to create a great TEAM. And that is what I want, a TEAM, not all-stars who want money and fame, a TEAM who wants to play together, win together, stay together and be part of our Community.
Now, my only hope is that Big Man Paul Allen doesn't continue to squeeze the fans and community of Portland for every drop of dough we have, keep the PROMOTIONS (where did the nose-bleed $500 season pass go so quickly?) and keep an eye on the prize: A happy fan base that wants to buy merchandise, go to games, spend money and be glad that you are around. It was that way before Paul Allen got here, and now with this team of talent and character, Paul needs to make sure that his business plan focuses on the Family appeal of the sport, the friendly atmosphere of Portland, and the reluctance of our people to forced into doing stupid things to make the richest get even richer. Like the whole Rose Garden deal that we will never forget. Paul, just don't try that stuff again and we will have a beautiful relationship and hopefully a ton of Championships...