FanPost

Trail Blazers Evolution: A Decade of Changes in a Flowchart

Note: Updated version of the chart now in this FanPost

 

The last few years brought changes to the franchise in what I would dare to deem epic dimensions. Virtually no building block was left on the other, and the connections of the current team with that from a few years ago are few and far between. So I tried to map through what changes the Blazers evolved to the current state. How did we get here? Which acquisitions resulted in dead ends, and which brought us forward? Were there major inflection points? What assets do we hold moving into the future? I know some people don't like posts about the history of the Blazers. But I hope many do.

Not sure if this is the right time to post something like this, but I have to get it out now before more real work is piling up again - and putting more spare time into this would border on perfectionism since there is already quite a lot of work and complexity in it. And because the Blazers just clinched a historic milestone reaching the playoffs again after going through a long valley, it could be as good of a time as any. So I present to you a flowchart of player transactions (and some management/coaching changes) since 01/01/2000. This is not really a final result, partly because a basketball franchise is in constant flux and partly because this surely still can be improved (so consider it the beta release. That's how Google does it, right? To be updated after the next draft). Hopefully it helps you to understand the current composition of the roster at least a little better.

Show me, show me, show me:

Trailblazerstimelinecha_medium

Because the chart is so big, this image is only a preview. You can use the following methods to access the chart in full bloom:

Option 1:  Navigate it online with the Google Maps interface. This is pretty cool, and the quality is really good.

Option 2: Open it as a PDF (good quality vector image) in another window, or download it and view it offline, ca. 1 MB. (Rename it to something like "Trail Blazers Timeline Flowchart V1". Thanks to Freepdfhosting.com). Alternate download location on RapidShare in high quality; they make you wait for a few seconds but you don't have to sign up. Here is also a quick and dirty version with a transparent background instead of the chalkboard.

Update option 3: Here it is as a JPG image (4 MB).

The chart is probably too big to print it (5 x 4 pages according to my software) on a standard printer unless you scale it down, and then I don't know about the fontsize. I can't make the source file available at the moment, sorry.

Legend: See bottom right corner for an explanation of the (most important) used symbols. The positioning of the indicators is about in the right timeframe and chronological order (horizontal axis), but sometimes too much happened at the same time especially around draft days so they have to be placed somewhere above or below. Of course I will try to answer any questions why I did something in a certain way in the comments.

Why since the 2000-01 season?

I needed to start somewhere, and mapping the whole franchise history would be too big of a task (at least for me right now). The start of the Whitsitt "era" might have been another possibility (the working title when I began was "Whitsitt Chronicles"), but I just chose the current decade, starting with the players the Blazers had at this time and how that evolved ("Jailblazer years") to the players and personnel you see now on the organization.

This looks complex. Couldn't you make it simpler?

I was also experimenting to enter the data into a specialized software (Bee Docs Timeline, great little tool from a local guy) to chronicle the events. This would have looked a little more orderly, and I could also have used several timelines to group draft/draft-day trades, trades and free agency acquisitions. Yet I didn't feel like this conveys the same information. How exactly did we get a certain player? Where did he go? That's better to visualize in a flowchart even if it gets much more complex with all those connectors. I might still do the timeline later (would look something like this) when people would like that and I have more...uhm...time :)

Timelinetestcrop_medium

I know that not everything is perfected:

This project evolved without a clearly detailed plan at the start, so there were sure to be some hiccups.

Cleanup: I have already tried to clean up to make it look nicer, but it's just a number of complex transactions. I e.g. tried to move the drafts to the top or bottom and the trades and free-agent signings each in their own lane/corridor like I experimented with for the timeline above, in order to get everything grouped together and hopefully fewer lines crossing each other. But that didn't really work out because it created other complexities and I abandoned it. So I just wanted to put out what I have so far.

Rosters: I thought about doing a yearly listing of all players like at the beginning and end with the changes in between; but while that might help to see with one look who was on the roster at a certain time it takes away a lot more space and again creates complexity. There is a nice overview for that on basketball-reference, where you can see who played for the team in a certain season for at least 1 game (click on team for each year).

Other "nice-to-have" design features: I did not include player profile photos like I initially planned to "put a face to a name" in order to save work and file size. Maybe I can do that in a later version. I don't follow a specific visualization scheme like UML. Some of the symbols might mean something else if you are used to software architecture, layout planning, etc. I didn't really care, just used what made sense to me. Players are not ordered alphabetically by name or some other criteria. This was just impossible with this complexity, not even at the beginning in 2000 where I started out with such an order. Believe me, any grouping or order of player names in the current roster is purely coincidental respectively according to available space.

Missing information: It's impossible to keep track of so many details without great resources such as prosporttransactions.com and basketball-reference.com (and even they don't claim to have absolutely complete records, e.g. changes in assistant coaches, some trades). I also tried to piece together information from Wikipedia and official press releases by the involved teams/the NBA.

"Short-term players": Players who were just brought in for ten-day contracts or for around 1 month during training camp are not specifically included (except if they were draft picks that year) to save space. Since I wanted to have them in somewhere, I listed those guys as a "short-term player" in a box at the bottom for each season. In general the shorter a player was with us, the more likely he is just listed there. I think I got all names together, but maybe someone is missing. Pre-season games are not accounted for when mentioning the number of games played.

Extensions: Dates when the same player re-signed as a free agent, signed an extension or remaining years of his contract were picked up by the team are not explicitly noted. Only when a player was acquired or left the team (date when the transaction was made official/approved). Again, see the Blazers info on Prosporttransactions for details regarding those.

For draft acquisitions, I noted when the player officially signed his contract, which is usually not the date of the draft but weeks (in some cases months to years) later. This helps to see when a player was actually with the team (e.g. Rudy).

There might be some minor inconsistencies, e.g. usually I put the player name indicator in the year he was acquired and sometimes he is also listed again later when he is still with the team or when a transaction occurred to make it easier to see who was included in a deal that happened significantly later. But the times when a player was acquired and relinquished and the connectors should be correct. Some players came back to the Blazers multiple times like a bad penny (Dan Dickau, Charles Smith, Steve Blake, ...), so they are listed every time they were involved in a transaction ;-)

Acknowledgements:

I don't know if he was really the first one to come up with this, but thanks to Wyn from Canis Hoopus for the great idea which I adapted for this. He also came up with the use of the Google Maps interface which makes such a large chart with small print viewable online in a nice way (but it also should work well with the PDF version provided). Bright Side of the Sun also did something similar for recent trades. As stated above, basketball-reference.com and especially prosporttransactions.com are invaluable resources for such a project.

 

Now some takeaways, funny factoids and odd little stories that I came across while doing this (you can likely find many more):

  • Pritchard and his team are the masters of cash deals. The Blazers currently use them a lot in complex wheelings and dealings. He also doesn't let many assets go to waste, like it appears to have happened in the earlier years of the decade when many players were signed and then quickly waived again or left the team as free agents.
  • Blazers rarely gave up future picks, mostly acquired them
  • The player we drafted that ultimately became Nic through a series of trades: James "Flight" White. Spectacular player who can dunk from the free throw line, but I take the younger Flying Frenchman any day who reportedly also could. But wait, there is more. The Blazers also got Petteri Koponen and a 2009 2nd round pick (Clippers) out of this. KP = Genius.
  • Petteri once would have been a pick by the Mavericks, relinquished in a trade for Erick Dampier with the Warriors. This pick was also involved in the trade of AI for Andre Miller. Storied history for a player who has yet to make it to the NBA.
  • Rudy originated in a pick the Cavaliers traded for Jiri Welsch, a tall Czech shooting guard (2002 #16) who left the league after 4 seasons. Lets hope Rudy has more success in the NBA
  • Channing is not all that is left from the Zach Randolph (+ more) trade with the Knicks. After another transaction (Ömer Asik), the Blazers also got 3 future 2nd rounders out of it. Which could help to facilitate future deals or get interesting players.
  • Former fan favorite Ime Udoka already was with the Blazers in 2000. For nine days.
  • Slavko Vranes really had a short NBA career so far: Drafted by the Knicks in 2003 but never used, the Blazers signed the 7'6'' giant center to a 10-day contract in 2004. He appeared in 1 game, a blowout loss to the Timberwolves, playing the final 3 minutes and registering 1 foul and 1 missed field goal attempt. His PER was -20. There might be still hope, since he was born in 1983.
  • Pretty clever: The Blazers only lost Desmond Ferguson to the Bobcats in the 2004 expansion draft. A player they had just signed 3 months earlier, and who played only 32 minutes for them in 7 games scoring 13 points. He never played a game for the Bobcats. Or any other team.
  • In 2003-04 the Blazers tried out a ton of players in short-term contracts. Why? No idea. But it it was an unusual amount.
  • After our "Russian Period" with Khryapa, Monia, Stepania, Morgunov, etc. (you might even count Sabonis though of course his native is not Russia), is this now the beginning of our "Spanish Period"?
  • Pretty worthless unsigned draft pick rights the Blazers still hold (see various trade machines and my own "meet our third team" post) apart from Petteri and Freeland: Doron Sheffer (1996 #36), Federico Kammerichs (2002 #50), Nedzad Sinanovic (2003 #54), and lastly Marcelo Nicola (1993 #50, acquired in the Clyde Drexler deal). Good grief. In the flowchart, I was thinking about whether to include them or not. Since apart from Nicola they were involved in transactions that occured during the time period I observed, I decided to at least put a dotted line connector in to indicate we had their rights and what happened to them. Pefectionism. Kevin, I know that would not have happened under the watch of your team, but I expect at least a second round pick out of those "assets" after spring cleaning :)
  • The Blazers also still hold the free agent rights to some players not officially retired from the NBA according to some sources: Luke Schenscher (or 2007 UFA?), Voshon Lenard (2006), Chris Dudley (2003), and Detlef Schrempf (2000). Well, we don't want them to start a comeback elsewhere, right? Also likely worthless, but one never knows...
  • Track record of disciplinary actions, suspensions, fines, etc. since 2000 :) Most are players (you already know who), but I also like this one: "2005-12-26 Nate McMillan fined $15,000 by NBA for verbally abusing refs and failing to leave the court in a timely manner following game "
  • And finally: The players on the current roster that have a connection to players we had in 2000 are Raef LaFrentz, Brandon Roy and Channing Frye to Rasheed Wallace and Bonzi Wells. You can blame that we got nothing out of Jamaal Magloire for a distrupted connection to some others.

Again, please feel free to make suggestions what could be improved, if you found an error, comment on what you liked or learned, and so on.

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