Stage 2 of an NBA Offseason is Free Agency. I'm a little murky on the actual deadline dates, but essentially teams first deal with their own expiring contracts (restricted and unrestricted) then the real Free Agency begins.
Blazer's Free Agents 2009:
- Shavlik Randolph
- Raef LaFrentz
- Michael Ruffin
- Channing Frye
- Steve Blake (1 yr, $4,930,000)
In other words, after a 54 win season, the Blazers LOSE NOTHING. (Bite me Shav lovers) This is actually quite stunning. On a team that just won this many games, and clinched home court, to not have to worry about ANY of their core players is outstanding. Maybe even downright unfair. Not that you or I care.
So what's a Pritchard to do? The Blazers, even with Darius Miles' contract back on the books, have a lot more flexibility than in years past. Plus SPAM. I love SPAM. The NBA salary cap is set at $58.68 million. The Blazers, after the current contracts expire, stand to be at 50.5 million, well under the cap. However, Steve Blake could/should still have the Blazer's pick up his contract extension which would put Portland at $55.43mil. Which way does KP go, then?
(This is the position that concerns me the most, going forward and the only one I'll go this in-depth on regarding our current players)
- Sergio Rodriguez: hasn't shown he can play with Brandon Roy. He has yet to show any semblance of consistency shooting, and he seems to want to play open, when Nate likes it closed. He is fantastic with Rudy, but it remains to be seen how much that's worth. However, it bears repeating: his style of play does not mesh right now with Brandon's. Sergio's flashy passes sure are a great thrill when they work, but because he hasn't proven himself a scorer, teams are free to overplay the passing lanes, forcing him to overdribble, and then throw up a prayer. He seemed to get a little better towards the end of the regular season, but was woefully inadequate against Houston.
- Jerryd Bayless: Is a different beast. He oozes with... something. Some call it potential. Some call it potentially tragic. It frightens small children whatever it is. Personally I love his take-it-to-the-hole mentality. When Blake went down for 14 games (Jan 15 - Feb 12) Bayless held his own, getting 1.95 Turnovers to Assists (39-20), to Sergio's 2.34 (68-29), and shooting 55 Free Throws, to Sergio's 14. Flashy passes are great, but if a guy can get to the hole in this league, there are going to be simple passing lanes open. Maybe it's not quite as fun as a Pistol Pete-style pass (double deke behind the back for a dunk) but it gets the job done all the same. An assist is an assist, a bucket is a bucket no matter where it comes from, or how fancy it was.
- Steve Blake: the mixer to our Swan Island Iced Tea. He's not what you really paid for, but if you didn't have him the drink wouldn't make sense. Steve is a great compliment to Roy, spacing the floor with his shooting and preventing his man from straying too far. That opens up the floor even more for Brandon to drive. Of course he's not perfect. Far from it. Everyone in the league has a tough time with super-speedy point guards, due to the handcheck rules. Some of the problem may be in the defensive rotation behind Blake, but a lot of it is Steve. Right now, though, he's the without-question starter.
What to do... what to do...?
Presumably, Blake's contract will be honored, so this should be a moot point come free agency. The Blazer's want Vets? Well, keep a group of guys around for long enought and... WOW! They're VETS!
It's sad, but out of all the expiring PG contracts, only Mike Bibby and Andre Miller even cause me to bat an eyelid. If you're looking for a Point Guard in this free agent class, you're looking in the wrong place. Maybe Miller, but I fully expect him to re-up with the Sixers. A thouroughly dissapointing group overall.
The Sergio/Bayless debate is bad enough, and then you throw the gasoline that is Travis Outlaw on the fire... yeesh.
- Nicolas Batum: Everyone's favorite baby-faced French starting Small Forward. He's a great defender. Questions this offseason: will he learn to get more aggressive on offense? WIll he work on his midrange jumper? Work on his driving? The answer to all of those had better be "yes".
- Travis Outlaw: Dissapointed everyone in the Houston series, but I think he'll bounce back next year. He could win that 6th man award, if Rudy doesn't take it away!
- Martell Webster: The big question mark. A foot injury like his is scary, scary for an NBA player. If the foot bone can't withstand the pounding, there's no way he'll be able to play. Here's wishing for the best.
What to do... what to do...?
It seems unlikely, given the potential of Nic, the production of Travis, and the presence of Martell that the Blazers would look to aquire another Small Forward on top of all that, and really create a logjam. And, again, there is nothing inspiring about this crop of Small Forwards. Lamar Odom? Please. Shawn Marion? Right. Ooh! How about Trevor Ariza!?! Grant Hill could be possible, and actually might make the most sense out of any of the available pool. I'm not sold on Hedo Turkgolu.
Suffice it to say, the Blazers will not likely be improving in those areas with a Free Agent. Which leaves us with:
Back-up Power Forward:
And this is where it gets good. Since the Blazers will likely not keep Shav, or Frye this is the only really open position right now. There are quite a few aging vets, and younger guns available at this position. A plethora of Power, so to speak. I personally am interested more in the Vets available.
- Joe Smith: Cavs. Good rebounder off the bench for Cleveland. A 13 year man has to know something about playing in the league, you'd think.
- Antonio McDyess: Pistons. He's a savy, classy vet that still has a lot to offer. He could also show LaMarcus how to hit the long jumper, and still get 9 boards a game.
- Rasheed Wallace: Pistons. Not happening, but he is an unrestricted Free Agent. Also, would probably not take a bench role. Does anyone actually want to see him back?
- Jermaine O'Neal: Heat. Might be nice to complete the circle, but it would have been nicer to have the all-star version Jermaine. Oh well. I'd still take him, he'd provide toughness and a vet presence. IF he opts out of his player option, that is.