Next Tuesday May 19, I want the draft lottery balls to bounce in Washington's favor (17.8% chance on top pick, 2nd best) and let them land on #1 or - maybe even better for us - on #2. Why? First, because most of the other teams with good lottery chances are competitors of the Blazers in the Western Conference (so much for the Least), two even in the NW Division. And second, because that opens up the most promising trade options as far as I can see. They don't need to do a trade that high up - but they might. In the following preview discussion I will mostly focus on Griffin and Rubio going 1 and 2. What happens if a team is enamored with another player or Rubio pulls out of the draft is too hard to predict at the moment.
If they land on #2 and take Rubio, we could have two historic chances
Washington is rumored to be one of the teams that while not directly in financial trouble is not keen to pay the luxury tax in the next few years. And for what they achieved last year (nothing, or they wouldn't be high up in the lottery), their payroll is way too generous. Two starters were injured almost all season, but the performance was still bad leading to a firing of the coach mid-season. Of course they could and need to be much stronger next season, but still have to look after their finances.
They already have Gilbert Arenas as their default lead guard. Will they move him over to make him a shooting guard in that scenario? Possible, but doubtful as some fans I asked said. That would create a high-scoring offense, but a suspect defense. He was a tweener coming into the league, and doesn't want to go back there. So would they be willing to trade Rubio? That would be amazing, giving the Blazers the chance to land the best Spanish or arguably European players in a while in short order with Rudy and Rubio. Give them Sergio or even Bayless, Travis, $3 million in cash and as many current or future draft picks as necessary, and take back the contract of Songaila or Pecherov or whoever else they want to shed.
Or even Arenas. He is the face of their franchise yet has a ginormous contract around his neck - and they outbid themselves to sign him to it before the financial problems really began. From a talent perspective, they would trade Rubio. Rubio has high potential, Arenas has proven his skills. Yet from an economic perspective, it could happen even though it's not likely. His contract is worrisome, but especially for a team that is not the first game in town and doesn't have the richest owner in pro sports. Why we should want him: Name a better experienced point guard under 30 who could become available and constantly had a PER above 20 and still above 18 while injured? A tall guard who scores over 20 points and dishes out over 5 assists during his career? You can't. Chris Paul won't come on the market. Neither will Deron Williams. Go big or go home. Arenas' Base Year Compensation expires July 1st. Put any combination of Blake/Sergio/Bayless, Travis/Martell, and even Rudy on the table if the Wizards would be willing to trade.
Again, I know it is unlikely. One can dream. Don't tell me you wouldn't be stoked to have Agent 0 blogging for the Blazers (are shark tanks legal in Oregon?), and playing alongside BRoy. That would be among the most exciting backcourts to watch not just right now but ever. And he is a great mentor to young players, works his tail off in training, and is crazy about winning in a good way.
But hey, his knee! He could be done one day if he re-injures it! Yes, that is part of the reason why he could come on the market unlike other prime guards as "slightly damaged goods". And so what, the same could happen with every player on our roster (two prime candidates) and if it happens to Gil that is too bad, but then we go the medical retirement route again to shed the salary and start again (and I expect the next CBA in 2011 to lay out a better solution than in the Darius Miles case).
And if the Wizards should land #1 and take Griffin, Antawn Jamison could be put on the market sooner rather than later as a consolation prize, a quality veteran forward who can play 3 and 4.
Other teams in order of chance: What happens if...
Kings win (25% odds to win #1):
A bit hard to say. Over on Sactown Royalty they are voting like crazy who to take if they land 1, 2, 3, 4 (the lowest they can drop, since a maximum of three teams can move up. The lottery is really just about the top 3 spots, with all other teams placed in order of the regular season record and after coinflips to break ties). Shockingly the vote for who to take #1 ended dead even. 319 votes Griffin. 319 votes Rubio. Their biggest need in my opinion is clearly point guard. You are not going anywhere with Beno Udrih running your team. So they should take Rubio no matter what in my opinion. (Their fans voted to take Brandon Jennings should they land #3.) But since Griffin is the safer pick and would be an upgrade, who knows. Especially with a GM who is good at finding unusual but good players. But while KP made the Ruffin-Ike trade with them, he already maneuvered around them last year to snatch Bayless (leading to an epic meltdown in the draft day open thread on StR). So who knows if Petrie would be excited to trade with us. I think they are the team to get ahead of if the Blazers want Rubio. 4-1 chance they don't get #1 anyway ;-)
Clippers win (17.7%):
That one is pretty easy. If they go #1, I would pick Griffin and put Z-Bo on the market next day hoping someone takes him off my hands. If they land #2 take Rubio, and try to move Baron Bdizzle Davis who seems pretty disgruntled after just one year and rebuild around Rubio and Eric Gordon. Problem is: The Blazers can use neither of those two veterans. Randolph is a big no go. And contrary to some belief a player like Davis who needs the ball at least as much as Brandon in his hands and benefits from a free-wheeling system isn't the ideal partner for the future of the Blazers, although he is clearly a better player than we have right now on that position. Even our management has hinted that is not an option.
Thunder win (11.9%):
They will take local boy Griffin, case closed. Maybe later try to move Green since the two would conflict for playing time on the PF spot and the Durant as SG experiment has clearly failed. But that wouldn't have to happen immediately. If they land on 2 and Griffin is gone, they might even trade down to take Thabeet since they need a big man for their future and have little use for another guard. If they get Griffin, that team could become scary in the future with a young and solid core.
Wolves win (7.6%):
Though customers. They have no real need for Griffin on a roster with Jefferson and Love who are both on the smaller side, too. So if they go 1 they might pick him and trade him for something they need. Or take Rubio on #1 if they can't find a taker. At any rate they are highly unlikely to trade the pick if they don't move up since they can't attract free agents as easily as other teams.
Grizzlies win (7.5%):
They take Griffin and are as happy as a Grizzly when the salmons are jumping. With Conley and Mayo, there is no real need for another guard. If they land #2, they are hard to assess. Maybe they would be willing to trade the pick at the right price since they are very shallow with wing players and depth in general next year (say hello Travis Outlaw and Sergio Rodriguez).
Warriors win (4.3%):
Another team that's not so easy to figure out. Monta Ellis is not a really good point guard despite all claims to the contrary. Neither is Jamal Crawford, who seems to be also in conflict with Don Nelson. In their running offense, Rubio would bloom. So they very well might go with him.
Knicks win (2.8%):
Reportedly they are really high on Curry if they don't move up in the lottery. Sounds like a team interested to take a guard, and if they land 1 or 2 that wouldn't be Curry (unless Jimmy Dolan has a really bad ownership day). If they don't move into the top 3, they would be one of my prime targets to try and trade up.
Raptors win (1.7%):
Blake Griffin needs to get his passport. Would they ship out Calderon if they land on #2? Or rebuild the Spanish national team point guard rotation.
Bucks win (1.0%):
Milwaukee would likely go with Griffin, and rather let Villanueva go to save cost. If they go by need, you could imagine all kinds of players fitting, but none is a surefire upgrade to what they have. Drafting Rubio would disgruntle Session. A team that might trade their pick (#10) if they don't move up.
Nets win (0.9%):
Hello Blakie, goodbye Yi/Anderson/Williams (at least goodbye to the bench). If they land #2, they would be a prime candidate to trade a Rubio pick.
Bobcats win (0.7%):
Blake Griffin, even if that means moving Diaw to the bench or another team and Okafor would probably also work better as a power forward. Augustin is already their point guard of the future, and even though that might enable them to let Felton go (RFA) for good it would be overkill to take Rubio. Another trade candidate if they move up to 2 or 3.
Pacers win (0.6%):
The chances here are already slim. But if it happens, they could use both Griffin and Rubio. Rubio would enable them to let Jack go (RFA) and keep Ford as the backup. Yet Troy Murphy might be an attractive trading chip if they go with Griffin, too.
Suns win (0.5%):
In the Blazers best interest I hope not, since Rubio would be the perfect replacement to Steve Nash. Or Griffin to Amar'e should he bolt in 2010. But likely they would go with the point guard for the future if they can.
What is your opinion, should we be rooting for the Wizards or someone else? Another team with worse chances to win that already has a good point guard for #2 (Thunder, Grizzlies, Nets, ...)? Which teams going 1, 2, 3 gives us the best chances at landing Rubio, or another player we could use?