Well, here it goes. My days of lurking in the shadows have finally ended. I read this blog daily, but have avoided posting because of my distaste for online bickering. If the first five responses are "this should have been a fanshot" I may resume just browsing.
I have a pretty good idea of what I would like the Blazers to look like next season and wanted some intelligible feedback. I would first like to state that I am extremely pro Kirk Heinrich. He represents an upgrade over Blake in nearly every way that I can imagine. But, if we are to add a high priced free agent small forward, I do not think that Kirk's $9.5 million salary really works. If it happens I will be overjoyed but i just don't see it.
My first thought is that the Blazers will acquire upgrades at starter for the point guard and small forward positions with Andre Miller and Hedo Turkoglu. Before I explain my reasons why, I want to discuss what I believe to be a misconception on how much Turkoglu will command on the free agent market. With the Magic trading for VC, I more or less assume that Turk will not be retained unless he accepts a similar salary ($7 million). I believe he wants a pay raise and will look to the open market. Now, for the teams with salary cap space that would actually want Turkoglu I believe it is down to the Pistons and us. The younger teams with cap space (the Griz,Thunder) are not at the pint in their progression that adding a thirty year old impact sf would make a ton of sense. Also, they have Gay and Durant repectively at the position. It basically comes down to us or Detroit who by the way is already paying a superior sf $10 million a year (and drafted Daye and Summers). The common perception is that Turk will command 11 to 12 million a season and that is beyond what we are willing to pay. I accept that those demands would be outrageous but I question what right he has to command such a raise. If no one is willing to pay him that salary he will logically have to accept less. The Magic killed his bargaining position because unless he is willing to take the same or less than he is currently makeing, they do not have the money to bring him back. The market dictates what Hedo will make. If no one is offering $11 million he will not command $11 million. (think Manny Ramirez pre fertility meds. He wanted 6 years $150 million. No one would pay. He took less). I believe the Blazers can sign Turkoglu with a four year $36 million deal. It provides him long term security, a reasonable bump in pay, and the ability to play for an up and coming contender. I also believe the Blazers can improve their cap position by agreeing to a sign and trade with the Magic for Travis Outlaw. The Magic add a valuable piece to their bench, and would also add a $5 million or so trade exception. This preserves an additional $3.6 million in cap space for us to add another free agent. Assuming we have around $9 million heading into the off-season the team will still have around $4 million (I rounded up) in space.
This brings us to Andre Miller. I think that the team can offer the Sixers a sign and trade involving Steve Blake for Miller. The Sixers would presumably be interested because they need a veteran point while Holliday and Williams mature. They were a playoff team a year ago, and a vet like Blake with an expiring contract could be desirable. The Blazers sign Miller to a two year $15 million deal. This provides Miller a reasonable starting salary ($7.5 million per year) for his age and the oppurtunity to play for a contender. We could sweeten the deal with a partially guaranteed third year or a team option, although this would not be my preference. This gives us an above average NBA point guard who can dish, pick & roll, create his own shot, and post up. Miller has KILLED us the last two years. He represents a clear upgrade to Blake, and comes on a short enough deal that Bayless can develop behind him and take over the team if and when he is ready.
This leaves us with a starting five of Miller, BRoy, Turkoglu, Aldridge, and Oden. Personally, I put that starting five against any in the league. Miller and Turkoglu are perfect in a grind it out, half court offense that suits Roy and Oden's game. Turk and MIller can also effectively pick & roll with both bigs relieving some pressure from Brandon. The addition of these two free agents also allows us to continue to develop the young core that we all value.
One aspect of this off-season that I have found frustrating is the insistence that we desperately need a back-up power forward. I am of the belief that LaMarcus will be a seven or eight time all-star. He presents a skill set that is almost unmatched in this league. The fanbase tends to bag on his low post game (which I believe is developing fantastically) but are we forgetting what a great finisher he is. If featured in a pick & roll offense where he was acutally allowed to roll and finish LMA would average over 20 ppg. In my oppinion LaMarcus should play 40 minutes a night. Why then would Brandon Bass want to come here and play 8-10 minutes a game when he already has an established role with a winning team? My thought is that instead of featuring a prominent backup at the four that we take advantage of our personnel and feature an up-tempo bench. Play Bayless, Rudy, Batum, Webster, and Joel as the second unit. If sitiuation dictates play Pendograph for matchup purposes. This second unit would force the opposition to play our tempo. Have Bayless run the pick & roll with Joel while spreading the floor with three shooters. SInce the days of trader Bob I have not adhered to the notion that we need two starting units. The bench is supposed to provide a change of pace. Force the opponent to play your tempo. I am imagining Joel pulling down rebounds and throwing outlet passes to Jerryd with Nic and Rudy flying down the court on the wings.
I believe Turkoglu and Miller perfectly fit this team for two reasons. First, they provide an immediate upgrade to our starting lineup that allows us to compete at the highest level. I love Nic's upside as much as the next guy but he is not a starter at this point of his career. He and Blake were overwhelmed in the playoffs. The second point is that while both remain in their primes they are old enough that when Bayless, Rudy, Webster, and Batum are ready to play 40 minutes a night they can accept backup roles or be traded. A lot is made of giving Hedo a four year deal when he may be in decline by the fourth year. At that point you have a nice $9 million expiring salary to trade when we are at the height of our presumed super powers.
Well there it is. My off-season manifesto. Let me know what you think. You may be familiar with my bitter rants at Oregonlive under Blazer2383. I had to add the hyphen because I already owned the name but have long since forgot the password. Enjoy.