In the chatter surrounding possible off-season acquisitions two names have come up repeatedly among fans and popular media as potential Portland targets: Steve Nash and Jason Kidd. I'm not sure either is feasible salary-wise but let's leave that aside for a moment and stretch credibility enough to say they're on the radar. Are they desirable?
On the one hand there's a fan-ish part of me that would be awestruck by seeing Nash or Kidd in a Blazer uniform. There's no doubt about these guys' credentials. You want defining point guards in the last decade? They are right at the top of the list. One has been league MVP. The other was a catalyst for his team getting to the Finals. Either of them would instantly become he best point guard the Blazers have had in a decade or more. They've seen it all and done it all, save winning a championship. You don't have to teach. You don't have to explain. You don't have to guess. You're buying blue-chip stock here.
On the other hand you're not getting all of what that fan part of you is celebrating. You may have dreamed of owning a Cadillac all your life. Would you be as happy if you ended up with a Cimmaron instead of an Escalade? It still says Cadillac on the nameplate. It's just not the same experience. The key here is taking the names off the back of the jerseys. Forget Steve Nash and Jason Kidd. If you were considering Harry Meatlock and Joe Schlubowski, two players who played exactly at the level of Nash and Kidd in 2008-09, would you be as excited about adding them to the Blazers?
Steve Nash is on the final year of his contract in 2009-10. He's owed a little over $13 million. He's also going to be 35 years old this season and will be looking to secure his future. He is an amazing passer and a sick, sick percentage scorer. His overall field goal percentage tops 50% (as a guard!) His three-point percentage last year was right at 44%. His effective field goal percentage was 56.6% and his true field goal percentage was 61.5%. He's a 93%+ free throw shooter too. And all of those stats besides the charity tosses were actually down from the season prior. He's better in his impending dotage than most people can dream of in their prime.
However Nash is also used to playing a certain way. Obviously he flourished in Mike D'Antoni's system. Part of his fall-off last year can be attributed to playing a slower, more controlled game. He doesn't have to go 92 miles per minute to succeed though. But he is best when given the ball, freedom, the occasional screen, and guys who will fill the wings for him. None of those things are in long supply in the current Portland setup. Naturally Nash's appearance would change that setup almost immediately, but it would be hard to get the kind of game going that would allow Steve to be the guy we'd all wish for. Brandon Roy likes the halfcourt and likes the ball. Nate McMillan likes percentage offense. The Blazer forwards will run as will Rudy. Oden not so much. Nash might be able to make Greg look better in the pick-and-roll sets however. Would Nash be content with the 70-80% he could get out of his game here? Would the Blazers be content, particularly Roy and Oden? Would the adjustment go smoothly?
Nash doesn't solve Portland's backcourt defense issues. He also makes a near impenetrable roadblock for Jerryd Bayless if you swing that way. Andre Miller, by contrast, would take starter's minutes but you could see Bayless eating away at them if he played well. Nobody behind Nash is going to see more than 12-15 minutes as long as he's on the team.
Jason Kidd is a free agent who just finished making over $21 million last year. Like Nash he's probably looking for the combination of job security and the chance to get a ring. He'll turn 36 in the coming campaign.
Kidd is still a great assist man at almost 9 per game. He's a better rebounder than Nash, averaging 6.2 last year. After a few years of yuckiness and then some more of mediocrity he has boosted his three-point shooting to a nifty 40.6% average. His overall field goal percentage is 41.3%. His effective field goal percentage is 52.2%. His true field goal percentage is 55.0%. These aren't up to Nash's standards but they're not bad. Kidd would also fit more naturally into Portland's halfcourt offensive system. He doesn't need to score. He's made a living making other people look good. The flip side of that is that he was only good for 9 points per game last year, which is not exactly the boost the Blazers are looking for. Historically he's been a much better defender than Nash but he's no longer all-world in that category. At 6'4" and 205lbs he has great size. Kidd is no more back-up friendly than Nash. You get him at 36 and you're going to be playing him until he's 40.
The critical question for both of these players is how much benefit you'd reap compared to the cost. Nash is not coming cheap even if the Suns are motivated to let him go in favor of rebuilding. He's their franchise player. We mentioned Jerryd Bayless playing behind him above but it might not be an issue, as the Suns might want him in return. They'd certainly want Rudy. They'd probably ask for LaMarcus too at first. Maybe they could be talked around but you're still going to pay a premium. On the flip side there's no way Jason Kidd signs in Portland for a small contract. There are teams closer to a title than the Blazers are, which would be his main motivation for taking less money. If he's going to play for $5 million a year why wouldn't he just go to L.A. or Cleveland? The Blazers would have to come up with some kind of sign-and-trade deal with Dallas to make it work. In this case it's not that the Mavericks would be asking a ton, rather that the salary match would be tricky. The Blazers don't have a ton of expendable players who add up to double-digit contracts. They'd need to use their cap space to make this happen...likely all of it.
Which brings up perhaps the greatest rub in all of this: You might be able to envision the Blazers manufacturing one of these deals. But what other moves could they then make? You've more than used up the available cap space and players in trade. You have to ask yourself, as headline-grabbing as these moves would be are they enough alone to make all the difference the Blazers will need in the next couple years? Do they grease the wheels for the years to come? Unless you believe that one of these two players is guaranteed to be the piece that brings rings to Portland you have to be worried about the cost, both real and opportunity, of a move like this.
What's your take? Do either of these guys float your boat, knowing that they don't come cheap? How much of your inner awestruck fan do these names bring out and how much of your inner skeptic?
Comment below...in between your "I just saw Hedo Turkoglu and Andre Miller having lunch with K.P. on S.E. Hawthorne!" comments, that is.