Blazersedge Mailbag: June 18th, 2010

WOOOT!  Give me a high five.  With this edition of the mailbag I am officially caught up after taking a mailbag hiatus for the Blazers' playoff run.  I'm not sure I got to every single question but most of them have gotten air time now.  As always, you can replenish the list at blazersub@yahoo.com.

Chad Ford speculated the Blazers are trying to move ahead of San Antonio, who sit at #20. Draftexpress' Twitter a few weeks ago speculated that ELLIOT WILLIAMS has a promise from San Antonio. Would this 6'4" guard make sense for the Blazers?

I like a few things about him.  He's quick, he can score in the halfcourt, he's got reasonable range, and he's got a Duke pedigree.  I'm worried that he's another guy who can score at the rim or outside when open but not in between.  I also have a congenital worry about shooting guards under 6'5".  How many of them pan out?  One undersized guy needing back-up shooting guard minutes on the team is enough for me.

My question is regarding the possibility of the Blazers, or any other small market team, ever becoming a true power player in the NBA (I would define that as a 5-7 year period in serious contention for a title).  I used to think that the overwhelming success of the larger cities was a result of the officiating, but I've lately been leaning more towards the fact that the big players gravitate, or somehow end up, in those cities.  Is there any way that a small market team can break through the barriers of free agency, officiating, and lopsided trades (see Gasol)?  The NBA seems to do a great job at getting the bigger markets and matchups that it wants in the finals, while somehow keeping the small markets (and the rest of the league) happy, buying tickets, and watching TV.  40% of the teams in the NBA haven't made the finals even once in the last 31 years....80% haven't won a championship (incidentally these are way higher percentages than in baseball and football)   Are we (and all of the other small markets) simply playing the role of the Washington Generals?  What keeps you motivated to put your time, energy and money into this team?  Is the hope that we can be the next San Antonio the motivation?  I see no other example that it is probable or even possible given the current structure of the league.    

The league has an interesting image problem, if nothing else.  In my darker moments I have wondered exactly this.  However San Antonio shows that it is possible.  You have to be smart, prudent, and maybe a little lucky but it can be done.  As long as it can be done, basic athletic code says you don't give up on it.  If you let being in a small market get in your way--if you resign yourself to just going for the flashy moves, selling tickets with offense, whining about bad calls (which Phil Jackson does like a champ, by the way), and bowing to history--then you will not succeed.  Think of it like this:  if everything you say is true then it's the responsibility of teams like the Blazers to build amazing squads and make the league smack them down in order to make the bias obvious and thus change it.

As far as big players ending up in those cities, the cap rules are still in effect and do help to moderate the migration.  This year aside, how many of those players actually end up on the open market?  Some of those players do end up in big cities winning championships but you also have to consider guys like Duncan in San Antonio and Garnett who, though eventually getting a ring in Boston, spent plenty of years trying to win in Minnesota first without success because they couldn't build a team around him.   If Brandon Roy left the Blazers after 10 fruitless years and won a title in Chicago would that really count as big-city bias?

I believe you have to work hard as a small market team, not only because of economic reality but because it's harder for any team coming up than it is for teams who are established.  But until it's proven impossible, I'll keep believing.

It can't be denied that LeBron James is a great player.  He is a combination of J.R. Rider & Zack Randolph; a self centered, egotistical, spoiled brat that takes all the credit and none of the blame.  His total lack of character at the end of this season was embarrassing to honest Americans everywhere. The Trailblazers have waaaay too much class to put up with another poison pill like that.  Please stop the madness.  

This isn't really a question but I'm throwing it in because I've heard this a couple of times.   The arguments against LeBron appear to be personal and theoretical.  What he does on the court is inarguably great.  The comparisons to Rider and Randolph are silly.  Way back when Cleveland assembled the players around LeBron I posited that his supporting cast would prove a major disappointment and the team would have a hard time winning.  They had a lot easier time winning than I thought.  I don't think that's because Mo Williams and Anthony Parker turned out amazing.  It's because LeBron makes everybody on the team look better in addition to looking all-world himself.

If the Blazers got LeBron James all of Portland should and would celebrate.  As I said in a Fanpost on the subject a couple weeks ago, had the Blazers drafted James everyone would be doing 24-hour prayer vigils, parades, and voodoo sacrifices to ensure we could keep him.  Not every moment in front of a camera or microphone is going to look perfect but those blips don't obscure or reduce a clear Hall-of-Fame career.

What do you think of the Blazers trading for Andre Iguodala?

Well, Philly just sent Samuel Delambert to Sacramento for Spencer Hawes and Andres Nocioni.  Maybe that signals that they are looking to rebuild and get younger.  Also conniving minds will say that opens up room for Joel Przybilla, Martell Webster, and maybe a cheap young guard to go their way.  I like a whole lot of things about Iguodala.  He's not a bad defender, he's tough, has decent size (though he's a little short for small forward), he gets to the rim, he draws fouls and shoots free throws well, he can rebound, he can pass...he's a well-rounded player.  He's also only 26 and has been durable throughout his career.  And he knows how to play with Andre Miller.  On the other hand  he's not good from the three-point arc.  There are positional conflicts either at small forward or shooting guard.  Though very good he's not what you'd call a star player.  In fact his production has regressed over the last couple of years.  He also makes a crap-ton of money (at least for someone the Blazers would consider bringing in) so the Blazers would have to be really, brutally sure that he filled a clear spot and would produce for them to the point of being the missing link to a deep title run.  I'm not sure he's as much that as the world's best insurance policy against Roy or Batum getting hurt again.

In short, I love the guy and I'd probably be excited about the potential of him coming in but I'm not sure if it clears up confusion or creates more.  I wonder how people would compare his acquisition to that of, say, Danny Granger?  (Not that Granger is available.)  It's a good question for the comment section.

What moves do you personally hope to see this offseason?  Is there a player you're in love with in the draft, or a specific trade that you're crossing your fingers for?  If you took over for KP this summer what's the Dave Vision for the Blazersgoing into the 2010 season?

I'm 100% sure that my #1 priority is a healthy Greg Oden.  After that I'd use whatever expendable assets needed, including the draft pick, exploring point guard options.  I'd look at all the flavors:  Devin Harris, Beno Udrih, Kirk Hinrich, and their ilk.  If I could swing a cheap enough deal I'd pull the trigger to try and get more stability in the reserve backcourt at least and perhaps a longer-term starter.  It's impossible to say which I'd actually like without knowing who's available.  (I mean, if it's just what I'd like I'd take Chris Paul or Deron Williams, thank you.)  If the draft pick weren't involved in that trade (or I couldn't make a trade) I'd try to trade out of the first round and go for a big project point guard, a chunky rebounding power forward, or both with second round picks.  Obviously looking to move Pryzbilla is a priority as well.  As much as Paul Allen might like the extra pocket change from his expiring contract I'm going to ask to fill up that slot again if we can get a valuable asset.  Maybe that's a point guard but at this point I'd take anything helpful for Joel's salary slot.

Do you think the Blazers should have Juwan Howard back?

Not unless he's an assistant coach.  If we need him that badly again we're in the kind of trouble that he can't get us out of.  If we don't there's no reason to have him taking the spot of a younger guy.  We have veteran presence on this team now so the need for a Howard-type has diminished.  I wouldn't scream if he came back as I love what he did for the team last season but I don't think it's necessary.

Do you really think Jerryd Bayless can become a good defender?

He has the body to do it.  He has the work ethic.  We'll have to see if he understands the needs and has the drive to do it.  I can't think of a quicker or better way for him to earn more playing time.  It would be interesting to see him brutalize opposing guards with his strength and body mass.

Who's the best Blazer nobody remembers anymore?

Richard Anderson.  Chunky Caucasian outside shooting FTW!  Or maybe it's Steve Johnson.  Former-Beaver injured All-Star center hopes FTW!  I don't know.  Your thoughts?

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com) 

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