Finally, the NBA lockout has an end in sight. We might actually be able to talk about player movement without the inevitable "there's a lockout and no CBA so we shouldn't discuss player movement" comments.
There is sure to be a lot of specific discussion on trades and free agency. Right now though, I want to throw out a more general question of which direction the Blazers should go in this season. There are a few options to consider:
Option #1: Go All In/Win Now
This is where we put all our eggs in the win-now mode basket, and make moves accordingly. Similar to the Pippen/Smith trades in 1999. Under this option, we would likely keep Brandon Roy (rather than amnesty) and Greg Oden at all costs. Also, go after a veteran (Jamal Crawford or Carl Landry for example) with everything we can, and look to trade some young players and picks for veteran role players (a center in particular).
The upside to going this way is obvious; winning a championship should always be the end goal. Sooner or later you've got to go in win-now mode.
The downsides are almost as obvious. While I am an optimist, putting faith in Oden and Roy's knees is probably not the most prudent decision. Under the new rules, we would pretty much kill any flexibility for years and could very well get stuck just outside of or at the bottom of the playoffs, the no-man's land of the NBA. It would be difficult to recover if this didn't work out.
Option #2: Stay the Course, Making Minor Changes
This is perhaps the most likely option. With this option, we would probably keep Roy for another season to see how he performs. We would bring Oden back with either his qualifying offer or a reasonable deal, but let him go if someone offers him a lot of money. Our free agency move would be a low salary big like Joel Przybilla, Aaron Gray, or Chris Wilcox etc.
The hope would be that the addition of Raymond Felton, a full year of Wallace, further improvement from mostly LaMarcus Aldridge, but also Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews, more big-man depth, and whatever we get from Roy and Oden would be enough to take us to the next level.
The upside to this is that it doesn't seem too risky. No major moves, and we basically postpone the big decisions until after a year to see what we have. We get to see how this team plays together with a full year. With all the pessimism and injury worry that surround the team, we do still have a lot of talent and reason for hope.
The downside is that we have already lost three first round series in a row. With the Thunder and Grizzlies on the rise, and the Mavericks, Spurs, and Lakers still threats, it would take a lot of breaks (or lack thereof, if we are talking about knees) for the Blazers to get further than the second round. We are getting very close to getting stuck in the aforementioned no-man's land of mediocrity.
Option #3: Play Young Players/Look to the Future
Has this team run its course, destined for continual first-round losses after the seeming inevitably of future championships a few years ago? If that is the case, than maybe another possibility should be considered to avoid getting stuck as a perennial 6-9th place finisher in the conference: looking towards the future.
This would be a pretty bitter pill to swallow after seeming so close. But bear with me for a minute here..
Under this scenario, the Blazers tire of paying big to be a tuneup for Western Conference contenders. We amnesty Roy immediately and try to re-sign Oden for one year. In free agency, we would try to steal a young player away (similar to Matthews) and stand pat if that doesn't work. Camby would be traded for younger assets and/or picks, preferably a younger center. Portland would at least look at trades for Wallace, and pull the trigger if the right deal was offered.
Aldridge would be given a decent amount of PT to continue his development, but not an exhausting amount like last year. Batum, Matthews, and Felton would be given the opportunity to prove themselves as continued building blocks. Babbit, Smith, Williams, Johnson and Johnson (and any other young players acquired) would be given ample playing time to gauge whether they are long-term assets, while perhaps raising their trade value as well. Oden would be brought along slowly and would also have the opportunity to earn himself a big role and contract.
The biggest upside here is that the Blazers would have a chance at a high pick in the stacked 2012 draft class. Additionally they would probably have acquired at least one other pick in the same draft. Led by Aldridge and potentially a star rookie and with a supporting cast of Batum, Matthews, Felton, and whatever young players/draft picks/Oden that can earn a spot in the rotation, the Blazers could be right back in the playoffs in 2013 and have a bright outlook for the future.
The downsides are the disappointment, the risk, Paul Allen, and the sheer lameness. Coming so close only to pretty much start over would be hard. There is no guarantee that even if we did get a good pick or two, they would turn out (remember the Telfair-Outlaw-Webster-Oden dynasty? Oh, neither do I). There is always the risk of becoming the next Minnesota Timberwolves. It is hard to imagine Paul Allen having the patience for another rebuild. And we wouldn't quite be tanking, but it would still be kinda lame.
Option #4: Doomsday/Cost-Cutting
Remember when Portland was spending whatever it takes? Those days may be over. Between Paul Allen's supposed hard-core stance in the labor discussions and rumors that he may be selling the team indicate he may be losing interest and be looking at cutting cost.
Under this scenario, the Blazers would shamelessly look to cut costs for a potential sale. Oden and Roy would be good as gone, Camby would be bought out or allowed to expire, and we would explore Wallace deals similar to the one that brought him here.
Not sure that this would actually happen, but this would obviously just be bad news. Welcome to another half-decade of cellar-dwelling.
So what should we do? Feel free to expand in the comments.