Blazersedge Mailbag: Oden and What's Changed

Dave,

I really don't understand why everybody is so upset about our team or talking about rebuilding. The way I see it, the loss of Brandon and Oden does not really change anything. Of course it's sad, but it really doesn't mean anything basketball-wise. I think it's silly to pretend that it does.

Yup, you're right. And that is the point. This team just finished its third straight first-round playoff exit in a row. Things need to change basketball-wise, not just in an incremental sense but a revolutionary one. To argue otherwise is to say the point of those three high draft picks in 2006 and 2007, including the #1 overall pick in a landmark draft, was simply to bow out of the post-season year after year. That was never the goal. That is what the Blazers have achieved.

Brandon Roy and Greg Oden were the most obvious chance the Blazers had to grow beyond this stage. People are now mourning--and rightly so--that chance. It's gone, at least in this form. THAT'S the change...not so much the current production but the ceiling. It's not a good change either. Now instead of having the means to move forward in hand the Blazers have to somehow acquire that added help. Sadly such opportunities are rare and 29 other teams, many with more resources to acquire them, are also seeking the same thing. It's not like the Blazers can snap their fingers and produce another franchise-changing center and All-NBA shooting guard. If it were that easy you'd be seeing the Clippers and Timberwolves do it too. Those teams have been waiting eons for just such a development. They still are.

Now if you want to argue that we all should have mourned this two years ago when Roy first went down and Oden languished under repeated injuries--so there's nothing special or different to be sad about this year--then I could buy that. But that would have required exactly the kind of foresight and/or pessimism that you seem to be decrying.

I'm not arguing that serious upward momentum will be impossible for the Blazers to find. They're just going to have to pull a rabbit out of a hat. That's almost certainly going to require major changes to the team, either through trades or letting some of these expiring contract guys leave in order to make room for new guys. Thus "rebuilding". That word doesn't mean the Blazers will stink or win 20. It means you're going to have to retool this team at a level very close to its foundation in order to get the change they need.

The Blazers announced Greg Oden's setback as ligament damage. Why is everybody so down on his chances of playing this year?

You've seen how they catch cheaters in Vegas, right? They don't focus so much on specific players, at least not at first. Instead they scan the room for anything that looks out of the ordinary. If something is sticking out like a sore thumb compared to the norm--the way a guy holds his cards or moves his chips, for instance--they zoom in and watch him like a hawk. Bingo...you just caught your cheater. Those tell-tale unusual signs are like a trail of bread crumbs leading to the glorious ginger bread house of truth.

Now...how often do you see a guy in restricted free agency solicit no offers...not even test the market? Keep in mind that he doesn't have to sign those offers. He can just window shop in case any multi-million dollar bling catches his eye. It happens sometimes, but it's rare.

How often do you see the league absolutely mum, offer-wise, on a 7-foot center with talent and a physical presence that's only comparable to maybe one other guy in the sport? I guess it could happen, but it's rare.

How often do you see a guy with a one-year qualifying offer in hand--an offer that's iron-clad unless the team wants to release him prematurely without strings attached--turn around and sign a lesser one-year (not multi-year, one-year) deal with the exact same team? Oden could have walked with $9 million with the stroke of a pen and nobody could have stopped him. Instead he settled for $9 - x million. How often do you see that happen? Never ever ever ever ever ever ever. Ever.

So you've now scanned the entire room of 400+ NBA players and seen this one guy do something incredibly unusual with his chips. You've also seen everyone around him react in semi-unusual fashion to him. Zoom in and ask what is going on here. He has a history of injury after injury. Every time you think he's going to come back a new one crops up. His latest comeback is scheduled for mid-season this year. Now all of a sudden, timed exactly with the announcement of another injury setback (of whatever nature) comes this weird signing for the same duration and less money...a place-holder contract if you will instead of the original full amount. What do YOU think happened here? If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, eats breadcrumbs and paddles like a duck, it's a duck. And this duck ain't playing this year, or at least ain't playing at a level or duration commensurate with the NBA contract to which he was entitled.

Obviously it's to Oden's advantage to have the Blazers retain his Bird Rights so there is some advantage in the contract for him yet. But he still would have had the advantage with the full amount due to him. That doesn't explain why he took the smaller deal.

Obviously it's kind/generous/noble of Oden and his agent to not charge the Blazers full freight. But the only reason that makes sense for that kind of move is if they knew that he couldn't perform. If he was going to be ready to go full-tilt in January it would make no sense for them to lower his value or take less compensation in any way. The kindness itself shows that they had something to be kind about...an occasion to provoke it. In other words, it wasn't just a random, "I think I'll take less money today!" That occasion was this latest physical setback.

So yeah, it's hard to forecast a great return for Greg when every single person around the league, including Oden and his own management team, are pointing a finger at the situation and saying, "Dropping value, unable to perform."

Say the blazers are trying to trade for a top tier player like chris paul. With brandon retiring could you see Paul Allen saying the heck with things and trading any and all players outside LA to acquire a top tier star like CP3 to pair alongside LA? Even take on extra salary this year to get a top player and eat the luxury tax bill knowing that he will still save money by not having to pay Brandon over the next few years? Why not just sacrifice now and get a top tier player and build around a player like CP3 and LA for the future?

In that case they wouldn't just wait a year and pay the luxury tax, they'd just amnesty Brandon Roy.

Your option is a legit way to proceed...in fact advisable if they can pull it off. This team needs more top-tier talent. You get it if you can.

The adjustments I'd make to your premise are two:

1. I'm not sure Chris Paul with his injury history is the guy. I'd be willing to be talked into it. His production is out-of-this-world gaudy. But I would have to be talked into it.

2. If a guy they tabbed as a bona fide, guaranteed superstar did come available the Blazers shouldn't hold back LaMarcus Aldridge either. If, for instance, Aldridge was the key to getting Dwight Howard then the Blazers would need to make that move. When you know you don't have the horses to reach your goal you can't get too attached to any of them, at least not in an absolute way.

Keep the questions coming to blazersub@gmail.com if you wish.

--Dave (blazersub@gmail.com)

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