It looks like Portland's lineup this year is going to be the same as last year's with a couple of recovering stars [Greg Oden and Brandon Roy] joining the mix. What does this lineup need to succeed?
First off, I wouldn't be 100% sure we know the lineup. Portland isn't going to be able to do anything significant in free agency but trades are still an option. Keep in mind the herd of negotiations potentially coming up at the end of the season. The Blazers may want to ride that wave, picking and choosing who to pay, the amnesty clause giving potential for huge flexibility. But if the right player comes available Portland yet has the option of moving some of their players--particularly expiring contract players--either now or before the deadline. It's not likely, but it could happen.
As to success, we'll talk about this much more as opening day approaches. Right now I have two words for you: forward momentum. The team has been stuck in neutral the last couple of years. Injuries are the obvious cause but the league doesn't care about reasoning, just results. Neutral is neutral no matter what the excuse. The Blazers need to come out of the gate showing that this mix of players can live up to their potential, that they're hungry to win, and that they can dominate when the occasion demands it. We need to see pit bulls, not comfortable cats. If that doesn't happen the Blazers will saunter to another low-ish playoff seed at best and likely get eliminated in the first round again. At that point you have to look at the dollars you're spending on all of these attractive names and weigh them versus the results. You also have to ask if anything will change in the future. Since the team will have given no positive indication in that regard, chances are they'll be re-shuffled. Portland needs to challenge for the upper playoff seeds, at minimum earning 5th or better in the West, to give hope. No matter what else happens or doesn't, wins and losses are all that matter at this stage of the game.
Why would the Blazers offer Oden a one year contract? To stay on his "good side" seems a little ridiculous. It feels like a lose lose situation. If Oden has a good year he is going to have plenty teams trying to picking him up and I think it is unlikely that he chooses to stay in Portland. If he has a bad year we wasted another 8.9 million. Wouldn't a better solution be to let him go find a long term contract and then decide if we want to take the risk of matching that contract, rather than pay him 9 million to watch him walk at the end of the season.
You're exactly right about the results of Greg taking a one-year deal. He'll be unrestricted at the end of the coming season. That's a less-than-optimal outcome for Portland but there's nothing the Blazers can do about it. All power lies in Oden's hands right now.
Portland was required to make that one-year qualifying offer in order to retain the privilege of restricted free agency with Greg. Now he gets to decide whether to sign the deal or not. He also gets to decide whether to accept other offers around the league or not. Even if another team were to make an offer, Portland would only have the right to match it when Oden and his agent signed it. It's not like the Blazers can call up David Kahn in Minnesota and say, "Do us a favor...offer Greg five years at $2 million per year. HAH! You all saw he got offered that! We match it! You're OURS now, Oden! MWAH-HAH-HAH-HAH!" Oden has to believe the offer beneficial to him, formally accept it, and only then do the Blazers have the right to match. The only way that'll happen is if some team goes crazy with a big number. Otherwise Oden is going to avoid any lowball offer that comes his way, sign that single-year offer, and say, "See y'all at the negotiating table next summer."
The Blazers can still make a multi-year offer themselves before Oden decides on the single-year deal but he's not required to take that either. They'd have to put up pretty big bucks to get him to sign.
In fact at this point the only move Portland can make that doesn't require Oden's cooperation would be to withdraw their one-year offer, in effect making him an unrestricted free agent immediately. But then they couldn't afford to sign him. [Edit: Upon further review I was incorrect about one aspect of this. The team does indeed need Oden's consent even to withdraw the Qualifying Offer at this point.]
Any way you slice it, Portland is stuck with the current situation unless Oden lets them out of it. The Blazers made the one-year offer because it was the only thing they could do. It remains the only thing they can do unless they want to become that team writing him a big check this summer, sight unseen on the health front. In turn Oden will sign that one-year contract because it's by far the smartest thing for him to do...the only thing really if he wants to make money. There just aren't a ton of other (realistic) scenarios in play on either side.
Suppose Roy can't play at the level he suggests he can and we also sign Oden to the one year qualifying offer. Oden then has an incredible comeback this year and Roy does not. If we amnesty Roy next year, is there any reason Paul Allen can't just replace Roy's expensive contract with a new one for Oden as if the Blazers didn't amnesty anyone? What are the repercussions, or are there any except for Allen spending a ton of money? Can it happen monetarily within the new CBA?
Here, at least, is some good news. Once Oden becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer anyone can sign him...including the Blazers. The Blazers will indeed have the inside track financially as incumbent teams still have advantages when attempting to re-sign their own players. Also it's unlikely that another team will blow its whole budget on Greg no matter how well he plays for the last few months of the 2011-12 season. As long as Greg wants to play in Portland the two sides would find a way to get it done in your scenario. You're right that this would cost Paul Allen plenty of money because even an amnestied Roy gets paid most of his remaining contract by the Blazers. But Allen will probably be willing to spend if he thinks Oden can go.
Is the upcoming (grueling) NBA schedule a form of revenge against the players? I love to see the players challenged but back-to-back-to-back games seem to be excessive. Didn't we lose like 2-months of play yet only 16-games? Hell, why not just play back-to-backs until legs start falling off... then set up the playoffs for any team that still has a full (uninjured) roster. Doesn't this sort of schedule work against the high quality competition that we're used to?
Yes, it's going to affect competition. I expect we're going to see ragged play at the beginning of the season because of the extra time off and ragged play during the middle and end because of fatigue. You're right that functional depth will be important. Youth should be as well. However your motive is misplaced. This isn't revenge against the players. After all, owners and players are all on the same team now, trying to sell the rest of us tickets and make money. Hurting the players would hurt franchises and their owners as well. No, the motive is much simpler. Every game they skip is a game of revenue lost which won't come back. Owners lose revenue from TV and arena sales. In the case of an interrupted season like this players' contracts are pro-rated for the actual amount of games played. In order to make the most money off of the season both parties will want to play the maximum number of games. They've already lost 16/82 of their regular season income. They don't want to lose any more.
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