So we've been through the rundown of most reasonable Portland Trail Blazers draft prospects here, here, here, and here. We may have missed a Marshon Brooks here and there (6'5", 195lb shooting guard, great wingspan, has developed into an incredible scorer but sucks up possessions like Bounty sucks up kitchen spills) but for the most part the bases are covered...except for one. What about this BIG TRADE (tm) that we hear whispered about?
Could It Happen? Why Now?
There are several compelling reasons to make a deal at this juncture besides the obligatory lust for talent and roster honing. This is the last opportunity to deal players based on their 2010-11 salaries. This could become important if Andre Miller is part of a package deal. His team (Portland or someone else) is free to decline the final year of his contract through June 30th. This gives the receiving team flexibility to retain him for one year or reap cap/tax savings immediately. This is also the final opportunity to consummate a trade under the current CBA rules. The new structure will probably be similar in style but who knows what affect this summer's changes could have on the system? At a minimum a lockout will delay potential deals indefinitely. You don't know if your handshake now will translate into action nine months from now. If you want to make a move you have to strike while the iron is hot. Depending on the new cap numbers an attractive deal now could look unattractive later. Salaries of players involved could change. Cap numbers will change. Rules may change. It's a huge unknown.
Whatever changes happen the Blazers will be on the wrong side of the cap/tax barrier. That gives them incentive to make sure every contract they carry is one they like. If they're not satisfied with a given player paying him is going to grate. Also they'll want to grandfather in as many favored players' contracts as possible, taking advantage of any transitional rules put in place. If they really love a guy it's safer to have him as a Trail Blazer going into the new CBA than try to make him one under the new CBA.
What Salary Are We Talking?
The obvious assumption is that the two Trail Blazers involved are Andre Miller for cap incentive and contract exchange heft and Nicolas Batum for talent. Miller makes $7.27 million this year, Batum $1.2. That ends up at $8.47 million combined. Absent another team being under the cap playing into the picture we're looking at an upper limit of around $10.7 million coming back to Portland down to around $6.7 as the lower limit. Obviously throwing around other names would change the numbers but to keep the topic manageable we'll assume Miller and Batum are the names in question.
Who Makes That Kind of Money?
This is where the idea starts to fall apart. We actually dealt with a similar salary range a couple of years ago when Raef LaFrentz's expiring contract was the conversation rage in Portland. Guys making this kind of dough break down into two broad categories:
- Players worth the money who therefore aren't available.
- Players not worth that kind of money whom you wouldn't want.
You're threading the eye of a needle trying to fit a guy between those two standards. Here's a non-comprehensive but still-decent list of players in the salary range:
Andris Biedrins, Monta Ellis, Kirk Hinrich, Stephen Jackson, Ben Gordon, David Lee, Kevin Martin, Danny Granger, Corey Maggette, Steve Nash, Jose Calderon, Beno Udrih, Devin Harris, Paul Millsap
You'll note that our examples range from players you probably couldn't touch for Miller and Batum (Granger and Martin) to players whom you could disqualify by talent level, skills, position, or contract length (Maggette, probably Udrih, Lee, and by the way Hedo Turkoglu makes this kind of salary too). The Blazers would no doubt like Hinrich, but at the cost of Miller and Batum? Calderon raises the same questions. There are few perfect matches in the bunch.
The most obvious name is also the one most-bandied so far: Steve Nash. Were Phoenix looking to rebuild, assuming they coveted Batum, Nash would certainly be worth the money but also attainable because of age. If you asked me to bet money (knowing there would be a trade) mine would be on him. Biedrins could be an outside possibility. I think Udrih and Calderon would both stir interest but the talent exchange doesn't seem right as-is. There's not enough wiggle-room in the Calderon deal to add a player that makes sense but keep an eye on Sacramento like you were Earl Devereaux watching Flint Lockwood. That's another potential hot spot if Phoenix isn't the right call.
In any case, it's perfectly plausible that in a draft featuring few immediate impact players, with a coach and roster crying for maturity, the Blazers' most significant move on draft day might not be drafting anybody. The BIG TRADE (tm) is a live possibility.
Discuss who you'd like to see in and out if you wish. One more day until we find out what's up...