This is a discussion best paired with my thread I posted yesterday about free agent talk where I think people posted a lot of great ideas. More than the standard trade drawers we've seen before, I wanted to look at potential trade ideas in the context of not only the team they create for the time being, but how they may change the team going several seasons forward.
In other words, it may not be that effective to want player X, plug in some deal for him on the trade machine, and post it saying, "Look at how great this team is now!" The fundamental question that needs to be answered is that if a trade is made, does it change the team in way to make them an immediate or projected championship contender, and at what cost? Maybe it's not worth a chance at a championship if it means your team is mired in luxury cap purgatory for several years. In essence, any trade we make should provide a better long-term outlook than blowing the team up, which we have to admit is a legit (albeit painful) option at building a championship team. This discussion deals with trades before this season's deadline.
Okay, gut check time. When we entertain trade ideas to improve this team, what we're really considering are trades that improve a team around Aldridge. Short of those who favor complete disassembly, he's the only player all of us will probably agree is untradeable. Also, I firmly believe that the trades Portland will be trying to make include those for a point guard, or those that will move Wallace. So let's look at those.
Before we figure out who to trade for, we have to examine what assets we have. The way I see it, our biggest assets are our expiring contracts. This is important because it significantly narrows the field of potential teams to entertain trades with. Our next biggest asset is probably Batum. After that, it gets much less appealing with a collection of late draft picks and low-level prospects. I'm also a believer that Matthews is more a trade liability than an asset. So what we really have to offer is cap space and Batum with a dash of prospects and picks.
Acquiring a Point Guard
There are a lot of players we'd like the Blazers to trade for, but few that we actually have a solid chance at acquring. First things first, let's get Nash on the table. He continues to produce at an extremely high level. Not only is this guy having the best shooting season of his career, but still dishing out 10 dimes per. Everything that Portland has wanted in a point guard, Nash is it. If only he wasn't 38. He'd be a low risk option as his contract expires at the end of the year. As John Hollinger already suggested, Portland could rent him and put together a championship run this year with him. It could happen! Nash and Stoudemire were a powerful duo and although they never made it to the finals, they were a playoff force. Perhaps with a better supporting cast, and the fact that Aldridge is better than Stoudemire, this could be a team that finally gets Nash and the Blazers to the Promised Land.
If it doesn't work out, no big deal ‘cause he'd be gone at the end of the season. If the team does have success, maybe you can convince him to come back for a relatively cheap contract (think $8 million range). The crux of the issue here is what do you have to give up in getting him? Conventional wisdom suggests Phoenix will want to trade him as they're really not playoff contenders, and they would want to get something out of him instead of lose him for nothing. I say if that something is Batum, then I'd hesitate. On the other hand, if that something is a collection of young prospects and a draft pick, then go for it. Felton would have to be included in either deal. Problem is, I'm skeptical that Phoenix would do this deal unless they get Batum.
If you could convince them otherwise, this trade could look like this: http://games.espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=6vy82ws, with an unconditional 1st round pick going to Phoenix. Portland would be left with:
PG - Nash (Johnson)
SG - Matthews (Crawford)
SF - Wallace (Batum)
PF - Aldridge (Smith)
C - Camby (Thomas)
After the season, you'd be left to the same free agent possibilities as if you didn't make this trade at all. The big advantage being Nash would have a draw to Portland, and you might get him for cheap. If you could get Nash to come back for $8 million, Wallace left, and you signed Batum's $8 million offer sheet, you'd be left with about $10 million to go out and sign a center like Kaman or Hawes The beauty of this trade, is that it has very low risk of hurting your overall future, with the benefit of a potentially great playoff run this year.
A more likely deal that spares Batum is the following: http://games.espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=7454c9j
The downside here is that you accept the terrible Childress contract. This has more of a potential to hurt Portland in the long run, but I still like it better than giving up Batum. I like this deal much better if you get Robin Lopez as well. Granted he's not a super great starting option, but he would provide some more frontcourt depth. He would also be a cheap signee as added depth for the following season.
A deal that involved Batum that I'd be ready to consider would look like this: http://games.espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=6unpkdn, made even better by the addition of Hill.
Another player that gets some talk is Jose Calderon. I'm always a bit surprised when I see his name come up with such favor. I'll agree that he can give you more than what Felton is giving you now. He's also likely available as Toronto may be looking to dump his salary in favor of making Bayless their guy going forward. This means Portland may be able to grab him with just cap space (Felton). However, despite being in his prime, his production has really leveled off if not declined. His shooting from the field and from long range have gone down in each of the last 5 seasons. He's maintained a good A/T ratio, but he just hasn't been able to return to his form that we saw 3 or 4 seasons ago. Not exactly a guy you want to lock in for $10 million over the next couple years. I would only consider this if it was a straight across deal, Calderon for Felton. My gut tells me that Calderon would just be another name on a long list of failed experiments.
A couple of guys we'd all like to see come this way are Rondo and Curry. The problem here is these teams are not likely to give these guys up for just salary considerations. Contrary to a deal for Nash, both these guys are young enough to where including Batum makes sense for Portland. If only either Golden State or Boston were desperate for a young small forward. I think landing Rondo would've been easier earlier this season when Boston looked like they were down and out. This is generally the impetus for Ainge to get wild ‘n' crazy with trades. When it comes right down to it, these guys are likely not on the market for what Portland has to offer. On the other hand, speaking of Golden State...
A guy that has been rumored to be up for consideration is Monta Ellis. Right off the bat, I don't like him because he's a combo guard. But man, he's a GOOD combo guard. His percentages have dwindled a bit this season, but he's demonstrated solid efficiency for pretty much his entire career. He's a bit of a head case, which is another reason to be leery. When all is said and done though, this is a guy who will pour in more than 20 a night, play aggressive defense, and drop some dimes. Maybe he's worth taking a look at. Hard to figure what Golden State would want. Cap space? Help on the frontline? Both? Perhaps Dorell Wright has fallen out of favor and they would want to try Wallace at that spot. It pains me to say it (even thinking it made me vomit a little), but Golden State may very well want to dump Biedrins. If Portland could put something together that didn't include taking on the contract of Biedrins, I think Ellis is a guy worth going after. If however, the deal is this: http://games.espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=77nohb3, then I would say, "Thanks, but no thanks."
The above does give Portland two large, expiring contracts in 3 years, but at the cost of locking up your team during that whole time.
PG - Ellis (Smith)
SG - Matthews (Crawford/Williams)
SF - Wallace (Batum)
PF - Aldridge (Smith)
C - Biedrins (Thomas)
Is this what a championship team looks like?
Crash could certainly be involved in any trade used to acquire one of the point guards above. There may be some benefit in trading him without getting a specific player in return though. One deal that I was really fond of was one that was rumored to have been discussed before the season began. This was a deal to facilitate Dwight Howard's movement to New Jersey.
In that deal, Portland would have offered up Wallace to Orlando, and received "multiple first round draft picks" in return. I never saw any clarification about the details of those picks though. In reality, what is a plausible way this could work? Maybe where Wallace goes to Orlando, Howard goes to New Jersey, a combination of New Jersey Players (including Lopez and Brooks) go to Orlando, Okur goes to Portland, and Portland gets a 1st round pick from each team in return. Hard for me to believe Orlando is going to entertain any deal giving up Howard if it doesn't also include the dumping of Turkoglu though.
In such a deal, New Jersey certainly gets what they want in a Willimas/Howard combo, and Portland gets a nice combination of cap relief (Okur) and draft picks. The big question is if Orlando getting Wallace, Lopez, Brooks, and any other ancillary players is enough. Should be if they're able to face the reality that their alternative is losing Howard for nothing. My bet is that Orlando will be more stubborn and not trade Howard at all. Other than this, I really can't see Wallace generating much interest with other teams.
Out of all of the above, I like a trade to get Nash the best. Giving up Batum would be a pretty steep price, and so I'd want Portland to get Hill and/or Lopez with that as well. Getting Nash this season and somehow retaining him while picking up one of the better free agent centers in the offseason would be the best of all worlds, albeit very far reaching.
The Nash trade would be good, even if the eventual plan was to blow the team up. I'm not a huge fan of disassembly, but I also understand that it's a harsh reality we're likely to face. This trade gives us one more chance to make a run before the blow-up comes.
What do you all think? Combined with what was discussed in the free agent thread, what do you see as the best trade move(s) for Portland before the deadline? This isn't a trade drawer, mind you! Quality over quantity, please. If you're going to post a trade, please include a serious discussion of how it affects the future of this team down the road.