Besides draft night activities (which I look forward to immensely), re-signing Nicolas Batum will one of the biggest priorities for the Blazers. I took a look at the market for Batum to see which teams could threaten our hold on him.
I eliminated teams that won't have cap-space, or will have insignificant space. Of course, things could change with the amnesty provision or trades, but we'll cross that bridge later. Also, teams that are unlikely to have interest (for example Indiana because they already have Danny Granger and Paul George).
Here are the eleven teams that are in position to make an offer. Contracts are from Storyteller's Contracts. Numbers are in millions, rounded to the nearest million that team has committed for next year. Rookie contracts are not factored in, and many of these teams still have the amnesty clause available.
The Bobcats are almost completely devoid of talent. They have a plethora of options if the want to use the amnesty clause to free up space. Cory Maggette is currently their best player and starting SF. Ouch. Batum would certainly be an upgrade and SF may be the position with the least amount of talent for them (which is saying a lot).
The Cavs have a nice core started. They do have some holes. Shooting guard is a bigger hole than small forward right now, but they could look to address that in the draft. Since Batum is one of the best younger players in the FA class, he may be attractive for a young team like this with so much space.
Houston has plenty of cap-space. They have Chandler Parsons and Chase Budinger, both of whom are solid but not great. If Batum is available after their usual swings and misses at star players and centers, they could make a run at him.
New Jersey: 41
Wouldn't that be ironic?
New Orleans: 35
The NBA is unlikely to make a big offer if the team still belongs to them. And they still have to re-sign Eric Gordon. But they should be looking to stockpile talent.
They have a variety of their own free agents to sign and they already have Jared Dudley signed. But they have a lot of space and a Batum offer isn't completely out of the question. He would be a big upgrade of Dudley.
The Kings would undoubtedly love to have Batum to put alongside the likes of Cousins, Evans, and Thornton. But they have big money committed to John Salmons at the three already, and have to look forward to extensions to Evans and Cousins. Not sure if they make a big offer in their current financial state.
San Antonio: 47
The Spurs have larger needs than small forward, and would still have to re-sign Duncan. Still, they make the list because of the intrigue of a Parker and Batum playing together, and the Spurs' eye for talent, particularly international talent.
The Raptors are one of the big teams to watch out for in my opinion. They were supposedly looking to make an offer to Wilson Chandler. They may need to clear a little space, to sign their draft picks from this year and last, and either re-sign Bayless or another point guard. Nonetheless, I will be hoping the draft a small forward.
They have John Wall and acquired Nene. With the emergence of Trevor Booker as a legit player, and more importantly a high draft pick, along with somewhat talented players off the bench, the Wizards are getting closer to fielding a real team. Batum would be a nice pickup. Blatche is a very amnestyable contract they could use to get space.
There you have it. A lot of potentials, though less who look like serious threats. Now for why we should keep Batum at all costs...
Quite simply, talented young players can not be given up without something in return when avoidable.
We shouldn't get stuck with bad contracts, but Batum doesn't have major injury history and is still young. He is no Brandon Roy or Joe Johnson. If you take a look around the league, there are very many players on their first post-rookie contract who provide at least equal value (though there are several who have bad contracts, including Marvin Williams, Charlie V, Ben Gordon, and Andris Biedrins. Thanks to austinpnwz for pointing that out).
Look at a few players who were considered overpaid by many coming off their rookie contracts. Marcin Gortat is now one of the best contract values in the NBA, J.J. Redick is one of the Magic's best assets, Wesley Matthews is solid and has trade value, and Kyle Lowry has emerged as a very good point guard in the league. That's to name just a few.
Another example is Nene. His contract didn't look that good, signing a good role-player to the max. Even given his age and injury history, the Nuggets were still able to get a young center out of him.
The two scenarios were I would give Batum up would be if he got a straight up max offer, which would be ridiculous, or if it was a sign-and-trade similar to Joe Johnson to the Hawks a few years ago.
Batum should be a Blazer for a long time, but if he is not, it should be because of a trade and not cheaping out in free agency.