Ken Berger, writing for CBS Sports, oes an excellent analysis of how teams are positioned in free agency, noting that the talent level drops off after Deron Willams--all the other free agents (definite or likely) are either not A-list players (though plenty of B-listers), or nearing the end of their careers. D-Will would, talent-wise, be a great fit, but the conventional wisdom is that he's not interested in coming to Portland. (And given that Williams managed to offend a reporter at The Columbian the other night, who called him a "jerk" in print, and there's ample evidence that Williams doesn't fit in with the Blazers' current culture focus, so perhaps the Blazers aren't interested in him either--though I think he's talented enough to tolerate some antics. (It doesn't affect his on-court play, which is excellent).
Dwight Jaynes is concerned that the team will spend its free agent dollars on...nobody (other than renewing Nic Batum, it seems).
I'm not sure the latter follows from the former, however. If we assume that D-Will isn't interested in the Blazers, and that the other FA point guards aren't an option (Steve Nash is old, and the rest of the crop, while improvements over Raymond Felton, aren't much to get excited about--Jose Calderon is probably the most intriguing of what remains), there are still plenty of ways the Blazers could profit.
And one way is by using their cap space to do a sign and trade.
Reportedly, Williams has a list of teams he would like to play for next season, and with Dwight Howard remaining in Orlando, the New Jersey Nets aren't on it. Teams who ARE on it include Dallas (his hometown), the Lakers, and the Knicks. One wonders if the Magic are now a possible destination, given that he was itching to play with Dwight, and Dwight will be remaining in Orlando for at least the next season.
The thing is, none of these teams have presently have cap room to sign a guy like Deron Williams, which is where a team WITH cap room can come in. Dallas could come close if they amnesty Brendan Haywood and renounce a whole bunch of other players, but the Lakers, Magic, and Knicks aren't presently in the conversation. If the Blazers do a sign-and-trade, what could they come away with? (Note that the players listed below are just possibilities; I'm not implying a package of all of them from a team signing D-Will. Also, other current Blazers might well be involved in any deals).
- From the Lakers: Andrew Bynum and/or Ramon Sessions? The former is one of the better centers in the league, but a royal PITA. The latter is a serviceable point guard who would be expendable if Williams were to join the team.
- From the Mavs: Jason Kidd, Rodrique Beaubois, and/or Lamar Odom? Dallas has a roster full of PGs, and Kidd would be a great mentor to any young Blazer PGs; Beaubois is also a fine prospect. Odom has had a terrible year after being essentially given away by the Lakers, but he would let the Blazers move Batum to the SG spot.
- From the Knicks: Jeremy Lin, Iman Shumpert or Landry Fields, and/or possibly even Tyson Chandler? D-Will would make Linsanity expendable--though the words "meniscus tear" ought to strike fear in the hearts of Blazer fans everywhere. One of the Knicks young wings would be nice. And having Przybilla and Chandler on the same team would make for some interesting practices. :)
- From the Magic: Jameer Nelson, Ryan Anderson? Again, if the Magic sign Williams, Nelson becomes expendable. Ryan Anderson would be a good big man to pair with LaMarcus--a banger with a deadly jumpshot.
Quite a few opportunities for the savvy GM. (Now if we just had one of THOSE...)