Clearly one of the hot topic subjects around here is Batum and how his free agency affects our cap situation. Also, how that cap situation affects our free agency targets. And how those targets affect the draft. And how the draft affects what we do with Batum in free agency. Oh crap...
Well, lucky for you I have compiled your thoughts into a succinct summary so you aren't confused about what you think we should do. Follow me past the jump to read your thoughts
Long-Time ring-first non-sentimental cynical fan:
Batum is a fine player, but he has serious limitations that bring into question his ability to be a main piece on a championship team. He lacks the handles to consistently create his own shot, an increasingly important skill set for a wing player. He lacks aggressiveness and is known to show up for some games but not others.
His defense, while above average, is overrated and he is not a difference maker on that end of the floor. We have been waiting on his potential his entire career, and there comes a time when you can no longer pay for potential. That time is when his rookie contract runs out. If we are paying Batum strictly based on his worth, and not his potential, the Blazers should match nothing above 6-7 mil a year.
We can’t cripple our salary situation, especially with the new CBA, on contracts of mid-talent players like Mathews and Batum until we have the core of superstars to take us to the promise land. Look at Detroit with the Gordon/Villaneuva double whammy of a cap space killer.
The overall strategy of the Blazers should be to dump virtually everyone on the roster (even possibly you Lamarcus) and go into full rebuild mode. Conserve cap space until we have the 2-3 superstars already on the roster that are going to represent the core of our championship team. Call this the Oklahoma City strategy. Part of this strategy is being consistently bad for a few years, so don’t bring in veterans that could boost the win total. Draft well, sign no one, lose a lot of games, draft well again, and repeat until we have superstars. Once we have them, then we go out and poach people like Batum from other teams (like how OKC moved Jeff Green for Perkins) and celebrate our patience and perseverance as the number of rings pile up.
Optimistic character-first championship realist:
Batum is a player that has gotten better in virtually every statistical category since he entered the league. As a player shooting over 40% from beyond the arc, playing plus defense at 4 positions, and rebounding / passing at Roy-lite levels this is a player that we cannot let walk for nothing.
Part of constructing a championship roster is massing enough talent through the draft to either grow your own superstars or to consolidate your talent into superstars. Letting one of our only successful draft picks of the last decade to walk for no value is not going to help move toward a championship.
He is a great character guy loved by many fans (providing seemingly endless awesome quotes perhaps spawned by a minor language barrier such as “putting points in your face”), which cannot be overlooked in the post-jail blazers era. Portland currently has a 1B / second banana type player in Lamarcus Aldridge. I doubt anyone thinks he isn’t a championship rotation player. Batum can be a third guy on a championship team by being the “glue-guy” who guards multiple positions and knocks down big shots while not taking shots from our two main guys. That means we need only to find a superstar and bring in a few more pieces around him. In order to do that we need to either sign one in free agency, draft or trade for one (oh those three options?).
Free agency is a long-shot, as free agents tend to congregate in larger, lamer way-less-cool-than-us markets. Most teams don’t trade young superstars in their prime, which leaves the draft. Since we have to get our superstar from the draft anyway, who cares if we use our cap space to re-sign Batum?
Overall suggestion: Make a near-max offer for any superstar (Deron for sure, Hibbert questionably defined as one) match virtually any offer short of a max contract for Batum, move anyone on the roster except Lamarcus and Batum for draft picks (we already established that teams won’t trade us a superstar) and try and draft the future. Signing a restricted free agent like Hibbert is not the worst idea ever, as our cap space is more or less irrelevant after this year so we might as well try and sign the best players in this class and work with picks for the next few years, and Hibbert is definitely one of the best players in this class. Try to sign the best free agent we can from this class, re-up Batum, trade for picks, draft well, and celebrate our ingenuity and resolve as the number of rings pile up.