Portland Trail Blazers Acting GM Chad Buchanan joined Isaac Ropp and Big Suke on 1080 AM The Fan on Monday afternoon to discuss the team's season, offseason plans and expectations. Thanks to Dusty Harrah for the audio. Here's a partial transcript; the audio isn't currently online.
Difference between you and other GMs?
"Other than my title, I don't think there's a whole lot. Obviously there are some guys out there still watching their teams play, which I wish we were. But from a management regard, I don't think there's a whole lot of difference between how we're running things right now and how other teams are. We're getting ready for the Draft and free agency, I think that's what the majority of teams are doing right now. Especially those who aren't in the playoffs right now."
Do you ever feel like, 'Hey, give me the title?'
"I think there's part of that. How our team played this year doesn't help my case. I really enjoy working for the organization, being in the role of Acting GM, I've learned a lot this year that I think is going to help me down the road. I think if our team had played a little better, that would have helped my case a little bit. I understand that. There's a lot of good quality candidates that are out there that are more experienced than me, that have had more success than I've had so I understand that. If now's not the time, I understand it. Maybe down the road it will be. For the time being, I'm just going to get ourselves prepared for the Draft and free agency until I'm told what position I'm going to be in permanently, I'm not going to change my mindset."
Players struggled this season
"I take full accountability for how our team played this year. I was in position to put this team together and ultimately our team did not pan out as I had hoped and we had hoped. I take full responsibility for that. You can try to place the blame on the players not playing well but ultimately it's my job to put a team together that's going to fit, that's going to play well, compliment each other. ultimately, we just didn't get it done this year. That falls square on my shoulders, that's part of this position I'm in. I'm going to learn from it, I think I've learned a lot of valuable lessons this year that will help me moving forward. I have no problem acknowledging that I take full accountability for how our team played this year."
So what was the lesson?
"Piecing a team together, there's a lot of little intangibles that go into making a team fit. When you're scouting and making recommendations to the general manager, lots of times you're zeroed in on the talent aspect. The intangibles part of it is such a big part of whether a team succeeds or not. Sometimes you maybe look past that because of the situation you're thrust into, to try to put the most talented team out there, maybe it doesn't fit like it needs to. I think that's going to be the biggest thing that I'll carry moving forward as a lesson I learned this year."
Ceiling price on restricted free agent forward Nicolas Batum
"There's a certain threshold you're always going to have in the back of your mind. I'm not going to reveal it. Part of it is going to depend on how our cap room situation plays out. That might determine, that might dictate our threshold to a certain degree as well. We love Nic as a player, we drafted him because we believe in him. He's been a valuable contributor for us these for these last few years. We still believe in him long-term. Ultimately it will be a business decision at the end of the day but I would say that from a basketball standpoint we really believe in Nic long-term and hope to have him around for quite awhile."
Salary cap benefits to waiting to re-sign Nicolas Batum
"Part of the reason why we didn't come to an early agreement with Nic on his extension back in January, part of it is finding a number that both sides are comfortable with but also by not doing an early extension with Nic his cap hold is $5.4 million that sits on our books heading into free agency as opposed to whatever the extension number would have been at. It does allow us a little more cap room heading into free agency but we're allowed to go over the cap to re-sign our own player because we have Nic's Bird rights. There was benefits to not getting a deal done early. We'd have liked to have done it, Nic would have liked to do it too, but the numbers didn't match up on both ends. We can still spend our cap room and match an offer and go over the cap this summer as long as we're comfortable with the number on Nic and still retain him."
Is owner Paul Allen OK with adding young players or do you need to do this by making trades?
"I think Paul is always going to be attracted to young players but at the end of the day he wants to win like the rest of us. With this Draft and free agency, we've left ourselves a lot of options and paths we can go down. That was done on purpose. We didn't want to corner ourselves into a specific roster or sandwich ourselves with a particular position. Mr. Allen -- he wants to see us do things the right way. If it's adding two new players, or one young players in the Draft or a couple of free agents, that's great. If there's an opportunity to use our pick or our cap room to take in an established player then we're going to look at that as well. I don't think we've set a specific course that we want to take because we want to have the options.
"As you come up on the Draft and free agency, a lot of options can present themselves to you that maybe you hadn't considered because other teams have different goals and objectives... We have a couple of young pieces to continue to build around. We know we have a lot of holes to fill, and we've given ourselves between the draft picks and our free agency cap room, the ability to fill those holes."
Free agent big men market
"There's several restricted free agents out there that are going to be up there in the price range, fairly highly-priced and then there are a couple of other guys we've targeted who we feel like are good fits for our team, who are going to be more in the reasonable end of their price range. There's going to be a lot of competition for those guys. We feel like we have a lot to present to a player at both the point guard and the center position because its going to be a great opportunity to come in and have that starting position and be balanced around an All-Star power forward and some growing and developing wing players. I think the basketball opportunity is going to be there for both of those positions for a free agent but obviously in this business it comes down to finding a price that they agree on and we feel is fair."
Expectations for next year
"Our goal for next year and going forward every year -- we don't want to completely take two or three steps back. We wanted to take one step back -- with the trades we made at the deadline -- in order to put ourselves back on the same course we were starting to go down in recent years. Where we felt like we had to go through the process of making the playoffs, learning what it takes to win in the postseason to take that next step. I think next year if we're not in the playoffs it will be a disappointment for our franchise. We've got an All-Star power forward in the prime of his career, who is a great piece to build around, but we need more around him. That's ultimately what we're trying to get done this offseason. If we're not back in the playoffs or competing to get into the playoffs it will be a disappointment for us."
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