Okay, I'm not Martin Luther King Jr., but that doesn't mean I can't fantasize about what I'd like to see the Blazers do tomorrow night. If you've read my recent posts on Blazersedge, you'll grasp that I'm a "build for the future" kind of guy. I'm very much a believer that great teams (i.e. dynasties) are built from the ground up, through the draft and occasional lateral moves. I really don't think that this Blazer team can make enough moves with the assets they have now (current roster, draft picks, cap room) to turn this franchise into an immediate or soon-to-be contender. As such, this is what I'd like to see:
Charlotte wants to unload the #2 pick and establish legitimate, proven talent? Fine. Trade LMA to the Bobcats for #2, Diop, Tyrus Thomas, and a conditional first round pick in 2013 (top 5 protected in 2013 followed by top 3 protected in 2014, followed by unprotected thereafter). Two first round picks of this magnitude is a steep price. I get it. Yet Portland is giving up a proven All-star about to enter his prime in addition to taking on the horrible contracts of Diop and Thomas. Given how poorly Charlotte has done in previous drafts and how desperate they are to put up some semblance of a professional basketball team, I think they'd do it. If they do, turn around and trade #2 to Cleveland for #4 and #24.
Draft either Robinson, Beal, or MKG at #4. Draft Drummond or Waiters at #6. Draft T. Ross, M. Leonard, or P. Jones III at #11. Pray that R. White is available and draft him at 24. If he isn't draft the best player based on roster need. Renounce Batum. Sign Flynn and Hickson to medium-range deals. I'm thinking 3-4 years at $10 million and $20 million, respectively. Sign whatever free agents necessary to fill in the roster - don't care who, it doesn't matter. Go in the tank for '12 to '13 and '13 to '14. Over those draft periods, with your own lottery picks and the pick from Charlotte, do your darndest to knab a combination of Shabazz Muhammad, Andrew Harrison, and Andrew Wiggins.
I know, I know. If you know these players then you'll likely be saying, "Why draft Muhammad or Wiggins if you already have MKG or Terrence Ross?" If you don't know these players, then look them up. They're just examples of prime high school talent. What my point is, load your team with young and athletic talent. Sure, Andrew Harrison may not be the PGOTF and Andre Drummond may not exorcise the Bowie and Oden demons. Those guys may turn out to be an epic fail. However, in my heart of hearts, I honestly believe that out of the 5 or 6 players you can draft over the next 3 draft sessions, at least two if not three will be legitimate All-star candidates and the others will make nice core and/or role players. Heck, Wiggins alone may be this decade's superstar (a la LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, etc.). We have seen what happens to a team when you have that guy (Cleveland notwithstanding).
I know it sounds crazy, but hear me out. The nice part is that once you've gotten these guys and had a chance to develop them and build some chemistry, you've already unloaded the contract of Diop and will be in position to unload the contracts of Tyrus Thomas, Hickson, Flynn, and Matthews. The hope being that you can then go out and be competitive for free agents to fill in your gaps and provide some veteran leadership to a youthful and athletic core. Heck, maybe Hickson, Flynn, or Matthews turn out to be great long-term role players and you keep them. Doesn't matter to me because you're filling in your bench at that point.
I know this plan lacks specificity. That's part of the beauty though. You never know what high school player's stock will skyrocket or whose will plummet. You never know what a team will offer on some crazy draft-day trade in 2013 or 2014 for one of your picks. Don't tell me though, that you wouldn't give up all the LMAs, Batums, and Wes Moneys in the world to have a chance at saying the top 6 of roster of your 2015 NBA roster looks a little like this:
PG - Andrew Harrsion SG - Terrence Ross SF - Andrew Wiggins PF - Thomas Robinson C - Andre Drummond Bench - Royce White
After all, who did we just see in the NBA Finals? Who do you think will be there next year? If OKC and Miami keep their teams relatively intact, making a few key free agent grasps along the way, it's going to be them dominating for years to come. Sure, you may see other teams sneak in but by and large, these teams should be perennial contenders. Just like Portland would be had Oden and Roy not been riddled with injuries (cough...draft rebuild...cough).
Ask yourself this: Do you ever see Batum and LMA leading Portland to the NBA Finals? Not 2nd round, not Conference Finals, but NBA Finals? Even if they got Lillard, Rivers, Lamb, or Zeller... do you really envision that team holding up the Larry O'Brien Trophy? Do you see Spencer Hawes or Kyle Lowry dumping the bucket of Gatorade over Canales' head? If so, you're a better and more loyal man than me. I just can't picture it.