Blazersedge Mailbag: Nicolas Batum Trade and Blowing Up the Blazers

Dave,

If the Blazers are getting a veteran player plus two first-rounders for Nicolas Batum, they should take it! That's a no-brainer, isn't it? They get talent now, talent later, plus get rid of a player who doesn't want to be here. Win-Win-Win!

Parker

Maybe. It depends on the player and picks involved. If "veteran small forward" (the rumored exchange) means the All-Star level talent the Blazers have coveted, then yes...this would be a great way to bolster the roster. Something tells me we're short of that here. If you're talking a mediocre guy then the deal looks limp. The only exception might be if his contract expires in a year. But even then, as we're finding out this summer, cap space doesn't automatically equal players. Still a little room might be better than letting Batum go for nothing or retaining him at $11 million per if you don't like him.

Two draft picks also sound exciting, especially when we're all still flushed from a double-dip into lottery land. Picks are thrilling! Picks are magic! But picks are far less valuable if they're middle- or late-rounders. Consider that even in the deepest draft in years, the #11 selection (a lottery pick) ended up being Meyers Leonard. He's a center, a fine selection, but no sure thing. He's going to be a project. He'll not contribute at Batum's level immediately. He may not ever. And that's the 11th selection in a deep draft. Are two worse-than-Leonards (potentially) worth a Batum? Put another way, would you trade Batum for Nolan Smith, Luke Babbitt, and some future cap space and call it even? That could be what we're looking at here.

Obviously the Blazers should look into this deal. But calling it an automatic win is premature.

Side Note: We've heard from Neil Olshey that the Blazers will match any offer for Batum. That may be true. They may love Batum that much. On the other hand, there's no disadvantage to making that known even if the Blazers are hotly pursuing a sign-and-trade. By CBA rules Batum cannot be used in a sign-and-trade once he's accepted an offer sheet from another team. Obviously the Blazers also get to determine the number for him rather than another team if he gets no suitors. The territorial growl from Olshey preserves Portland's options.

Dave,

What's UP with this? No good free agents. All the big news is about players the Blazers already had like Joel Freeland and Victor Claver [ed. and now J.J. Hickson]. Is this free agency period a bust? Are we going to see that long-awaited blow-up now? Are the Blazers signalling their willingness to destroy the current team and start over?

Amil

What's up with this is that the Blazers can't find anyone they want to spend $10 million on. Instead of going for the expensive seven-course meal they're storing away a few TV dinners in the freezer and trying to make it through winter. But not all hope is lost! Months ago we were talking here about how the most likely use of Portland's cap space was in unbalanced trades. That space makes them a powerful potential trading partner, either in their own right or as a third party facilitating someone else's deal. You can pick up extra goodies on the cheap that way. I don't know if the Blazers will be able to swing that All-Star they covet, but they could still find a hidden gem or two.

Even if the Blazers don't pick up anybody significant, I'd far rather have them sign nobody than cap themselves out with players who won't matter much. Again, this is something we've said for months, long before the Olshey hire. Not being willing to spend big-time money on small-time players takes courage, but it's the right move. Far from considering an empty trip a "bust", I'd consider it smart and disciplined. Get the guy who pushes you towards a title or keep your checkbook in your pocket. Fans will just have to adjust expectations and find different things to root for while management waits for the right time and the right guy.

As far as blowing up the team, you're not going to see it. It seldom happens that dramatically. There's no way the Blazers--or any team really--would go out and dump Batum and LaMarcus Aldridge for chump change and say, "We're finished with this! Complete restart!" That's not only a horrible public relations move, it's a waste of resources. Instead rebuilding happens in directions. You're either moving up or down. You progress slowly, by degrees, not all in one swoop.

The Batum situation will indicate which direction the Blazers are headed right now. If the do sign-and-trade him for picks and cap space you can be pretty sure they're on the downward arc, sacrificing immediate performance for future gain. But they're not going to dump the roster entirely. They'll play the season with Aldridge and Damian Lillard, celebrate what victories they can, then assess whether they can make the upward turn next year. If not you'll start to hear rumors of Aldridge or Wesley Matthews being on the trading block too. But that won't be a total blow-up, just another step. In fact Aldridge being traded would be the final one, as he'd bring major assets in return. (And frankly after he was gone there'd be nowhere to go but up.) Right after that step the Blazers would cash in those assets and start heading upward again.

Looking back over the course of 3-4 years you might well be able to say they "blew up" the team. Certainly it's in shards now compared to the days of Roy, Oden, Fernandez, and Bayless. But you'll not be able to point to them killing it in a single moment then making us watch a year or two of intentionally horrible basketball before moving upwards again.

--Dave (blazersub@gmail.com)

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