So this off-season, regardless of how our current season ends up, we'll have a huge question mark at center for the 2013-14 season. The type of center we need is a player to lock down the paint on both offense and defense. On offense this includes battling for offensive rebounds, as well as skill with the ball in the post. On defense we need a center who can elevate and block shots at and above the rim, as well as securing defensive rebounds. Think a Tyson Chandler type player. Looking into this off-season, I am not thrilled with the look of potential centers who are available. Our options include:
JJ Hickson: JJ has been great for us, however he is really just a PF playing center. Being 6'9'' I just dont see him being our center for the future. Hes a great rebounder and does a great job on offense in the post, but defensively isnt the center we need.
Nikola Pekovic: I really dont understand some of the obsession around him. Hes a great player and rebounder, but Im not convinced that he adds another level to our team that Hickson currently doesnt offer. Hes not the above the rim center our team needs, and is certainly not worth the 11-12 million dollars he'll get in free agency.
Tiago Splitter: Probably the best option of the centers this offseason. Hes almost a seven footer and is solid in all aspects of his game. He needs to improve rebounding the ball, but again Im not sold on him as a potential starting center. He is not the type of player to elevate and block shots, which is the center this team needs.
Al Jefferson: No. He always puts up stats and seems to always find a way to get a double-double, but each team he has played on has poor offensive efficiency stats. He will also receive over ten million per year, and is a player the Blazers should definitely avoid.
Samuel Dalembert: He's the oldest center of the group, and isnt the player he used to be, but he can still be the productive paint protector that would benefit our team. In limited minutes he is averaging close to two blocks per game and could be a good, lower cost option for the Blazers. The only issue with Dalembert, is asking the question, "Does he add wins?" My answer to this is probably No. I dont think he's the right choice to start, and rather hes a great option for a team off the bench.
Meyers Leonard: This is the type of center we need! He can step out and hit a 17 foot jumper, as well as elevate and protect the rim. He needs to add strength and improve his rebounding, but looking at his frame, hes the player we want! However, he is nowhere near ready to start next season. Hes still a couple years away from being ready to start which leaves the team in an interesting limbo in terms of years to compete.
The Draft: There are some good prospects in this years draft, but the best options, being Noel, Len, and Zeller, will probably be all gone by the time we're on the clock (if we keep our pick), and even if one of them drops, I would have similar arguments for them that I made for Meyers. They will all be prospects and most likely wont be ready to start day 1.
So each of these options has its pros and cons, but of each of the players, none of them really get me excited about being the starting Center for the Blazers. My gut feeling says to try and sign JJ for a two year contract, but I also see him getting a longer and bigger contract from another team. I think we have a great prospect in Leonard, and our management needs to approach this situation right, so he can mature into the player we need him to be. This is why a four year contract for a player like Splitter troubles me, because it may stunt the growth of Leonard.
As you can see, there is no clear answer to this problem. I think we should definitely stray away from Jefferson and Pekovic. If we were to offer a contract with our cap this off-season, it should be for JJ or Splitter, with Meyers coming off the bench. Thoughts?