Blazer's Edge Mailbag: Barton, Cousins, Trading LaMarcus, and More!

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Blazer's Edge Mailbag Week finishes strong with questions about DeMarcus Cousins, trading LaMarcus Aldridge, the future of Will Barton, and much more!

Yes! For the first time ever in Blazer's Edge history we have filled an entire week with Mailbaggery! Feast your eyes on today's questions and responses.

Dave,

It seems everyone, Blazers (hopefully blowing smoke) and BE readers, feel that the Blazers are a few pieces away. A few pieces away from what? Regaining their status of a first round punching bag for a real contender? It seems to me this team unless it strikes it rich in future lotteries isn't going anywhere as constructed. Making the playoffs as a first round doormat only makes it worse. With that said, What do you feel are realistic trade options for LA? I'm thinking D. Cousins and a pick. I know the guy is a head case, but even Z-Bo turned it around (publicly at least). A move out of the worst ran team in the league wouldn't hurt either.

Tim

You haven't heard much of the "couple pieces" refrain around here, even though it's the party line from the front office right now. But what are they going to say? "Unless things go really, really right we're going to hit an impassible ceiling but hey, stick with us through the next rebuild and we'll get it right." Hmmm... That's a winner. It's better for them to go full throttle into the summer confident they can make a leap. They're going to aim for full-on contention and have the second round as a fall-back position. Whether they can execute the moves to make either happen remains to be seen. We've already gone on record here saying it's going to be a difficult, yet critical, summer. If any magic is going to happen, now would be the time.

But again I'll repeat this mantra: just...get...assets. Talent can always be bartered into more talent later. Even coming out two good players ahead would be a success. You never know what the future will bring. If you're poised and have some ammo you can always take your shot. Right now the Blazers have four bullets, two of which they won't fire and two they can't afford to waste. They'd have to see the target of all targets to pull the trigger on a major deal now. Putting some more bullets in the chamber will ease that strain.

The earliest the Blazers would even think about trading LaMarcus Aldridge is next summer, and that's only if he forces it. Trading him for DeMarcus Cousins would give them fewer valuable assets, not more.

You need a combination of experience and the right environment for a guy like Cousins to turn it around. He hasn't had enough experience and this isn't the right environment. You have to give a guy like that limitless opportunities without ever actually depending on him to carry your team. The Blazers could do the limitless opportunity part but trading Aldridge for him would put the savior label square on Cousins' back. "Save us, DeMarcus!" isn't going to work any better in Portland than it has in Sacramento. You might as well have the commish walk up to the draft podium and say, "With the 10th pick of the 2013 NBA Draft the Portland Trail Blazers select...Batman." That'd be a more realistic hope.

The only way Cousins would work is joining the Core Four, or at least joining a Core Three that included Aldridge and Damian Lillard. That isn't going to happen either. Somebody would make a better offer for him than Portland can.

Hey Dave,

In the wake of the Canales departure, what are we to expect from the next coaching hire? Will he be another up and comer or an established guru? I'd assume we'd be looking to bolster our D, but what do I know. What say you, Dave?

Jordan

You're correct on needing to work on the "D". I believe Coach Stotts himself will assume more public/overt responsibility for the defense. He will have to live and die with the results. In that situation most people tend to take over to make sure it's done the way they want it. I suspect that'll be Option #1.

I suspect Coach Stotts will also look to add a defensive-minded coach with whom to consult. I have no clue whether that would be an old friend from the coaching ranks or a young wizard. That's a personal decision.

Either way, I think people sometimes put too much emphasis on the effects of assistant coaches. They're important but no coach in the world, especially a coach without complete control of the system, is going to get great results without great talent. Look at the assistants in demand each year. Know what most of them have in common? They're serving on staffs that are coaching Tim Duncan and LeBron James. Either that or they're working under a big-name coach, getting plucked off of his tree. The most important move the Blazers will make this summer is to shore up their defensive holes on the court. Once that's done, this team is ready for coaching. Then you can begin to evaluate the system and coaching success.

Hey Dave,

I was wondering how you think Will Barton will turn out as a player. He obviously is still very raw and needs to work on his game, but I see some decent potential in him. He has shown flashes of a good player but he is often out of control. I was at the game vs Dallas and he looked quite incredible.

David

I don't get into prognostication much but I agree Barton looks as intriguing as any of the non-core Blazers right now. One suspects Victor Claver could turn into a nice player but it's hard to imagine him becoming a star. Barton's a real roll of the dice but if he hits...wow. What we said about Meyers Leonard a couple days ago applies even more here. You need to watch Barton in training camp and early in the season. If it looks like he's retained what he learned last year, shaped his body a little, and is taking steps forward you can start to get excited. If he comes in looking like he's back to Square One, throw up your hands in frustration. Stars aren't just about talent. Work ethic and clear vision of the path forward matter shape that raw talent into usable production. So far we've only seen him produce in games that didn't matter with minutes he wouldn't have earned under normal circumstances. Even Ha Seung-Jin produced from time to time in those situations. The real proof won't come until next fall at the earliest.

If you force me to pick some numbers I'd guess:

  • 5% chance of becoming a special player
  • 10% chance of becoming a starting-quality guy
  • 25% chance of becoming a reliable high-bench player
  • 40% chance of becoming a lower bench guy
  • 20% chance of not making it at all

Dave,

I've been watching the Blazers since their Birth and Petre was the ROY! NBA has changed so much over the years. Now every position is specialized. Here are the questions-Why not go after the best center we can get then draft the best center we can get (Dieng???) Test Meyers at the power forward position as well as center. Wings are much easier to find so go after BIGS now.

Mark

The Blazers probably will go after the best center they can get. The problem is, once you discount Dwight Howard and his $20 million price tag the best of those best centers are either Restricted Free Agents or under contract. Signing the former out from under the noses of their current teams will be expensive and unlikely. Prying away the latter means trading assets which will almost certainly include the lottery pick. Getting a center and still having the pick to use on another center is a longshot.

If you like Dieng but still want a second center you'll probably have to make do with a retread. That's an unlikely plan because the Blazers don't have years to develop a center. LaMarcus Aldridge's contract expires in two years. They have to show progress in one in order to keep him interested. That's not going to happen if you're playing a rookie center next to an under-developed second-year center bolstered by a recycled guy.

Meyers Leonard at power forward is problematic for several reasons. He doesn't rebound, he's not quick enough, and most of all you'd be asking him to learn a whole new position when he hasn't even mastered the first. Anything that adds to his confusion is likely to break him.

I'd only semi-agree with your assessment of the value of wings vs. bigs. Tip-top elite centers are much rarer than tip-top elite smalls. But the Blazers aren't going to get an elite center via trade, free agency, or the draft. They're far more likely to get an average-to-good center.

If you rank all centers in the league from top to bottom then run your fingers down that list you're not going to get very far before you find the drop-off between elite and good. You're also going to find that those good centers aren't dominating today's game. Do the same thing for the smaller positions and you're going to run your finger a long ways before you exhaust the game-changers.

Even if you value centers highly and put a couple elite centers at the very top of your overall player list you'd still be able to shuffle all of those impact smalls between your last elite center and the first good one. Elite centers rank 1 and 2, smalls 3-40, good centers start at 41.

With positions and schemes more flexible than ever and with Portland's talent pool so shallow, the Blazers have to go for players who will make an impact. They can't pull the trigger on the 5th best center in the league if that's only the 75th best player in the league overall. A small-position player ranked 20th overall would be far more valuable.

Unless they can grab a true star (or future star) at the pivot the Blazers need to get the most talented players possible while finding a center (or two) with a couple of skills their roster otherwise lacks.

OK Dave, you gave dating advice to the boys but how about the girls? I'm 23, single, and I NEED a MAN! LOL. Spill some advice on me guru! Where are all the good men hiding and how do I catch one?

Lil

Oh jeepers.

Well, my first instinct is to just connect you with teenager Ty who started all this by looking for advice on asking girls out in a previous Mailbag. You need a man. He'd no doubt fall all over himself for you. Two problems solved! Except...

1. Our legal department would kill me. And...

2. So would Ty's mom.

So that's never going to happen. Unless, of course, you two randomly bump into each other while you're both wearing Blazer's Edge t-shirts or something. Which, by the way, is a CLEAR sign someone is good dating material. Just sayin'.

It's harder for me to give advice to girl-type people on this kind of thing because I'm not one. But I've known a few and it seems to me that much of our society is geared towards making you girl-type folks unhappy.

100% of the female population falls short of the artificial beauty standards displayed in our airbrushed, photo-distorted public media. We all know this. I work with plenty of teenage girls and by the time they hit 12 they already have a laundry list of body flaws. I'm not sure that ever goes away. People spend a lot of time thinking they'd be happier and feel more attractive if they just had a little more of this and a little less of that. You don't get to be a real, whole person because you don't look that way.

I have also known some girls and women who came close enough to conforming to an ideal standard of beauty that whatever they lacked didn't matter. Many of them found that their bodies became public property without their consent. People stared, made comments. No matter how smart they were, how much they achieved, or how far they advanced they could always get dragged down to ground level (or below) by a rude comment or inappropriate gesture. There's a constant sense of being valued for only one thing, being defined by an image that you have little control over. You don't get to be a real, whole person because you DO look that way.

So whether we get you coming or going, you don't get to be a real, whole person and you don't get to be happy.

I suspect this isn't an accident. We have an interest in keeping you unhappy for two important reasons:

1. To sell you product in order to make you happier. Cha-ching!

2. To get you a man for same. Hubba-hubba!

Obviously this is a gross oversimplification but you don't have to look at too many public examples of the dating scene--on television, in clubs, in popular literature--to see where product and boys are being sold to women as the keys to happiness and success. Open up any celebrity magazine for Examples A-Q. Or just watch reality TV. You're empty. You're unhappy. You need us. Welcome to your life's purpose.

But relationships based on emptiness and need never work for more than a minute. Theoretically the person you're with is supposed to "complete you" and fulfill all your needs so you never have to be unhappy again, right? But if the whole relationship is built on the premise of "I'm empty and I need you" then there's no basis for the relationship anymore if you actually get full and don't need the other person anymore. Once you actually achieve the goal it's Game Over. So instead of helping and filling you, your partner actually has to keep you empty lest your need for him disappear and the reason for the relationship along with it.

This is exactly why one bottle of shampoo, one self-help book, and one White Knight on a charging steed will never do. They have to fail and you have to buy/read/find another soon after otherwise the system breaks down. If you follow this path you never get to be happy, you never get to be full, and you never get to be real.

The only way around this is to be real and full already, before you ever get into a relationship. That doesn't mean you're perfect. You don't have to be perfect physically, perfectly healthy, or have your act perfectly together. Nobody is and nobody does. But when you look in the mirror you've got to see what you are and what you have to give, not just all the things you aren't and all the things you need.

This is important not only for the health of your relationships, but because this is what most men really find attractive. Yes, we've all seen those frat-boy-stereotype guys who make wisecracks and brag about conquests and judge by cup size. When the rest of us guys encounter them we look at each other, shake our heads, and call them names I can't say on Blazer's Edge. (One of them rhymes with teabag.) We sincerely hope that they never get to reproduce and spread their idiocy to the next generation. Those guys are also a tiny minority of the gene pool.

Whatever the magazines say, whatever the jerks joke about, guys fall in love with people of all shapes, sizes, and persuasions. Granted we're all shaped by societal standards of beauty--men as much as women--and we can't overcome that entirely. Truthfully, though, when a girl walks in the door who's sure of herself, seems interesting, and brings something to the room (whatever that something is) we notice. That's attractive.

Personal ad sites confirm this. Lindsay Lohan types get clicked on out of curiosity but they get 6 actual responses, 5 of which are from skeezmeisters. More "ordinary" folks who seem like they have something to give to the world--humor, career, looks, even just being approachable--get full mailboxes.

Returning to your question... I know you meant it humorously, but the first step to getting a man is to stop NEEDING a man. Decide who you are, figure out what you've got to offer the world and your relationships, then build your life and your "game" on that. Don't let your perceived flaws get in the way. Work on the ones you need to work on and let the rest go, showing who you are instead of who you aren't. People are going to find that alluring...maybe fascinating...maybe even sexy. They're going to want to know more about you. That's how relationships start.

As far as the "good" men, well, you don't really need a GOOD man anymore...at least not in terms of a White Knight Prince Charming. "Good" men like that don't really exist, any more than those airbrushed models do. You need a man who's doing just what you're doing: identifying who he is, building on the strongest parts of his character and passions, not letting his flaws win the day, and looking for someone who will value what he brings to the table.

Those guys are all around you. You can't walk a city block without tripping over three of them. The problem isn't that they're "gone". The problem is that we don't see them. Maybe we're focusing too much on societal standards of beauty too. Maybe we can't see past the Disney definition of love and are looking for the white horse instead of the accountant in Aisle 3. Or maybe we're all wrapped up in being self-conscious and trying to cure our flaws with toothpaste and shampoo instead of directing our gaze outward. A hundred things try to get in the way, half of which we're not even aware of.

I guarantee that you already know "good" men in your life. I guarantee that there are more within easy reach. They're doing just what you're doing: waiting and hoping somebody will notice that they're actually good. If that's what you want, go out there and be interested in them while being interesting yourself. Broaden out your definitions to take a chance on some people you meet and see what happens.

Stay away from DeMarcus Cousins, though. He needs to grow up more.

And THAT is going to be the end of the personal advice for a while, folks. If this keeps up maybe we'll devote a bonus Mailbag to it at the end of the summer. Otherwise we'll stick to draft picks and unrealistic center trades.

Keep those questions coming to the e-mail address below and make sure to put "Mailbag" in the subject line.

--Dave (blazersub@gmail.com)

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