Blazer's Edge Mailbag: Dallas Trade, Summer Hope, Stars and Draftees

Derick Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

In today's mailbag: trading with Dallas, keeping hope alive, Lillard and Aldridge as leaders, and approaches to college players.

Mailbag time! For information on how to submit your question see the end of this post.

Dave,

Saw your post about moving up in the draft. Folks are saying Dallas wants to cut cap space to sign Dwight Howard. How about getting that 13 pick and then packaging it with the 10 to move up? That would get us somewhere, right?

Rob

First, I don't think the Blazers really want to move up in this draft. Ideally they'd prefer to move out in exchange for a helpful veteran. The goal of that post was to look at possible options, not to endorse the general course of action.

Second, the scenario you described sounds good on paper...very, very thin paper. It doesn't make much sense in real life for a few reasons.

You have to suspect any trade reasoning that relies more on the motive of your team's trading partner than the actual talent exchanged. We hear these things every year. "This team wants to dump salary. That team is rebuilding. The other team is supposedly dissatisfied with a player." These things do play into trades but NONE of them substitute for talent or turn a horrible move into a good one. Teams do not just dump assets willy-nilly. Even if they have an overall goal in mind they still want to maximize value at each step of the way.

Let's just say Dallas is interested in saving cap space for Howard. You still have to answer these questions.

1. O.J. Mayo is opting out and will have to leave in order for the Mavs to offer Howard a full salary. That's going to leave them at about the $40 million mark, give or take. Will the $1.7 million they'd owe the 13th pick make THAT much of a difference, particularly since they can save close to a million by renouncing the rights to Petteri Koponen?

2. Why should Dallas trade that pick to Portland as opposed to any of the 28 other teams? What offer can the Blazers make? Second rounders? Cash? Who can't match that? Where does Portland get the edge to make this deal work?

3. The draft happens in June. The Mavs can't woo Howard until July and have no guarantee of getting him. Wouldn't it make more sense for them to hedge their bets by drafting a player they could use and then dumping that player for next to nothing in July if they do get Howard? The Blazers would need them to make the move in June with no assurance of ultimate success in order to make a trade plan work.

4. Most importantly of all, since you're speculating the pick is all but free for the taking why wouldn't the team the Blazers want to trade it to just go and get it from Dallas themselves? If you're Charlotte and you have a choice between trading the #4 pick for #10 and #13 or spending a couple second-rounders to draft #4 and #13 which would you take? Given the choice wouldn't the Mavs prefer to help an out-of-conference team rather than the Blazers?

So many trade scenarios contain steps that just don't make sense, relying on perceived context rather than actual trade value. Sometimes crazy things happen in this league but you can't depend on them. Most of the time they happen to somebody else besides you.

Put yourself in the other GM's shoes. Pretend it's the summer of 2014, LaMarcus Aldridge has one year remaining on his contract, and rumor has it he's going to leave next year. How are you going to feel when everybody starts saying, "Just offer Tyrus Thomas, some cap filler, and the 12th pick for him. They're going to lose him anyway!" Are you going to take that kind of deal? No way. You'd rather ride out the summer, try to trade him at the deadline, or even let him walk than take back pieces that have little value or make no sense.

Phoenix is not going to give away Marcin Gortat because his contract has but one year left and they're rebuilding. Cleveland is not in charity mode just because Anderson Varejao doesn't fit their timetable. The Mavericks may end up selling the 13th pick low but there's no guarantee you'll be the one who gets it and if you do there's no guarantee you'll find a buyer to flip it to.

Hi Dave,

Now that the lottery is over, the reality of our situation is setting in. The #10 pick is not going to deliver a star and maybe not even a starter, or at best a flawed one. Our core isn't made up of young guys with potential anymore and the timeline to develop a whole new core of young talent doesn't really line up with the position and age of our best players. We have slim odds to pick up high quality free agents or to turn our assets into a veteran who isn't too old or not good enough. Even if we did we'd still need a bench!

It seems like we're in the dreaded no-mans land, where we're too good to get great draft picks and too lousy to compete in the playoffs. Is there any solution besides crossing our fingers? Our last 6 drafts have netted little (Batum and Lillard), can you give us some hope that next draft, season, or cycle of team development will be better?

Jonathan

We've said from the beginning, and often since, that what the Blazers are attempting this summer is going to be hard. Ask me point blank if I think they can pull off a revolutionary coup and I'm going to tell you no, the odds are low. They'll probably have to dish out more salesmanship than reassurance when October rolls around. But that doesn't mean you have to walk out on a ledge. There are plenty of possibilities.

We already mentioned one last night. Even among the unlikely "move up" draft scenarios a Charlotte move isn't completely far-fetched. If I'm Portland's GM I'm talking to Rich Cho right now, asking if he's interested in a two-for-one by swapping his 4th pick for my 10th and Wesley Matthews. If Cho doesn't fancy Victor Oladipo, wants a big man instead but can't get to the #1 spot himself, trading down in this draft makes sense. Picking up a starter in that exchange also could make sense for Charlotte. Matthews is better than any second player they'd get in this draft and as good as any free agent they could find. If Charlotte's needs match up, that two-for-one deal is attractive.

If I'm Portland, I take Oladipo to fill Matthews' spot. More importantly I've just added to my cap space...now projected to hover near $18 million if the total cap rises to $60 million. With that kind of money I can now make a run at a center while still affording to add a second player. Dwight Howard is now the only available center out of reach. I can take on anybody else's expensive center in a trade if they get Dwight. I can sign any unrestricted free agent center you could imagine. I've also opened the possibility of making an obnoxious offer to a restricted free agent that their current team might not match. So let's say I make a huge offer to Tiago Splitter or Nikola Pekovic. I also start bidding for J.J. Redick or O.J. Mayo or Jarrett Jack. I still sign Jermaine O'Neal with the veteran's minimum or room exception. Prefer Josh Smith or Tyreke Evans? You could get one or the other and still fill in with a decent center.

If Portland's off-season looked like: Oladipo, good or great center, good or great wing, Jermaine O'Neal and the only significant loss from this year's roster was Wesley Matthews the joint would be going crazy.

No scenario is likely. But is this kind of think possible? Could be. You never know until you try. So get off that ledge and start hoping like the rest of us.

Dave,

Do you see Lillard and Aldridge as good enough to lead a team? Or do you think the Blazers are still looking for their "star"?

Brad

Both are stars. Both are plenty good enough. Both will need help. The roster had so many holes this year it was like putting two Olympic-level rowers in a colander. No matter how hard they worked, teams with intact boats were going to win.

The Blazers need a center and bench depth. We all know this. The Blazers also need another spark somewhere. We're not talking LeBron James. There's only one of him. Whether it's center, 6th man, consistently outstanding play from Batum, or trading for an established star, they just need a little more zap and intimidation factor in the rotation. With the basics covered and that extra zap, Aldridge and Lillard will look really good. More to the point, if you took either away then covering the basics and providing the extra zap wouldn't put the Blazers that far ahead.

Dave,

A couple college/draft related questions for you. Are you a fan of the college game, or are you primarily an NBA fan? How much does your fandom of the college game affect how you evaluate draft prospects, or do you mostly view them as tabula rasa? Finally, if the Blazers end up keeping their draft pick this year (likely 10), who would you reasonably like take? Would you look to the wing or center?

Kyle

Other than a few tournament games almost all my exposure to the college game comes through scouting film and listening to guys who do scouting work. I just don't have time to follow a second sport. Therefore I'm much less a college game fan than a college player shark. I cut corners by evaluating most heavily the prospects the Blazers are most likely to select based on their draft positions and needs. I'm actually quite good if you stick to the first round. If you get deep into the second you're mostly over my head, but that's why the basketball blogosphere is so big. Plenty of guys specialize in that and I appreciate their work. I can cover most of the material on any given player in a matter of hours so it's easier for me to study up on the guys the Blazers do pick in the second round than to anticipate the players they could pick. Within 8 hours after the draft the results are the same as far as what you guys see.

And yes, that makes each crop of draftees a tabula rasa for me. I have few preconceived notions going into the process. That often turns out to be a strength. I don't get bothered by reputations, historical expectations, or impressions from developmental years. Sometimes I feel like a Quality Control Inspector, just watching the finished product go by on the assembly line, checking for strengths and flaws. I get plenty of help to bracket and modify my impressions. It generally works.

The Blazers should pick the best player on the board when the #10 selection comes around. Right now it looks like that's going to be a big, which is why the Blazers should do everything they can to make sure they're not on the board when the #10 selection comes around. I'm still going through the slate of players. We'll start looking at specific draftees in a couple weeks.

Keep those Mailbag questions coming to the address below with "Mailbag" in the subject line.

--Dave (blazersub@gmail.com)

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