It's another very special edition of the Blazer's Edge Mailbag, catching up with even more of my backlog of questions.
The general consensus seems to be that the Blazers need a SG and C; I agree with the C need, but I'm wondering if the Blazers pursued a SF such as Marvin Williams (or an unbalanced trade for a similar player), they could move Batum to SG and emphasize his passing, perimeter defense, and early offense. Does this approach make any sense to you?
The arguments against Nicolas Batum as a shooting guard have been pretty simple:
1. He's not a great ball-handler.
2. He may have trouble defending the position consistently.
3. It's not his natural position.
They're all true. But two of those things apply to Wesley Matthews to the same extent they apply to Batum. Plus shooting guard is an ill-defined position in today's league. You can name the great shooting guards on three fingers. The rest are a hodgepodge of defenders, three-point guys, players filling a starting spot. The Blazers need to do something. If that something involves moving Batum to shooting guard, that probably wouldn't be the end of the world.
The question is, what would you be making the move for? Let's assume that with the relative (perceived) level of talent plus adjustments switching to a new position you're going to get only incremental improvement at shooting guard by moving Batum there in place of Matthews. What are you doing at small forward that's a clear enough upgrade to make this more than a lateral move? What do you want out of that position?
If the answer is defense, three-point shooting, or general role-playing you're going to have trouble finding a significant enough upgrade over the Matthews-Batum duo. Can you get better in those departments? Sure. But can you get enough better to make this a significant move? Not sure.
You would easily be able to get more size, more emphasis on rebounding, and more penetration. Again you have to weigh utility and value though. More size to what end? Are you also looking for a center who can rebound? Even if your small forward drives more, do you lose the ability to stretch the defense through distance shooting? Is that penetration ability enough to take the ball-handling responsibilities away from Lillard when needed or can that guy only penetrate to get his own shot?
If the Blazers could get a great small forward, all bets are off. You move Batum wherever you need to in order to accommodate a third star. But Marvin Williams isn't that guy. I wouldn't do it for him or anyone like him.
This coming summer we will hopefully see numerous roster changes. However, do you think that in this free agent and draft pool the Blazers will be able to find what they need or should we expect more of a "two year plan to success" out of Neil Olshey?
Can I answer "no" to both sides of your "or"?
The Blazers are trying to pull off a difficult trick: getting into contention using cap space plenty of other teams also have with little trade bait outside of a #10 pick in a weak draft to compensate. I know they're going to try hard. I don't know that they're going to succeed.
But there is no two-year plan here. The Blazers don't have to be fully formed by fall but they have to make the bulk of their progress while they have that cap space to maneuver in. The two-year schedule reads:
Summer 2013: Make enough moves to get within one player of contention, maybe two.
Summer 2014: Sign that remaining player with the mid-level exception. Tinker as needed in years following.
The only way around this would be signing only single-year and minimum-salary guys again, hoping to carry the cap room over one more summer. Keep in mind there's no cheap J.J. Hickson option this year, so they'd have to find a center to meet those criteria too. Even if they could pull that off, I don't think anybody's ready to face another season with a roster full of rejects and refugees plus a worse starting lineup and even more demand on your Core Four for minutes and production. That would be insanity, causing everyone to question Olshey's competence.
In short, the Blazers have to find players this year. If those players the Blazers add don't hit they will enter next summer with little or no cap space, likely a worse draft pick, and still have nothing to trade out in order to improve their team. At that point you're not talking rebuild anymore. It's trade LaMarcus Aldridge before he abandons ship, tear down, and start all over again with Damian Lillard.
What's the bigger priority this summer, starting center or scoring wing?
Using raw analysis, center. Employing nuance about what the Blazers will actually be able to do, you may switch to wing because getting a great starting center may be more difficult. If it comes down to a choice the Blazers need the better player, period. A great wing would be a better get than a good center even though the Blazers need someone at the center position more desperately right now.
Just wondering if we need to trade Aldridge, Batum, or Matthews to take the team to the next level. Seems we can not grow with them taking all minutes.
Minutes? The Blazers have plenty of minutes. They don't have enough players to fill them. They may need to trade one or more of those players in the next two years but right now the only scenario in which that makes sense is if that trade brings a serious talent upgrade such as an imbalanced exchange for a star making big bucks.
Saw the recent post about Nate McMillan set to interview with the Pistons. He seems to have been unlucky at landing another coaching job thus far. What team do you feel could best utilize his coaching skills and why?
Shhhh! Don't tell, the answer is the same as it's always been: the Lakers. Who knows how to get shots for two stars in the same system even if he has to tell everybody else to take a back seat? Who knows isolation and pick and roll ball? Whose offense plays a slow enough pace for even the oldest team in the league to handle? Nate could probably even coax a little bit of defense out of that group.
Hiring Mike D'Antoni was the last of a series of brain-dead decisions for the Lakers front office. That has little to do with D'Antoni's ability as a coach and a whole lot to do with his players' inability and unwillingness to play any kind of system that D'Antoni is good at coaching. It may have been the worst front office decision of the year. If they didn't want Mike Brown, Nate should have been their man.
Just wondering what you would think about a three way trade with Brooklyn and L.A. Lakers. My idea is Lakers do a sign and trade with Howard, then sends him to Brooklyn. We Get Brook Lopez and and a good bench player out of the deal. Then we send Aldridge to Lakers who would be the perfect center for coach D Antoni. We then resign J.J. and still have our tenth pick and a little free agency money to tighten up the bench. I think Lopez, J.J. and a quality bench player is a lot better than LaMarcus on his own. Any thoughts?
KB in LO.
It's less lopsided than some trades I've seen proposed.
Brooklyn is about a billion dollars over the salary cap already and Lopez doesn't make Howard money. Nor do they have anyone with the right salary to make up the difference. You want to take on Kris Humprhies? I don't think the Blazers do. Nor would they find Lopez enough of an upgrade over Aldridge. Nor would the Lakers consider Aldridge an upgrade over their dreams for Howard. So I'm pretty sure this is a no-go. But I think you're right that the Blazers will make like seagulls at the beach circling Howard in case he doesn't re-sign with the Lakers.
Somebody asked you a personal question about you. Can I flip it and ask you advice about a personal question about me? I'm a teenager and I'm shy with girls. I don't think I'm bad looking but whenever I go to talk to a girl I like I keep thinking about she's not going to like me. I can't even get a word out sometimes and I look stupid. Any advice? You talk pretty well. How do you think of things to say?
What the heck. It's summer and you titled the question "Mailbag", so why not? I'll take my shot and maybe Blazer's Edge readers will have more to say.
You didn't say how far along in teenager-hood you are. If it's the younger part my sage advice is to just have fun. You don't get these years again. You have so many activities available to you. Dating when you're in the younger part of high school is highly overrated. It's expensive, it's awkward, neither one of you knows what to do, and both of you change every 10 minutes because of the inevitable march of adolescence. It usually causes more stress than it's worth and few people really end up happy doing it. Sure, you see the occasional couple in school who look happy and make a big deal out of it, but if you count to 10 they're going to be just as publicly breaking up and saying bad things about each other to their friends. Plus half the time they're miserable and worried behind the scenes, which is why they're compensating by making out in the hallway for all to see. You can also have a ton of fun with a 24-pack of Mountain Dew, some friends, and a movie marathon on Friday night. Football, video games, hanging out at the park, swimming, reading books...seriously, these things are going to end up more fun than dating when you're 14.
Besides, pursuing these activities is going to have a side benefit. As you pursue them you're going to meet actual girls instead of those girls on an imaginary pedestal you're trying to ask out. When you meet and get to know actual girls who share actual interests with you and have actual thoughts of their own you begin to understand that girls are people too. Hanging out with them and talking with them becomes easier. You learn to be yourself and to let them be themselves. Then when the time comes DATING isn't a big, foreign thing. It's just an extension of what you're already doing. "This girl has an interest in the same things I do, we talk together and she seems cool, and I'd like to hang out with her more. Hmmm..." Then you say, "Hey...want to go to this cool movie?" And she says yes and it's not all awkward and you're off to the races with a ton of things to talk about and enjoy already. Less pressure = fewer reasons to be shy.
About that shyness...unless it's a crippling condition (in which case you'd need to talk to a counselor) there's nothing inherently wrong with it. Shy can be cute. Some girls go for that. Some don't, but not every girl goes for loud and boisterous either. You can learn to work with shy if it's an honest shy. Somebody's going to think that's adorable.
But shy can also be quite unattractive when it conveys that you're talking to the girl but only thinking about yourself. That tape playing in your head about, "What happens if this doesn't work?" has nothing to do with the person you're asking out. It's all about you and whether you're a success or a failure in this endeavor, looking good or bad. People can sense that. Nobody wants to be a puppet in your "dating now" scheme. When you ask someone out, they like to feel like they matter. If they sense you're only thinking about your own success or failure and how all this is going to make you look, they tend to bow out because it doesn't matter who they are, they're just an object to be asked out.
Your lips may be trying to say, "Will you go out with me?" but your heart and mind appear to be saying, "Ohmygosh what happens if she says no and am I stupid and what if I'm not attractive and what if nobody likes me until I'm 30 and ancient and aargh my whole love life may be DOOOOOMED here!" Missing in all of that is anything actually having to do with her. When girls say that confidence is attractive they usually don't mean cockiness and "look at me" behavior. They mean it's attractive when a guy knows enough about who he is to stop playing that tape in his head and start paying actual attention to them.
Figuring this out is all part of the process, but I'll tip the cards and tell you that the best way around it is to:
1. Understand that you are a real, important, and integral person no matter whether you date a particular girl at a particular time or not...that you have something to offer the world other than how you look because of who you're dating. Part of growing into adulthood is discovering all the ways this is true, which is why it's important to spend your time doing lots of things besides dating and wishing you were dating. That's how you find your interests and all the things you have to offer.
2. Understand that the person you're interested in is also an integral person. She can't be limited to staying on your ultimate date fantasy pedestal. She's just...her. Whether she wants to date you or not she deserves to be talked with like a normal human being. She deserves to be seen for her interests and gifts and not just as "hot dating material".
The more you can put aside notions of Brenda the Super Wonder Goddess Who's Going to Redeem Your Whole Dating Existence and just see Brenda the cute and attractive person who likes Yu-Gi-Oh and ice cream just like you, the less shy you're going to seem and the more real connection you're going to have with Brenda. Whether that turns into dating or not will be up to you and her, but either way your life will be easier.
Send your Mailbag questions (er...of whatever variety) to the address below! Please put "Mailbag" in the subject line.