The most popular flavor of Mailbag question I'm getting this off-season (and it's not even close) runs like this:
Dave, what do you think of [insert name of veteran center here] for the Blazers?
That people are asking about this at a 3-to-1 ratio compared to asking about lottery draft picks tells you everything you need to know about Portland's perceived position and priority this summer. And these questions just keep...on...coming despite me having addressed numerous centers in numerous mailbags.
To save myself some trouble, I've decided to list every center who's been mentioned, however peripherally, in conjunction with the Blazers. To keep reading manageable I'm going to limit myself to 2-3 sentences on each player. Hopefully these will be a catch-all posts for all of the "What do you think of?" center questions.
Here we go:
Zaza Pachulia--Unrestricted Free Agent, Atlanta Hawks
He's a smart veteran, rebounds, and would come at the right price but lack of shot-blocking, so-so defense, and injuries make him a Plan C option.
Andray Blatche--Unrestricted Free Agent, Brooklyn Nets
Getting out of Washington made him look great but he played only 20 minutes in reserve for the Nets and since his numbers came in a contract year he might not be worth the gamble on his character and payoff. What a big swing this would be though.
Joakim Noah--$11-13 million contract over 3 years, Chicago Bulls
What an amazing fit he'd be but the Bulls aren't giving him up. I'm not sure where this started but it doesn't make sense to me at all.
Anderson Varejao--$9 million next year, $9.7 non-guaranteed after, Cleveland Cavaliers
Rampant injuries make this a hard sell, especially since it'd eat almost all of Portland's cap space. Cleveland would probably prefer to get a nice return for him as well. It's too bad because he'd be a fun guy to have on the team.
This is kind of like starting out shopping for a new car and ending up with a 2005 Ford Taurus. Offense, defense, and rebounding all tend towards the poor side of mediocre. But he's a veteran, he's got size, and he wouldn't be a bad choice if you thought Meyers Leonard would assume the throne soon.
Brandan Wright--Unrestricted Free Agent, Dallas Mavericks
A converted power forward who doesn't defend the post or rebound well, Wright still makes exciting plays and the most of his offensive ability. He could be a cheap find but is unlikely to provide a long-term answer at center.
JaVale McGee--3 years at $10.5-12 million, Denver Nuggets
This guy has so much going for him: talent, flash, multiple ways to affect the game including everything the team could ask for: defense, rebounding, blocked shots, efficient offense. He'd be an exciting pick-up for the Blazers. The problems: not known as a smart, stable player and the Nuggets just traded Nene for him and wouldn't get under the cap even if they moved his salary for nothing. Unless they lust after the 10th pick, how are you going to get him?
Timofey Mozgov--Restricted Free Agent, Denver Nuggets
The dude can rebound and works well with limited offensive opportunities but he's a little slow and not at all intimidating. He should be available, as he's Denver's third-string center. See note above about Chris Kaman, subtract 80,000 miles from the car, but make it a Ford knock-off instead.
Can't get them. Wishful thinking.
He's mentioned as a cast-off if the Warriors are able to pursue Dwight Howard but their cap reads $73 million this summer. They need to get down to $38 million to make an offer to Howard. How are they going to do that? And how do the Blazers clear $14 million in space with a new cap projection of $58.5 million? So many parts have to move to make this work that it's barely worth talking about. Injuries over the last couple seasons make Bogut a risk but he's only got a year on his contract so it might be a risk worth taking if it came up. He feels like a better bet than Varejao.
Andris Biedrins, $9 million next year, Golden State Warriors
The Warriors would probably move him for a soda pop if that soda didn't burden their cap for the summer of 2014. He used to be something but now he's so far into his own head that he came out the other ear. He'd be a one-year trial reclamation project but if the Blazers sink this far you'd better cross your fingers.
This is another salary-clearing move speculated in the wake of a Dwight Howard shift. Unlike the Golden State prospect this one is semi-plausible. Asik would be desirable and a rebounder and defender and he's reasonably priced. Since they can't trade future first-rounders, one wonders if the Blazers would have enough juice to outbid other suitors.
Forget it. They're not giving him up this year either.
Ian Mahinmi, $4 million a year for three years, Indiana Pacers
He hasn't looked his best in Indiana and he's probably not a starting center even in Portland. He could provide depth at the position but what would you trade for him that the Pacers would accept unless they're seeking a salary dump? He's in the no-man's land of being good enough that you can't trade junk for him but not good enough that you'd trade a core player for him.
This is the next in the never-ending litany of centers to be dumped if his team gets Dwight Howard. Jordan is young, he's athletic with size, he can run, he blocks shots and rebounds, and he's got a prior connection with Portland General Manager Neil Olshey. Plus he carpet-bombed this year's playoffs without regard for all the innocent civilians his suckage would hurt, leading some to speculate that he's out of favor with the Clips. It's easy to envision them moving him but not without getting another center. They're in win now mode. The Blazers have to hope that Howard flips allegiances.
Dwight Howard, Unrestricted Free Agent, Los Angeles Lakers
Unlike all those other teams, the Blazers wouldn't have to dump any center to get this guy! They would have to dump about $10 million in salary. That'd be a stretch considering how thin their roster is. They'd also have to convince Dwight to come to Portland. That's not happening.
Tomorrow: The rest of the candidates from Memphis to Washington!