February is fast approaching and the Mailbag is full of trade questions. Let's get to a few.
I don't get the attraction for Spencer Hawes. The Blazers need defense, not offense. Hawes doesn't fit! People are talking like he's super attractive though. Even you've mentioned him. What gives?
Why is he attractive? He has the right combination of ability, experience, price, and likelihood of being traded. As we've said before, Philadelphia is in the right place to value the young players Portland could offer in trade. They don't need expiring contracts or veteran talent that the Blazers can't (or won't) give. Meyers Leonard, Thomas Robinson...these guys wouldn't look bad on their roster. If they're not re-signing Hawes next year they have no reason to keep him through the year. The opportunity is there.
As far as fit, the "we need defense so no Hawes" argument is too simplistic. The Blazers need a lot of things. Ideally you'd want a mobile, shot-blocking, defensive-minded, rebounding-capable center who could either platoon with Robin Lopez or step into the starting lineup for Lopez for a short while without hurting the team in the event of injury or other teams being able to work around Robin. But guess what? That ideal can't be realized when all you're offering in trade is young, "potential"-labeled players with no draft picks alongside. You can't have everything, so what do you prefer more among centers who might actually be available?
One option is the defensive specialist, a center with reasonable size and journeyman ability whom you'd trust for 12-15 minutes off the bench. But what issues does that guy solve? Yes, the Blazers need better defense overall but 12-15 minutes a game off the pines probably won't make that big of a difference to the overall picture. The starters are playing most of the game, they have defensive difficulties, and none of them start with the center position. If you look at Portland's bench, the last thing you need is another guy who can't score with any certainty. Plus if Lopez went down you wouldn't be able to rely on Mr. Specialist to play 30+ minutes a game in his place. You'd be stuck in the same boat as you were before the trade, looking down that Lopez-free center lineup and saying, "Ewwww!"
Would Hawes make the Blazers a better defensive team overall? Not likely. But he would ease some of the other shortcomings. He would fit into Portland's offensive scheme easily. His three-point shooting would allow the Blazers to play any kind of power forward beside him that they pleased instead of worrying about whether Joel Freeland or Meyers Leonard can play alongside Thomas Robinson. The Blazers could even get a more traditional power forward down the line. A low-post-scoring rebounder would have plenty of real estate in which to operate with Hawes on the floor. Plus Hawes would address some of Portland's bench woes from the other end. If you can't make the defense better you need to score more in order to compensate. You wouldn't be afraid of Portland's non-Mo-Williams offense dying with Hawes in the game the way you are with the reserve bigs now.
Hawes has shown himself competent as a starting center. If Robin Lopez couldn't play for a couple weeks you could at least keep a straight face while letting Spencer fill in. He's had some massive breakout games in the past...something your 12-minute defensive specialist couldn't give you. Even one of those performances in a playoff situation would make Hawes well worth the gamble.
If the Blazers can do better at a cheap price then they should look into it. If Milwaukee is ready to give away Larry Sanders for a couple of young guys of course you do that. But short of that miracle swing, Hawes is not a bad option at not a bad price. That's why his name keeps coming up. If the Sixers were looking to part with Thaddeus Young instead, that'd be another possibility. Either way if teams like Philly are willing to divest you have to pay attention even if the guys they're offering aren't the players of your dreams. The team is already giving you a dream performance. A solid guy or two in support could make all the difference.
Watching the Minnesota game, I couldn't help but notice Ronny Turiaf playing NO role for Minnesota right now, and fitting that big man off the bench role Portland really needs for their seeding and playoff run. Any chance of prying him away from a division rival?
Turiaf has a few things going for him from Portland's point of view. He's a good rebounder, he can swing between the two big spots, and he's experienced. Plus he's super cheap and his contract expires in 2015. He's not an offensive guy, not a starter even in an emergency, and he's not going to get better as his career goes on. That leaves two problems. As you mention, why would Minnesota trade him to a division rival unless the return was high? But if the return was high, why would the Blazers pay?
Turiaf is the kind of guy you hope to pick up with a room exception, not via trade. He'd be decent for Portland but he's not a player you'd go out of your way to get.
I was originally in the "we need to add a difference maker" group when it came to our bench. After the past few games I have planted myself firmly in the column "we need to add someone with a pulse." Someone...anyone, please HELP! Heck, I'd take Andre Miller back. He can't shoot a three or play defense, but he has a pulse. At this point, anyone competent at any position will work for me. Of course, I would make a horrible GM, so no one should ever listen to me.
Your sentiment isn't totally out of line but it's hard to see how Miller fits this club. He'd want a bigger role than he'd be given. Yes, he's an assist guy but he plays best with the ball in his own hands. You pointed out that he's not a great defender. Plus he commits a near-mortal sin (from Portland's perspective) not being able to hit the three-pointer. That would put a hitch in Portland's offensive scheme. Why not put the ball in C.J. McCollum's hands for now and give him some run? He's no Miller but he fits better.
I have everyone's favorite should/can the Blazers get Player X question. First, let me say I know this isn't the ideal new player to bring in position-wise as our biggest need is a reliable Center/Power Forward, but hear me out. Indiana is going to want to re-sign Lance Stephenson next year and might have a bit of a cap space issue to do so. There has been talks about them possibly being willing to work a deal sending off Danny Granger. First off, for the Blazers to even be in the ballpark, Indiana would have to be pretty desperate to send Granger off, and somehow with our bare cupboards behind our first 7-8 players (Obviously we wouldn't send any of our starters, Mo, CJ and probably not Freeland unless we get a reliable Center option in return) have a better package then any other teams that may want him. But putting a blinder to all the logistics that probably shut the door on the possibility, would this be a good trade for the Blazers to consider? The thing that is most appealing to me is to get another player on our bench that can score 12-18 any given night. Granger obviosuly has his injury concerns but he had four stellar seasons stat-wise before his injuries slowed him down and George progressed to the MVP-level of production he is now. Granger could move into our back-up 3, stretch-4 role we were hoping Dorell might have been able to be and give us a chance to be able to maintain leads when the starters sit. So besides the probable highly unlikeliness of this even happening for the Blazers, what do you think of this notion? Putting CJ in the deal would probably make this more of a possibility, I think that's too much of a gamble and guess the team wouldn't do this either. I assume you think this to, but if the chance I am assuming wrong, then please tell!
You're not wrong. Granger has been playing horribly since his injury. He shoots 37% from the field, 33% from the arc, and Robin Lopez scores way more points per minute than Granger does right now...and this from an offensive player. He's 30 years old. Who knows if he's going to get better? He certainly doesn't seem to be right now, which would be the compelling reason for Portland to make this trade. Plus the Blazers would need to come up with $11 million-ish in outgoing salary to make that deal work. Good luck doing that without touching the top 7 players. If you weren't willing to consider Mo or C.J. you'd be talking Freeland, Leonard, Robinson, Wright, and Claver just to make that deal work. Why would Indiana accept a mound of youngsters and non-impact guys, especially since all of them carry salary obligations beyond the season? That wouldn't help the Pacers re-sign Stephenson. Plus you'd be stripping Portland of every reserve small forward, power forward, and center and getting only Granger in return. Even as shaky as some of those players are, that would destroy the bench instead of improving it.
OK, so we know what our options are at this trade deadling, but what about the next few years. That was the window Olshey entered the season building towards. Seeing how good the starting 5 plays together, the next few years are really just a matter of building a bench. I'm assuming there is something resembling a 2 or 3 year plan here. What would your 2-3 year plan be for upgrading our depth/talent? Given the limited resources we have (young players, midlevel exception, a future draft pick) it seems like when and where to spend those resources will make or break whether this is a plucky playoff team that can advance give a year of good health and a favorable match or whether we can be a bonafide title threat.
The 2-3 year window would need to wait until summer as more players will be available and you'll have a better idea what your young guys can do. The attraction of a trade-deadline deal for the Blazers is the idea of getting veterans cheaply. If you can't do that, if you have to extend the vision out that far into the future, then I think you stand pat with what the Blazers have right now.
The issue I have with only considering a future plan is that the team's giving you a pretty convincing imitation of elite play right now. Part of that performance comes from near-pristine health. How many years can you count on that happening? If you have an advantage, if you're on a roll, you have to do everything reasonable to push it. You don't get many clear paths to the top.
Assuming the Blazers do stand pat, copy your question and ask again in June. I'll have a better answer then.
Keep those questions coming, trade and otherwise, to the e-mail address below.