NBA Free Agents 2014: Portland Trail Blazers Rumors Analysis

Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Analysis of all the hottest free agency and trade rumors coming down the pike for the Portland Trail Blazers. Which rumors make sense and which don't?

If you've seen our constantly-updated Free Agency Rumor Post you already know that the Blazers have been linked to a bevy of hot names. You've written in with questions about the hottest, which we'll cover now.

Dave,

Vince Carter! Hot rumor! Go!

Paul

Best question without an actual question mark ever!

Vince Carter would be a fine pick-up for the Blazers. He's a shooting guard-small forward hybrid...a suitable position considering Portland's needs. Pair him with Mo Williams and you have the 1-2-3 slots covered, starting and bench. Carter is a catch-and-shoot three-point guy at this point in his career--almost 40% from range--but he can still take it off the dribble when needed. He fits in offensively while filling a gaping hole in Portland's attack. He'd be able to chart the path to stardom for Damian Lillard. He might impart a little wisdom to the bevy of young shooting guards hanging around on Portland's bench. What's not to like?

Well, defense. But you can't have everything.

Naturally Carter evokes the same question as EVERY potential wing acquisition for the Blazers. Is this really their greatest need? Is the opportunity cost of getting a big with that money too high? If the Blazers are comfortable with those questions, Vince answers plenty of others for them.

My big question: why wouldn't he just stay in Dallas? He's already comfortable there. They apparently want him back. Dirk Nowitzki remains in residence. They just got Tyson Chandler to bolster the frontcourt. Mark Cuban has shown that he'll spend for a title. Failing that, why wouldn't Carter just join the Heat? I'm not sure that Portland's MLE money will be enough to tip the scales towards this franchise.

Dave,

Today's rumors link the Blazers with Spencer Hawes and Channing Frye.  since we couldn't get them both which one would you prefer?

Eric

Channing Frye knows Portland and loves Portland. He was one of the original stretch big men and still shoots 37% from distance. He'd be happy to come off the bench and more than capable of filling the Blazers' need for an experienced reserve center. He's not making that much more than the MLE now and might consider the million or so shaved off his salary a fair exchange for coming back to a town he likes. It's all about chemistry with Frye.

Spencer Hawes shoots 42% from distance, has more of an inside game on offense than Frye, scores about as efficiently,rebounds better, really does most things a little better than Frye except taking care of the ball. He's also 5 years younger. He came up in Seattle and went to the University of Washington so he should know and love the area, but who knows? Who knows about his fit with teammates either, or whether he'd be happy coming off the bench, or whether he'd be OK with taking a salary cut (commensurate with Frye's) during the exact years his salary is supposed to be rising?

Frye's game would allow him to substitute readily for LaMarcus Aldridge or Robin Lopez. Despite his range, Hawes doesn't favor mid-range offense. He'd be more strictly a center, limiting his minutes more. But Hawes would be a better true center than Frye, if nothing else for his defensive rebounding.

In short, this is hard.

As long as Hawes is reasonably happy coming here, I'm going with him...mostly because of age. Also because if Lopez goes down or gets in foul trouble, I'm happier with Hawes as a big-minute replacement than I am with Frye. If we were assuming perfect health and perfect play from the Blazers, Frye would probably be the better fit. But Hawes is better insurance and has more long-term potential for the money.

Really, though, I wouldn't be unhappy with either of them. I'd just be slightly more excited about Hawes' deep-dish center play than Frye's buffet of goodness.

Rumor alert, Dave! Blazers interested in a sign-and trade for Greg Monroe!  I say YES! What do we need to make this work?

Also Dave

Monroe would be interesting. He's super young (24, just finished his 4th season). He's got a nice body and scores well close to the basket. His strongest asset to the Blazers might be offensive rebounding. His per-minute offensive rebounding numbers are about as good as Robin Lopez's were before Lopez came to Portland. You saw what happened there. The kid could explode with the opportunities the Blazers would give him on the glass.

Monroe also brings along some huge "buts". He's not a two-way rebounder, not a shot-blocker, and not a great defender. He'd be like Robin Lopez with prettier go-to moves within 5 feet but the same effective offensive range, minus the defense, intensity, and intangibles that Lopez brings. Plus Monroe wants to play power forward rather than center, a non-starter for the Blazers...especially since Portland's offense calls for the power forward to operate 16-18 feet from the bucket and create offense. Perhaps his outlook would change in the Western Conference, but if I'm looking at a near-seven-footer with size and an inside game, I want him gung-ho for the center position and all it entails (including rebounding and shot blocking).

Measuring talent, the Blazers would do well with Monroe in the fold. Measuring fit may be another story.

Even the talent upgrade becomes suspect when you factor in the "trade" part of a sign-and-trade deal. After examining potential deals until my eyes crossed, the only possible fulcrum is Nicolas Batum. Above the Batum Line Portland laughs at the offer. Below the Batum Line Detroit hangs up the phone. If the Blazers could get Monroe without touching Aldridge, Batum, and Damian Lillard they should do so. If nothing else Monroe could prove valuable in trade down the road...far more valuable than any 2-3 players off the lower parts of Portland's roster. But I'd be floored if that happened.

So then...should the Blazers consider a combination of Nicolas Batum and another player for Monroe?

They'd certainly upset the balance of their starting lineup by making that deal. Batum alternates between hub and outlet in the offense. Batum is a stalwart on defense. He's not the magical unicorn devoted supporters make him out to be but the Blazers ride him as if he were. Monroe would replace none of those qualities (nor even the more basic quality of being a starting small forward).

Pairing Lopez or Matthews with Batum would rip a huge hole in Portland's lineup. Granted, Lopez and Monroe couldn't play much together but you'd still lose paint protection, intimidation, shot-blocking. Losing Matthews would cost the Blazers more defense and three-point shooting. Losing 2/5 of the starting lineup wouldn't make the Blazers any deeper either. Their frontcourt would be more than set but they'd be staring at baby-faced options or (shudder) Mo Williams starting at the small positions.

Batum plus an attractive young guy--C.J. McCollum, Thomas Robinson, or both--would make more sense for both sides. In fact this is the only permutation that makes any sense (though it's still a stretch). The Blazers wouldn't be sanguine with starting Will Barton or Dorell Wright at small forward, but if they chased the above-mentioned Carter (or the recently-cited Paul Pierce) with their MLE dollars, suddenly that move crystallizes. They'd hope to grow Barton or a future draft pick into the position long-term, making do with a former All-Star vet in the meantime.

The thing is, I'm not sure this move would make the team that much better than just chasing a back-up center with the MLE. It's more gaudy and far more complicated, but gaudy and complicated moves make better print copy than real-life matches. This deal feels more like trolling for alternatives ("Another guy wants this car and he's going to come back this afternoon!") than an imminent move. We'll see, though. It's the NBA. Weird things happen.

So, folks, I get multiple Mailbag questions about all these rumors almost as soon as they're reported but nobody wants to know about Kent Bazemore, the Baze-o-Matic, Purple Baze? Get with it, people!

Remember you can keep up with all the latest rumors, including who's calling whom, who flew where, and what deals are being proposed (a.k.a NBA Tinder), in the Rumor Thread.

We'll be talking more soon! If you're bored in the meantime, waiting for that signing shoe to drop, you can check out my latest appearance on the Phil Naessens show. Jason Kidd, LaMarcus Aldridge, Damian Lillard, and cap space rules provided the main topics for discussion...a fun time!

--Dave blazersub@gmail.com / @DaveDeckard

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