Can the Portland Trail Blazers Find a Big Man in the Draft, Trade, or Free Agent Market?

Christian Petersen

The Portland Trail Blazers need another big body on the roster. We examine several possibilities in the Blazer's Edge Mailbag today. Would a trade with Boston, a Phoenix free agent, or moving into the draft suffice?

Today's Mailbag questions revolve around acquiring big men. Enjoy!

Dave,

Your wisdom is needed. Can the Blazers get better over the long run by trading one of their known commodities for a higher upside draft pick this year... maybe in the 6-10 range? Guys like Julius Randall, Aaron Gordon, Noah Vonleh, even Marcus Smart will be available in that range.

I'm not saying any of these guys are a good fit for the current roster, but in a draft this deep, one of those guys is probably going to be a future all-star. Isn't that what the Blazers need? A 3rd All-Star type player to go alongside Lillard and LaMarcus.

Should (would) Olshey risk a current asset, say Nic Batum, to swing for an unknown commodity that could become a 3rd All-Star? How do you feel about the Blazers, at this stage, making a high-risk / high-reward move versus playing it safe.

Kindly,

Marcus

My wisdom is needed? (Rolling d20 to make Wisdom check.) Yikes! Rolled a 19. Fortunately my Wisdom is 20, so we're good to go.

My ultra-wise, super-charismatic assessment is that this question cannot be answered in the abstract. I just did a rundown of Portland's draft picks since 2006. The result was 3-4 "Oooh!" picks and a whole bunch of "Ouch". The spectacular picks came in the 2-6 range, the ouchy ones at #1 overall plus the late lottery and below. This says less about Portland's drafting prowess than the vagaries of the process. Unless you can get a can't-miss, ultra-high selection you don't know what you're going to get. (And even with those ultra-high picks...Greg Oden.)

On the other hand, if the Blazers assess the next Damian Lillard (or equivalent) is sitting in a slot they can reach, they have to think about it even if the cost is a starter. But you never know who'll be there until the draft board unfolds. The Blazers can't go trading Batum for the #7 pick yet. They have to see their guy come up and then execute the trade.

To keep this answer from being wholly unsatisfactory, here's what we know even in the abstract:

1. The Blazers aren't Miami or San Antonio. Theoretically every player is available for the right price. Practically speaking there's a Globe of Trade Invulnerability around Damian Lillard right now and moving LaMarcus Aldridge would take an eye-popping offer. But the Blazers have to consider those offers, including those involving draft picks.

2. Moving a more veteran starter for a rookie draftee would likely set the team back in the short term. This wouldn't be the end of the world but they do have to be concerned about Aldridge's timeline. Not only is his contract up, he can't wait as long as his younger teammates for the team to hit maximum capacity. Lillard performed as well as humanly possible in his first two seasons and still needs to improve in multiple areas. Waiting another 2-3 years for a second rookie star to develop wouldn't suit Aldridge well. The Blazers would need to weigh priorities beyond the mere exchange of talent when considering such a deal.

3. Few, if any, of the 6-10 teams are ready to make use of a player like Batum. He completes and augments a great lineup but he's not going to make the lineup great by himself. The Lakers, Celtics, and Sixers aren't ready for him. The Hornets already have a young, talented small forward. That leaves the Kings at #8 maybe? (Assuming they're going to get rid of Rudy Gay once his $19 million contract expires in 2015.) After that you're looking at Denver's #11, Minnesota at 13, or Phoenix at 14 before you find a suitable destination. But the Blazers might not be able to pull a future All-Star with the 8th pick even, let alone 11 and above. You'll have a hard time finding a match for Nic among the mid- to low- lottery teams.

I'm not averse to the Blazers making a high-risk, high-reward move. They'll have trouble cracking the conference elite incrementally. But Batum for a pick doesn't seem like a promising match unless other assets exchange hands in the process...either through a multi-team deal or just getting more on the table for the Blazers.

Aloha Dave,

How do you feel about Channing Frye?

I thought I remembered that Frye was the guy who told Robin Lopez how much he'd love Portland. In fact, according to Wikipedia, he still lives there in the offseason. Like Spencer Hawes, Frye made about $6.5 million last year. Unlike Hawes, however, he's 31 years old.

Could you see Channing Frye taking $5.3 million a year to join Mo Williams in leading Portland's second unit?

Mahalo,

eric

Frye would be an interesting re-acquisition for the Blazers. His big drawing card would be his ability to shoot from range, of course. But he'd also make a fine teammate, content with a reserve role. He's played on winning squads. He'd provide a different look than Robin Lopez.

The sticking point here: Frye has a player option for 2014-15 that amounts to $6.8 million. I'm not sure why he'd leave $1.5 million on the table to come to Portland even if the Blazers wanted him unless the Blazers wanted to extend the offer over a few years. That would make sense, but how far do the Blazers want to commit to a player of Frye's age and ability? He's not going to revolutionize your defense, he's not a great rebounder, and he's becoming more of a specialist on offense. On a short-term deal he'd be great. Extend out 3-4 years and you star to wonder whether this is the best use of Portland's money. Chances are a veteran on a shorter-term deal or a younger player would make more sense.

Still, Frye wouldn't be a bad pick-up if you could convince him to come. Making more money in Phoenix, the Suns being an upwardly-mobile team, and the fact that he's already spending the best months of the year in Portland while skipping over the gloomy winter will probably convince him to stay in Phoenix at least a little longer.

Hold on, though. We'll check it out. (Rolling d20 to make Charisma check.) 16! While my personal charisma far exceeds that number, Portland's overall isn't high enough to get the job done in this case.

Hey Dave!

Half the league is chasing Love now and Melo (and maybe LBJ later) and they need tons of cap room for it, and that's where we come in. Same as we did with Lopez and TRob when NOLA and the Rockets were looking to dump contracts.

Boston is chasing K Love and maybe we can "help" them by trading for Brandon Bass expiring contract - He's a 4, but can play undersized 5 (we got screwed before with undersized 5 in the Hickson experiment, but Bass is much better defensively and he would come from the bench instead of starting).

PHX is in the hunt for K Love as well, and maybe we can help return Frye and he's expiring contract to Rip City.

The only question is who we trade for those contracts....

Gadi

That is the question indeed.

(Rolling d20 to make Intelligence check.) 6! Whew! Finally cleared it by a significant amount...which tells me that the main difference between last summer's situation and this is that...hmmm...the Blazers don't have any cap space!

As you have pointed out, Portland wouldn't be able to make a Robin Lopez or Thomas Robinson-style move without trading away players. Most of the dollars coming onto the books would have to go out as well. I'm not sure how taking back salary would help clear space for a Love or LBJ move, especially when the dollar amounts involved have to be small.

(Bass makes $6.9 million next year, for instance, meaning the Blazers would have to trade back $5.5 million in salary. Net savings to other team: $1.4 million. Maybe you can dance around that by putting the Blazers slightly under the cap but the difference won't amount to that much.)

Even if you could swing that kind of deal, you have to ask how much the incoming player will help compared to the players you're losing. None of Portland's bench players make the $5-6 million salary necessary to consummate such a trade. The Blazers would have to give up 2 or 3 young guys to get Bass, possibly only for a year. I don't value all of Portland's youngsters highly, but they wouldn't be willing to lose multiple prospects for a mediocre veteran even if that veteran might help them more right away. They'd be more inclined to use their mid-level to get a player of Bass' general quality and developing their young guys.

Keep those Mailbag questions rolling in! The e-mail address is below. Please put "Mailbag" in the subject line.

--Dave blazersub@gmail.com / @DaveDeckard

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