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The Leandro Barbosa File

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(Sorry this is so late.  Baby Point Guard needed lots of watching tonight.)

Since the rumor has been floating around that the Blazers and Suns are considering a deal which would send Leandro Barbosa to Portland for Martell Webster, the #13 pick, and other considerations, here is most of what you’ll need to know about Barbosa plus an analysis of the deal.  This comes from personal observation and statistical research but I am also indebted to Stan from sister site Bright Side of the Sun for his first-hand observations.

 

Leandro Barbosa: 6’3’ guard, 25 years old, 5-year veteran

 

SIGNIFICANT STATS:  (All from 2007-08 unless otherwise noted.)

 

15.6 ppg (18.1 the season prior)

46.2% field goal shooting (46.9% career)

38.9% three-point shooting (40.9% career)

82.2% free throw shooting

2.6 assists

1.4 turnovers

2.4 rebounds

 

PROS: 

 

Barbosa is a slasher.  He loves to score and can get to the hoop.  He has always been a great percentage shooter, though his repertoire has been largely layups or long balls.  He used to have no mid-range game but he has worked on it.  He can hit the three.  He’s a great free throw shooter.  He specializes in hitting difficult shots.  Being long for his size and very quick aids him in his assault on the basket. He takes reasonable care of the ball for a speed guard.  He’s a hard worker and a good guy by all reports.  He has generally lived up to increased minutes and responsibility as his career has progressed.  He’s also on the perfect timetable for Portland.  At 25 he’s young enough to play well into the next decade.  Five years in the league and a couple seasons with significant playing time make him a legit veteran.

 

Pretty much all of these attributes fit the Blazers like a glove.  They need aggressiveness, shooting, and more scoring, especially if Barbosa were to come off the bench.  

 

CONS: 

 

The biggest knock on Barbosa by far has been his sub-par defense.  Of course it’s hard to tell with any Phoenix player whether defense is a product of the individual or the system, but  it’s pretty clear he’s not a one-on-one defender. He also gets out of position in rotations.  At 6’3” he has great height for the point guard position but he’s not a true point guard.  Even with Nash dominating the minutes and the ball in Phoenix we’ve seen enough of Barbosa to know he’s probably not going to be your leading assist guy.  He really prefers to score.  He doesn’t appear to see the floor that well on the move.  (You know how Sergio Rodriguez has eyes in the back of his head when he drives?  That extra set probably belonged to Barbosa.)  Despite being a driver he doesn’t score above the rim which forces him to put up the difficult shots mentioned in the “pro” section.  When they go they’re spectacular.  When they don’t he doesn’t look so good.  Also Barbosa doesn’t draw enough fouls for a slasher.  He’s devilishly quick but that quickness translates better getting up and down the court than it does moving left and right and getting free (or defending).

 

SALARY: 

 

Barbosa made $6.1 million this past season.  He is guaranteed through 2010-11 with his final year’s salary being $7.1 million.  He also has  a player option for 2011-12 at $$7.6 million.  That’s not a significant increase over 3-4 years.  Basically his salary is flat-lined.

 

Barbosa is a Base Year Compensation Player this year.  That means that if he were to be traded before July 1st his new team would have to take on all $5.8 million of his salary but could only give back $2.9 million to the Suns.  Obviously that only works if his new team is a couple million under the cap, which Portland isn’t.  The loophole would be for Portland to clear $2.9 million from its books by trading a player away to a team that is under the cap without taking anything in return, in essence giving $2.9 million in salary to the Suns and $2.9 million to the third team then taking Barbosa’s $5.8 million contract.  This is unlikely to happen.

 

The Base Year Compensation designation expires on July 1st.  So while Portland would be extremely unlikely to trade Webster and the #13 pick to Phoenix immediately they could well choose a player for Phoenix at #13 and bundle that player with Webster after July 1. 

 

Unless a whole bunch of other players come under consideration in the trade the “other considerations” from Portland’s end would pretty much have to be Jarrett Jack, Sergio Rodriguez, or Josh McRoberts

 

CAP SPACE RAMIFICATIONS:

 

There’s a fair amount of confusion out there about what this trade could mean to our cap situation in the summer of 2009-10.  Here is the scoop:

 

Barbosa is scheduled to make $6.6 million that summer.

 

The #13 pick in this year’s draft would be scheduled to make $1.6 million that summer.

 

Martell Webster and the Blazers are in a decision year with regards to 2009-10. 

 

Option 1:  The Blazers could extend Martell’s contract this year.  We don’t know what the exact number would be in that case but it’s a pretty sure bet Webster would not sign for much less than the $5 million qualifying offer he’s eligible to receive.

 

Option 2:  The Blazers could offer, and Martell could accept, a qualifying offer of a one-year contract for $5 million.  This contract would be good for one year after which Martell would become an unrestricted free agent.

 

If either of these options were exercised Martell’s salary would be at least $5 million.  That means Martell and the #13 pick would total at least $6.6 million of cap space in the summer of 2009-10, exactly the same as Barbosa’s contract.  The Blazers would neither lose nor gain cap space by making the trade.

 

Option 3:  Martell can elect to become a restricted free agent during the summer of 2009-10.  Technically he’d still belong to the Blazers but other teams would have most of the summer to make him offers.  The Blazers would have the right to match any offer given in order to retain him.  HOWEVER… (and this is the key point here) until a contract is actually signed a hold will be placed on a portion of the Blazers’ salary cap, much like a hold is placed on your credit card when you check into a hotel for the maximum amount you might spend regardless of what you actually do end up spending.  This hold will be from 250-300% of his previous salary.  That means during the free agent signing period in 2009-10 Martell would not count against the cap for $5 million, rather he will be on the books for somewhere between $9.5 and $11.3 million.

 

If Option 3 is taken the Blazers will actually have less cap space available for signing free agents in the summer of 2009-10 than they would making the Barbosa deal.  Granted this would not be permanent, but the hold would occur precisely in the critical moment of the critical year for the Blazers to get business done with their cap space.

 

Option 4:  The Blazers can let Martell play out his current contract and simply renounce him.  In that case his $3.8 million salary would come off the books next summer.  This is the only option that affects the Blazer salary cap positively when compared to the Barbosa deal.  It is also, by far, the least likely option to be taken.  Because of his age, potential, and shooting ability Martell is at least a semi-valuable commodity on the market.  The Blazers need to get something for him.

 

By my calculations even acquiring Barbosa and retaining everybody on the team whose contract doesn’t expire after next season (in other words basically losing only Raef LaFrentz, James Jones, and Steve Francis’ contract) the Blazers would sit at $47.1 million in the summer of 2009-10.  The current cap is $55.6 million and it will likely be slightly higher then.  That means the team would have $8-9 million in cap room to play with that summer even if they kept everybody.  Considering that Steve Blake has a $4.9 million team option, Channing Frye has a $4.3 million qualifying offer, and Jarrett Jack has a $2.9 million qualifying offer the Blazers could still find $20 million in cap space if they thought that’s what they needed.  The Barbosa trade would probably not affect the cap in any major sense.

 

TRADE ANALYSIS:

 

All of that said, this trade still involves considerable grey area:

 

--Phoenix is a great team, but they’re Phoenix.  We’re not Phoenix.  You’re always suspicious of someone coming out of that system.  It makes stars of players who have struggled elsewhere, but what happens when those players return to the rest of the league?  Will their production translate?

 

--This trade is pretty much a cheaper version of the Ben Gordon trade (both in absolute dollars and in what you’d have to give up, assuming you’re a Travis fan).  It has many of the same good points, but also raises many of the same questions.  Can Barbosa co-exist with Roy in the backcourt?  Who handles the ball?  Who takes the shots?  Can you run sets with two ball-handling shooting guards instead of one good point guard setting people up?  Is Barbosa a starter or a super-sub?  What role does HE envision?

 

--How much more growth potential does Barbosa have versus Martell and the #13 pick?  Have we seen his best? 

 

--Equally important is the assessment of what you have in Martell.  Will he develop into a legit starter?  And, by the way, will he be happy being a Blazer?  He’s no better than fourth option on next year’s team and he’s probably the fifth.  It’s not like he’d be one or two in Phoenix but he’d likely get more offensive opportunities there.  If you believe Martell is not part of your long-term plans either because of talent, his goals, or his attitude you have to get something for him and you have to do it now.

 

--If you value Martell’s $3.8 million in cap space next summer enough to take the extreme step of renouncing him outright, what can you get for that money on the open market?  Barbosa is about the level of guy you’d expect to sign.  Other teams aren’t going to let superstars go.  He’s a talented player.  He’s not perfect, but you may not find that perfect guy.  Do other potential free agents or trade acquisitions bring you more than this?

 

--Most importantly of all, is Phoenix willing?  This is hardly the only offer to come across their table for Barbosa.  In fact this may be an offer that was leaked in order to generate new ones. 

 

Most of these things depend on the kind of knowledge that only people inside the organization have.  We can’t guess at Martell’s outlook, the Blazers’ future game plan, or the Suns’ desire.   Personally I don’t like tweener guards much, especially ones that concentrate on scoring, so I’m naturally skeptical.  But taking everything into consideration it seems like a coin flip.  This is one of those deals that’s close enough and has enough behind-the-scenes intricacy that you have to say if KP goes for it there must be a reason, even if we don’t see it.  On the other hand if it doesn’t happen there are probably reasons for that too.  You just hope they aren’t all on the side of the Suns.

 

One way or another, this rumor raises the legit question of whether we’ll be picking for ourselves next Thursday.  The pot is stirred further.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)