SORRY FOR THE DOWNTIME. LOOKS LIKE WE ARE BACK.
A couple of interesting pieces are out there today about potential small forward acquisitions for Kevin Pritchard. No new names, really, but it is some new analysis to sink your teeth into as you count down the deadline.
Chad Ford with the latest.
Meanwhile, sources confirm that the Blazers have been getting a steady flow of offers for LaFrentz, including two significant new ones Monday.
The focus for the Blazers right now appears to be at the small forward position. It appears that three players -- Gerald Wallace, Caron Butler and Richard Jefferson -- are on Pritchard's radar screen. A fourth one, Mike Miller, is also a favorite of the Blazers, but the Wolves have been reluctant to include him in a deal.
Sources say the Blazers have intensified their focus on Wallace. He's young, athletic and physical, and he doesn't need to score to be an impact player. He has four years and $38 million left on his contract, which is a lot, but given his age and production the past few years, it's not unreasonable. The problem for the Blazers is that the Bobcats want Portland to take back Nazr Mohammed as part of the deal. That could be a deal-breaker for Pritchard.
Butler might be the best player of the group when he's healthy. He was an All-Star last year and is excellent in the mid-range game. He too has a reasonable contract, with just two years and $21 million left on his deal. But it's unclear what the Wizards would want in return and whether they'll ultimately opt to keep Butler and reevaluate the team whenGilbert Arenas returns. If the Wizards are to make such a deal, certainly they'll want the Blazers to take back Etan Thomas' contract, and they'll likely also demand one or two young players from the Blazers. That price might be too high for Portland.
Jefferson is the most available. The Bucks need to clear his salary from their cap if they're going to re-sign their two restricted free agents this summer: Charlie Villanueva and Ramon Sessions. Sources say there have been conversations that have included both Jefferson and Milwaukee point guard Luke Ridnour, though the talk has quieted down. As a proven scorer and defender who's played in the NBA Finals, Jefferson has some appeal for the Blazers.
One wild card for the Blazers is Vince Carter. His contract is the most expensive of the group, but Carter has been fantastic this season and would give the Blazers the biggest bang of anyone out there. It appears unlikely the Blazers will go that direction, but New Jersey would certainly listen if Portland wanted to do a deal.
RealGM's Christopher Reina with a must-read analysis.
The Attainable Dream
Luol Deng signed a six-year, $71M contract during the offseason, which is already appearing inflated. Chicago has always been cost-conscious despite being a big market team and while they have heretofore loved Deng, no longer appear married to him. While not currently at the level of Iguodala, Portland would be buying at an extremely low price considering many felt that Deng would be the better player. Deng's regression has been largely mysterious and I think a lot of it is as result of Chicago's lack of any real interior scoring presence. He would fit perfectly as Portland's small forward and is younger than Brandon Roy, as he won't turn 24 until April.
The price to acquire Deng would be very steep and since Jerryd Bayless wouldn't be included because of Derrick Rose, it would likely take some sort of combination of Travis Outlaw, Nicolas Batum or even Rudy Fernandez.
If Kirk Hinrich were to be involved, Portland would be setup with luxury tax hell until the summer of 2012. But he is an upgrade over Steve Blake and would allow Bayless to develop at a slower rate.
Richard Jefferson is the player at small forward that is simultaneously in play and is a true upgrade. He will turn 29 just before the draft and so he will be in age-related decline, if not gone, during Portland's expected peak. But he should bridge the gap between the present and Batum/Martell Webster's prime and won't cost the Blazers any key elements of their core since the Bucks would like to shed Jefferson's salary in order to have greater financial flexibility in re-signing Charlie Villanueva and Ramon Sessions; this makes his value addition as a possible greater net gain than the Deng scenario.
Portland eventually needs to consolidate some of their depth to strengthen a solid eight-man rotation, but delaying that consolidation will allow Pritchard to make a more informed decision on who to shed and who to keep.
His overall field goal percentage is down this year, but his 3-point shooting is up to over 41.0%, which fits into Portland's system. He can also slash, plays a solid wing defense and fits in with the club on a character level.
Bradford Doolittle from Basketball Prospectus
Is this the Blazers' next championship roster?
The Blazers have been linked to Sacramento's John Salmons, who could provide a scoring bump off the bench along with decent defense. Portland is also due to get a boost from the return of Steve Blake. However, as good as Portland has been this season, this is still a very young team in development mode. That said, there aren't any rules against a developing team making a playoff run. The Blazers would need to get better on defense to make such a run and they do have the expiring contracts of Channing Frye and Raef Lafrentz with which to work. Salmons may not be the answer, but if Blake can come back and play as well as he was playing before his shoulder injury, an upgrade at the three-spot could make Portland a serious contender--this year. Kevin Pritchard has proven to be an aggressive deal maker so it would be surprising if Portland didn't do something this week.
If there is a consensus from the gallery, it's that Pritchard will weigh offers until the last possible moment (Thursday) before pulling the trigger. Most everyone I've talked with expects a trade to be made, although Ian Thomsen disagrees.
FYI: The Blazers practice tonight so there will be a practice report up around 8PM or so.
-- Ben (email@example.com)