We've run a series of questions this week (with one more yet to go) but other than posing the queries, I've basically let the conversation run with promises to give my view later. Well, later would be now. So here we go.
Last weekend we asked for three Blazer names: the name of the Blazer you thought most likely to be traded, the name of the Blazer you wanted to see traded most, and the name of the Blazer you thought everyone else would mention in this trade talk that you think shouldn't be there.
The choice of who was mostly likely to be traded was difficult for me. I'm going to settle on Sergio Rodriguez just because the path seems so straight in so many ways right now. He wants out. He's performed decently but not spectacularly. We've got another young option at point guard with (as my friend Mr. Golliver reminds me) the possibility of another via this year's draft. Most of all, I don't think there's any way on God's green earth that we go into next year with the same point guard rotation we had this year. We need more experience at back-up, whether that's getting a veteran reserve or getting a starter and moving Steve Blake to the second unit. Either way there's only room for one of our young guys. Somebody has got to go.
I actually think there's a chance Jerryd Bayless will be moved this summer simply because his value is higher. I doubt he'd draw a ton of attention on his own but packaged with a Frye or Outlaw he becomes extremely attractive. Sergio just doesn't have the same draw outside of a couple, specific teams. Jerryd would be my second choice for most likely, for all of the reasons mentioned above.
Nevertheless, naming just one guy, it's Sergio.
The guy I most want to see traded is easy for me: Channing Frye. It's not so much because of his play. It's certainly not because of his personality. I've mentioned before that he's the perfect Blazer everywhere but on the court. Under different circumstances I would love to see Channing stay here. But the Blazers can't utilize him fully and that's not good for him or the team. He's too young, too talented, and too stuck behind LaMarcus Aldridge to be here. He doesn't give us an appreciably different look at reserve power forward and he doesn't get enough minutes to showcase his talent. He could easily be playing 25-30 minutes per game somewhere. If he were 8 years further along in his career and looking for a career-crowning ring I'd love to have him. But he can't spend the next 8 years being a seldom-used understudy. He needs that chance to prove himself. I want him to get that chance. I want a team to get value out of him. If they can return some value to us in the process so much the better. But unless something drastic and unexpected happens with LaMarcus, Channing shouldn't be a Blazer this time next year.
The third name I had the most problems with of all. Perusing the lists people came up with in the thread (which were very good, by the way, as was the discussion) I have a hard time disagreeing with any of them. This is the first time in a while when the names we speculate should or might be traded actually are the names that could be traded. That shows our roster is solidifying. In any case I'm going to take the lame way out and say the guy on some other people's lists that shouldn't be there is "nobody". I understood letting the cake bake last season even though you knew it would probably cost us a chance to go as far as we might have with veterans. In actuality the Blazers got a lot farther than I thought they would, so bravo for the right move in that sense. But I think the time for figuring out is over. You know what you have in most of these players. More to the point you know what you yet need. It's time to fill some of those needs definitively. This roster still isn't balanced. We still have too many young guys in need of developmental time. You have to make a move sometime. If you lose a forward and/or point guard playing spot minutes now in order to get a guy you know brings a new wrinkle and will be in the rotation for the next couple years that's a good move.
The next question of the week was how important this 2009 draft is to the Blazers. We covered this in yesterday's podcast some. In most senses I believe this draft is only mildly important, and not just because we're talking the #24 selection instead of a lottery pick. The value of youth is going to be downplayed for the next couple of years as this team seeks to make serious noise in the playoffs. The major players are set. Most of the starting spots are filled or stocked with possible candidates. Point guard is the exception but I've already shared my feelings about banking on a rookie point guard and riding the growth curve with him for the next 3-5 years. There aren't that many waves left to be made. You're probably talking about drafting an eventual back-up player. That could become critical down the road. You might be able to get a nice piece. But it's still a back-up player.
I was serious on the podcast when I said the Blazers might simply get stuck using the 24th pick. They may not be willing to part with the assets it would take to move up to a premium spot. They may not find anyone that attractive in the middle round. They may not find any attractive offers to take 24 off of their hands either. I don't think the Blazers want to be stuck using that pick, but they may not see a better alternative.
If an alternative does present itself, I'd bet it would come in the form of buying a pick from someone or using the Ruffin trade exception rather than trading the 24th selection for a higher one.
I think the draft could show more about management's assessment of the current roster than their assessment of whatever player they select. If they pick at 24 or trade out that's not much of a clue. But if they trade up to get somebody it'll show where they think changes need to come. If they move up to take a point guard somebody else is moving. It'll be one of the young guys. Drafting a point guard would mean that the team has confidence in Steve Blake at the helm this year or they have a deal in the works for a starter. If they move up to take a forward then somebody else could be moving.
Again, though, my guess is that they'll pick at 24, signifying not much else could be done, and the selection won't signify much other than this was the best player they figured they could get at that position. That's why I doubt this draft will bring earth-shaking news or changes.
The final question was identifying the most crucial issue the Blazers will address this summer. I want to say point guard and I will say that if we're talking about things management has control of or can change. I'd be willing to bet that Nate will flat-out mutiny if some veteran help isn't forthcoming.
But to me even that issue pales in comparison to the continued development of Greg Oden. Greg has to keep the weight down, continue to strengthen his base, and work on his lateral movement, his low post footwork, and his spins and hooks. If Oden comes into camp in shape, ready to play, and dedicated to kicking butt in the league this year this team becomes pretty scary. If he's not looking any better than he did at the end of last season, or worse has regressed, the Blazers will be treading water this year trying to match their 2008-09 performance. This team needs to leap ahead, if not in win total at least in style and consistency of play, and the biggest potential leap comes in the person of Greg Oden. He's followed by Martell Webster, Nicolas Batum, Rudy Fernandez, and Jerryd Bayless but even those four worthies can't match his potential impact on the 2009-10 season.
So there you have it, all of the answer you could wish to the questions of the week. Feel free to tell me where I'm wrong in the comments.