The more I've been tossing around the Blazers' current and near-future situation (somewhat talent, mostly financial) with smart people the more we've worked around to a couple of common refrains:
1. The Blazers will probably end up having to make more difficult choices than we once envisioned. You're starting to see that already this summer and it will only intensify as their young players develop and the stakes get higher.
2. Talent alone will not decide the outcome of those decisions. Finances will play a part...perhaps a larger part than we're comfortable with as fans. This is especially true if the "break even" mantra holds. Sometimes you have to make decisions about improving the team before you can reap the financial rewards of doing so. If tomorrow's decisions are based on last year's budget, the Blazers will get pinched.
As these conversational refrains echo, it seems clear that the single best word to describe what the team will be looking for on the court in coming years is "value". They'll need talent and proven production and they will not come cheaply. The Blazers won't be looking to short change anybody but they will be committed to getting the best bang for their buck.
In practical terms, that means players are going to be evaluated on their position, tangible contributions, and contract cost. Portland may end up favoring a guy who fits all of these criteria nicely over a guy who is ostensibly more talented but either doesn't mesh perfectly or costs too much. We know this doesn't apply to Brandon Roy. It probably doesn't apply to LaMarcus Aldridge and Greg Oden either. Those three will be retained. The fine-toothed analysis will come when determining who will play around them.
Let's say you have a Lexus, a Mercedes, and a classic Corvette in your garage already. Now you need something to drive on weekends, hauling stuff your family buys at antique stores and garage sales. If you're at all conscious of finances after having purchased the luxury/sport vehicles, that weekend hauler is probably not going to be a Cadillac Escalade even if that's technically the premium option in the class you want. For this use you might be just as happy with a pickup or a modest SUV. That's value. It does the job you need at the most reasonable price you can find.
This is the question for the day. Pick up your crystal ball and tell us what players outside of Roy, Aldridge, and Oden are going to prove the best values for the Blazers over the next few years. Remember we're not necessarily talking most talented or most popular here. We're talking talent filling a need with dependable production at a price that's tantalizing compared to the benefit the player provides.
Of particular interest would be your assessment of Rudy Fernandez, Nicolas Batum, and Jerryd Bayless. You might want to rank those three in terms of which will be the best/worst values when their contracts are up for discussion. (Obviously all three are good values now while in the first years of their rookie scale deals.) But you can also consider players like Travis Outlaw, Martell Webster, Joel Przybilla, and Steve Blake. Heck, you could throw in possible value acquisitions if you feel the need.
Chime in below.