Hanging out with Gavin and Chad on 95.5 The Game this morning I got asked about Travis Outlaw and his quote about getting paid after a breakout season this year. The illustrious hosts wanted to know what kind of chance Travis had to get his phat check, or whether he even had a chance to stick. Normally questions like this make me itchy. I'll answer them to the best of my ability, of course, as they do make for great conversation and speculation. But I have a strong bias towards accurately explaining what is going on with the team over tossing darts at the "what might happen" board. The future is where most media folks make their money but I still prefer the present.
Nevertheless as I sit down to post this evening I am confronted by the fact that absolutely nothing is happening with the Blazers in the present that we haven't already chatted about. So I thought I'd take the liberty of expanding on the fine radio question, jumping blithely on the future bandwagon by trying to guess which Blazers will still be with the team three years from now at the start of the 2012 regular season (or so). I'm simply going to go down the list, take my best shot, and explain my reasoning. You can feel free to add, counter, or contradict in the comments...definitely part of the fun of us all future-guessing.
Brandon isn't going anywhere. Only a LeBron-level deal would pry him out of our hands and that ain't happening for a host of reasons. Brandon is the most likely Blazer-for-Life on the roster right now. The fact that his contract will be huge in three years doesn't hurt.
LaMarcus isn't quite as iron-clad as Brandon but he's still going to be with the team three years from now, if nothing else because you'd have a hard time finding a better complement for Greg Oden in the frontcourt. You could posit the Blazers picking up a more traditional power forward banger but such a star would take up space in the low post and duplicate Oden's rebounding. The only way LaMarcus would get traded is in an acceleration-type move, where a bona fide star of young-ish age with LMA's skills and a proven track record were available. That trade would have to happen within the next year or two to make sense. Those type of players aren't on the horizon. So there you go.
See the rest of the roster after the jump.
Travis isn't going to be here in three years. In fact if you want my gut feeling Travis is going to have a hard time making it through this year. That isn't because he's a bad player. To the contrary, he's shown more control, court understanding, and outside shooting ability than we've ever seen. Paradoxically that's going to make him too valuable to sit, too valuable to let walk for nothing, but also too expensive to pay for what he's giving the Blazers. I believe his inclination will be to stay in Portland because he's comfortable here. But I also believe he and his agent will see his ceiling on the current roster, know that it's nearly unbreakable, and also determine that his head is starting to push up against it already. They're going to demand extra money to play under those handicaps. The Blazers aren't going to be willing to dish it out. If he plays well Travis will garner enough attention on the market to be trade-worthy. If he doesn't play well or doesn't get enough minutes he'll still find enough money in the free agent market that Portland won't match. Either way, I don't foresee a long, lucrative contract with the Blazers in his future.
Steve is one of those funny cases. On the surface he could probably be replaced. Like Travis, his contract is up after the season, which makes him an easier let-go. Unlike Travis, though, Blake isn't the kind of guy you have to make tons of room for. He's able to contribute in any number of roles and situations. He's also going to come relatively cheap. Plus Andre Miller isn't a long-term solution at point guard. Blake makes a nice insurance policy. My gut says three years is too long to project having Blake around. The back of my brain says he could easily sign a low-wattage contract for at least that long and become a lifer around here. You certainly wouldn't be ashamed to have him. OK...I've talked myself into it. I've got to go against the easy pick somewhere in this list. The point guard landscape is going to be pocked with craters over the next couple of seasons but out of the dust you'll see Blake emerge standing tall, still in scarlet and black.
I believe Rudy could be traded at some point but unless it's part of a superstar package (which again doesn't seem in the offing) I don't think that's going to happen soon. The Blazers are going to want to run experiments with their talented backcourt. They're also going to want to give Fernandez time to develop. Three years isn't a long time to do either. The only monkey wrench in the ointment (hah!) would be Rudy himself demanding a trade or threatening to go back to Europe. I think it'll work out though.
Greg Oden may not be the next coming of Hakeem but there's no way he goes anywhere in the next three years. He won't even have hit his prime yet. This one's nearly as big of a lock as Brandon.
Love Joel. Appreciate Joel. Joel's not staying this long. Either this year or next his contract is going to end. He'll have opportunities. He'll command more money than the Blazers will want to spend. Fans could hope for a repeat of his last contract signing where management convinced him to stay rather than to flee to Detroit or San Antonio. But the offer was a combination of cash and a role. The cash won't be equitable and the role will be diminished. Joel would really, really have to love the Blazers to make it this far or the Blazers would have to come out of the blue with a can't-refuse offer.
Yeah, Nic is staying. He'll still be cheap. He'll still bring that nice defensive wrinkle to the small forward position. Hopefully his offense and shooting will be improved as well. You're not going to find that combination from any move, nor do the Blazers have any incentive to let him go.
Miller probably won't get another contract with the Blazers. Portland will need to settle their point guard hash going into the prime championship runs. Miller won't be a long-term starter at that point. If the Blazers want a back-up they'll probably stick with Blake. Hopefully Andre will do great things in the next couple of years but he'll be a hired gun for the duration.
It's hard to figure out what young guys are going to do, which is one reason we're not going to include rookies on this list. Jerryd is still a rookie of sorts, not measured by seasons but in terms of responsibility given. He's still looking for that first major, consistent job. He'll have a hard time getting it this year too with Miller and Blake on the roster at point and Roy and Rudy at shooting guard. I'm going to guess that both his and the Blazers' patience run out before he's fully developed into whatever he's going to be. I'm going to guess he'll also have value in trade. Therefore I'm going to guess that he's not here in 2012.
If guessing about young guys is hard, guessing about a coming-off-of-injury Martell is near impossible. This is compounded by the fact that the Blazers have a team option on Martell for the exact season in question. Let's assume that Martell can play and isn't a victim of chronic foot problems. Speculating that Travis departs leaves some honest room for Webster at small forward. Webster also replaces some of Outlaw's shooting and scoring. Given that situation it's hard to imagine Webster playing poorly enough that he simply gets cut. It's easy to imagine him playing well enough to earn his keep, getting the final year of his contract picked up. If he plays even better than that the Blazers have even more incentive to keep him, thus avoiding for an extra year the exact situation they face with Travis currently. So unless Martell is forever injured or just plays like Bill Shatner's toupee, he'll still be here bombing away in 2012.
That's my best shot. What's your take? Respond below.