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Blazersedge Mailbag: May 27th, 2010

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Still catching up on questions!  Here you go...

It seems like a lot of people would have been open to trading Lamarcus Aldridge this season for somebody like Chris Bosh.  If the opportunity arose, how would Dirk Nowitzki sound for the Blazers?  In my opinion, this would indicate that the Blazers are in win-now (and maybe only for a couple of years) mode but Dirk brings quite a bit more than Aldridge in terms of offense, I feel like the pluses are quite obvious.  I can't see Dallas doing this but I guess we pose these questions since we are fans.    

You're correct that there's almost no chance of this happening, but assuming you go with the "win now" theory Nowitzki would be a good fit.  His drawback is age.  Defense is also an issue but you're assuming he plays next to Oden, Camby, and Przybilla plus Batum and Webster on the other end.  They'd erase most of defensive shortcomings.  His offense would be a godsend for the Blazers.  He and Roy could probably work well off of each other.  He'd be able to shoot deep and create more open shots for the other Portland shooters.  It would be a dramatic move.  But again...Dallas won't give him up, especially since they have other spots stagnant or falling apart.  Losing Dirk, even for a guy with promise like LaMarcus, would be tantamount to waving the white flag and blowing up their team.

At this point are the most important team improvements simply a healthy B-Roy and healthy returns (with some sort of development in their offense) of Batum and Oden?  I was very encouraged by the play of Bayless, Webster, and Cunningham - was it Fool's gold?  Or was this year the first step to developing a formidable bench crew?  So if our starting lineup is solid for next year, and the bench shows big promise - what do we look for this summer?  

Clearly the most striking improvements will come with good health.  The Blazers aren't going to acquire anyone, anywhere who will make the impact that Roy, Batum, and Oden would at 100%.  The play of Bayless, Webster, and Cunningham wasn't fool's gold.  All have talent.  The first two will be able to carve out careers in this league.  Cunningham shows signs that he could as well.  The question is whether their skills and aspirations fit the needs and available positions of Portland's lineup.  It's not enough to have players 100% healthy.  You have to be able to get 100% out of them, or close to it anyway.  I don't believe we get anywhere near the best Martell when he's platooning with Nicolas Batum.  He's never been a limited-minutes, limited-role contributor.  Jerryd Bayless can do more with less time but I worry for him as well.  I don't see him winning the starting point guard spot anytime soon.  His best chance is as a high-powered scoring combo guard.  But he's not great defensively at off-guard and to take a majority of those minutes freezes out Rudy Fernandez.  Plus Bayless is still at the stage where he's up and down and the Blazers are over developmental time.  Dante Cunningham is far more of an all-around energy guy than the other two and can produce in 5 minutes as well as 15 so I have more hope for him.

To answer your question, even though none of the sparks of life you saw from the players mentioned are fool's gold, the idea that all of them together can develop fully, produce fully, and be happy on this roster may be.  This summer, at the trading deadline, maybe next summer at the latest I'm looking for moves that clear the way for the players the Blazers will rely on most...not just dumping people, but using the assets the Blazers won't be able to fully develop to upgrade talent and reliability in the areas they need.

Are the next two years our "Championship Window"?  The same timeframe where we have Oden and Bayless playing with Miller and Camby?  If not, does the window open after the contracts of Miller & Camby expire?  At that point - what are the Blazer needs to find the heir apparent for those two spots?    

Had the Blazers been able to get past the first round this year I would have allowed that the window was open just a crack in 2010-11 with Portland as a dark-horse.  As it is I don't see the Blazers getting through four seven-game series, three of them against the elite of this league.  Though I expect the Blazers to advance in the coming playoffs and think they could make the Conference Finals I don't see the window opening until the season after.

Portland's championship window only opens when Oden nears full-time status.  Camby's presence is a great boon while Greg develops but by the time his contract is up the Blazers should be fine without him.  If they're not then his presence won't tip the balance enough to matter.  Portland will have to address its point guard situation eventually, as Miller is a temporary solution.  That may be the biggest question of the next two years  But they do have a couple years to figure it out.   At this point I don't think we can say that Bayless will make any difference between a championship or not.  He doesn't have near that kind of role or experience.  The window depends on the best 3-4 players on the team.  Other players may help them through it, but they won't open it.

If you were a Blazers assistant coach and were to suggest a specific area of focus for each of the Blazers (specifically the younger players) to study film about, what areas would you emphasize?     

 

  • Bayless:  The jumper and defensive drills/study
  • Fernandez:  Scoring off the dribble, particularly with the pull-up J
  • Batum:  Whatever you did last summer.
  • Webster:  Handles.
  • Cunningham:  The jumper, pick-setting, defensive drills/study
  • Pendergraph:  Post moves, footwork, establishing position
  • Oden:  Conditioning, footwork

Why do there seem to be significantly more blowouts in the playoffs? Is the skill gap between teams exposed even more in a best-of-seven series?    

That happens.  There's relatively little time to prepare in the regular season compared to the playoffs.  Gaps will be magnified.  But it's also possible that there seem to be more because you're paying closer attention.  How much do you notice when L.A. blows out Milwaukee on February 27th of a given year?  That kind of thing happens every night though.

You've hit on one of the reasons I favor returning to a Best-of-5 format for the first round of the playoffs.  Most of these series are decided before they start and of the ones that aren't, 5 games is plenty to figure it out.  I don't believe the number of series that would differ based on 5 or 7 is anywhere near the number that are just plain dull for two weeks.

If the Blazers want to stand pat this offseason and bring everyone back healthy & see what a healthy roster can do next year, what about using the 5-6 million dollar exception on Nate Robinson? PG from the Celtics. He's a free agent and is athlete that can run the point and bring back some positive memories of Roy and him leading the Huskies to what the sweet 16? great 8?    

It's an interesting idea but it would signify a shift in a few ways.  First, as we talked about in last week's podcast, because of the luxury tax signing a player with a $5 million MLE would end up costing the franchise close to $12 million in real money.  To even consider it they'd have to be extra-sure that this was THE guy to help them to the upper echelon.  I don't believe Robinson fits that bill.  Second, Nate would want to play.  That means you can kiss Jerryd Bayless' minutes goodbye, which is not exactly standing pat and seeing what the roster could do.  I'm not sure Robinson would be happy just getting all of Bayless' minutes either.  Third, he's tiny.  That's not the size of point guard the current Blazer regime favors.  Fourth, his calling card is scoring.  Portland probably doesn't need another score-first player in the backcourt.  And finally, the guy got benched by Mike D'Antoni for not playing defense.  That's like Lindsay Lohan kicking you out of her party because you're too messed up.  There ain't enough rehab in the world to fix that.  Unless they're overhauling the entire position I'd guess the Blazers will pass on Nate.

Should the Blazers go after Mike Brown? Nate is on a year to year contract. Mike Brown has a very good win record. Is it that he just had very good players? Would his system be good for Blazer players?

 Here's the problem with switching coaches.  You never know what you're getting until the coach is entrenched.  That usually takes a couple years.  You may think you're getting a better one but you're just as likely to be dissatisfied down the road.  Then you have to switch again.  In the meantime you've cost your team a couple years of development and stability.  Then you're gambling on the right choice for the next couple as well.  In the Blazers' case those are starting to be prime years for your best players and for the team's confidence.

For that reason alone I'd say the bar is fairly high for making a change.  It's easier to compensate for weaknesses you know about than to figure out a whole new set.  In this specific case I think Brown has a similar style to McMillan.  If you're making the change hoping to revolutionize the team's play you probably wouldn't go this route.  I'm not sure Brown could squeeze any more wins out of this team than Nate has so far either.  So there's not much reason to make that move.

If you were going to make a change at this point you'd probably need to go off the board with an offensive-heavy coach or someone in the European style.  I can name you a bunch of good NBA guys--Rick Carlisle, Flip Saunders, even Gregg Popovich--who aren't necessarily milking more out of their teams than Nate is out of the Blazers.  A complete change in philosophy is just about the only reason you'd make a move at this juncture.

More to come.  You can submit your questions to blazersub@yahoo.com.  Please put "Mailbag" somewhere in the subject line.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)