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Trade Analysis: Do It or Not?

Scroll down from this post (and I'm sure up as well, quite soon) and you'll see the reported trade rumors flying fast and thick around the Portland Trail Blazers.  We're going to take a look at the proposed moves here, asking how seriously the Blazers should consider them.

Andre Miller and Joel Przybilla to New Jersey for Devin Harris and Troy Murphy  (Latest Links)

This is the glowing hot rumor of the hour.  The trade wouldn't work as-is.  Portland would have to throw in extra players, likely Sean Marks or Dante Cunningham plus one of the following:  Luke Babbitt, Elliot Williams, Rudy Fernandez, Nicolas Batum.  Batum's inclusion would presumably make the conversation a non-starter but Portland shouldn't balk at including the other players.

Portland will have several issues with Harris.  He's not going to fit as well as the now-seamless Miller.  His production, both in bulk terms and per-minute, has sagged significantly over the past couple of years.  He spiked with a fantastic 2008-09 season, his first full campaign in New Jersey.  Only his assist total has survived.  Points per game are down 6, free throw attempts 3, shot attempts 4, minutes 5 per game.  He's actually near his pre-trade Dallas Maverick levels with the notable exception that his field goal percentage has plummeted (and did the moment he came to the Nets).  His defense, once considered a strong point, has become porous.  His three-point percentage has never been good.  He's played 80+ games in a season only once in his career. 

There's a whopping huge asterisk attached to all of this, however:  he was playing in New Jersey.  And yes, that's delivered in the same tone as Fred Armisen's impression of Governor David Paterson.  When surrounded by decent players Harris produced well.  When ensconced in a terrible system with abysmal players on a team destined to lose 90% of its games Harris looks mediocre or worse.  What does this tell you?  That he's not going to be a savior.  But it also offers hope that he can be buoyed by his surroundings.  This is exactly the kind of guy the Blazers need to look for.  They're not going to pry an All-Star from somebody by dangling Miller and contracts.  They have to make do with a good player hopefully just in need of a change.

As far as those players go, Harris isn't a bad bet.  He's tall enough, quick enough, and can score.  He draws fouls.  His Dallas-era field goal percentage was astonishing.  His Dallas-era defense was plenty good.  He's 27 (almost 28) years old, right in his prime.  Two years ago he was an All-Star.  His contract is reasonable:  $9.3 million next year, $8.5 the year after.  And even at this low point his points and assists are better than Miller's on a per-minute basis.  He may not elevate the team much over Miller this year but years down the road the potential for change could be significant.

Everybody else in this deal is a non-factor compared to Miller and Harris.  Murphy's contract is expiring, as is Przybilla's.  Anyone else is a throw-in.  If the Nets will agree to this deal (and there are plenty of rumors surrounding Harris and/or Murphy going elsewhere) Portland should pull the trigger.  At worst it's an incremental loss this season--maybe not even that--and it could be an enormous gain later.

Greg Oden to the Warriors for...?

Yeah, for what?  They'd laugh and laugh at including Stephen Curry or Monta Ellis.  Andris Biedrins has battled injuries--though not as chronic as Oden's--and his once-sterling production has slowed. David Lee's contract is out of this universe expensive.   Who else on that team would make as much of a potential difference as Oden?  Unless, of course, the Blazers aren't planning to keep Oden in which case a Biedrins deal might make sense.  Otherwise, no.

Gerald Wallace to the Blazers for...?

The Blazers have a couple issues here:  health and distance shooting.  Nate McMillan has relied on his small forwards to hit the floor-stretching three.  That's not Wallace.  In fact if you take him off the fast break he becomes much less of a force.  But what a force he is on the run.  And he's often able to impose his will on opposing teams through his sheer physicality, making them play the game that favors him.  Who knows if McMillan's style would allow that adaption though?  He's an imposing rebounder and a hustle guy.  He can defend.  As long as he stayed healthy and had enough freedom Portland fans would come to love this guy.  His contract isn't even that bad at $10.5 million this year, next year, and the same on a player option for 2011-12.

Then  We said health.  The guy's had concussions.  He's played 70+ games in only 4 of his 8 complete seasons in the league.  It's the Trail Blazers.  It's a guy's health.

The big question would be what the Blazers are giving up.  Camby would work but then the Blazers are center-less.  Miller could be included but then they're point-guard-less.  Przybilla would make numbers match but he's cap relief.  The Bobcats can't trade Wallace for cap relief.  Including Nicolas Batum would be near-mandatory if Joel were in the deal.  Batum is younger and will ultimately end up the better defender and marksman.  But Batum hasn't yet shown the ability to dominate.  He's an amazing complementary piece.  It comes down to what the Blazers think they need.  If it's just somebody to play alongside a hopefully returning and healthy Roy plus Aldridge and maybe Oden, Batum is the better fit.  But if you're shaky on one or more of those players and you're looking for a guy to fill shoes, Wallace would be more appropriate.  This one's impossible to call until we know more about which players will be included.

--Dave (