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Blazer's Edge Mailbag: Oden's Return, Old-School Centers, Lopez, and the Lottery

Today's Mailbag covers old school centers from Greg Oden to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the Amnesty Clause, improving the lottery, and much more!

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Ahoy hoy! Time for another edition of the Blazer's Edge Mailbag.


What do you think the probability is that Neil Olshey would pursue Greg Oden if he was convinced he was healthy enough to contribute next season? Would the fact that none of the Oden drama happened under Olshey's watch increase the likelihood that the Blazers could be interested or would the baggage attached to such a reunion be too much to overcome?


There's enough water under that bridge to turn the Mojave into a melon farm. Even if Olshey were inclined that direction both the Blazers and Oden himself would probably nix the idea. Chances are it wouldn't be healthy for either. The Blazers are attempting to start anew, not go backwards. The environment would be just as toxic for Oden now as it was when he left. Old friends, old habits...besides, for 29 other teams he could get a fresh start with low expectations. Oden returning to Portland would bring back all of those 2007 expectations for Blazers fans. That's not realistic.

Once again we'll say it's sad that Oden never worked out here. He's exactly the kind of center the Blazers need. Still. But Meyers Leonard is the new Oden. The old one's not coming back.


As I look at the current era's game, I can't help but wonder how traditional centers would fare. Players Like Hakeem, Ewing, Jabbar and Moses Malone. They were all fairly mobile (Todays center needs to cover some ground), but also had great low post presence. I can't help but think with the right talent, coaches should be able to marry both styles. Wing play creates post space. A post player capable of getting the ball and going quickly should have an advantage? Or do the new Zone rules really shut this down?


Talent is talent. Transcendent guys like those could play anytime, anywhere. Kareem and Hakeem already had the mid-range shots in addition to their post games. They'd just be unleashed to do more nowadays. Rebounding doesn't change much, just how much space you have to cover to get there. If defenses keyed in on them because of the new rules they'd just hit three-point happy teammates on the perimeter...the modern way to create space. All three could adapt and dominate, though Kareem might have to put on a couple pounds!

The old Houston Big Three offense? That's another story.


In the pre-season, Coby Karl looked pretty good, great at times. He was always under control and certainly knows the game. He was certainly better than the bench turned out to be. Sure, he was 28 years old, but so what! He would have been a great addition to an otherwise feckless bench. So, why didn't the Blazers sign Coby during preseason or at some other point during the season, cutting Nolan Smith?


Props for the use of "feckless".

My guess is that it was a combination of several things: little or no upside, not suited to defend point guards, no proven NBA three or really any shot to speak of, only 184 minutes played in his career total, and none of those spent at point. Plus the Blazers owed Nolan Smith money already.


Dave, a lot of talk on this blog lately has been finding a starting center and a versatile shooting guard. We have a number 10 draft pick a reasonable amount of cap space, but the Portland bench has to be almost completely restructured. Would it make sense to utilize our resources in the D-league?


If the Blazers had any, they'd have already used them. Luke Babbitt and Meyers Leonard are as good as anybody in Boise right now. You're right that the Blazers have more than two spots to fill. They'll need to get use out of smaller contract guys. But those guys are more likely to be NBA veterans than D-League hopefuls.

That said, watch this year's Summer League team. Plenty of agents will salivate over their clients' prospects with Portland since the roster is so thin.


Now that some time has passed since the last CBA which team(s) do you think have made best use of the amnesty clause so far? Do you see any other 'changing the course of the franchise' (such as if the Lakers used it on Kobe Bryant) moves happening at this point?


The Lakers probably should use it on Kobe, but I doubt they will. They could give him an entire year off to rehab then re-sign him next summer when the only contracts they'll be carrying are Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. They'd save about a billion dollars in luxury tax payments.

Tyrus Thomas in Charlotte and Charlie Villanueva in Detroit are other candidates depending on how much cap space their teams need.

Mostly I suspect that the amnesty clause has run its course. You have to remember that even though the salary comes off the cap, owners still have to pay those amnestied guys in full. Assuming you fill the recently-amnestied cap spot with a different player you're now, in essence, paying double for that player...his contract plus the contract you amnestied. Few incoming players are going to merit that. I can imagine plenty of owners having a hard time stomaching the idea, especially if their teams aren't contending anyway. What's worse, paying $9 million for an under-performing player or paying $18 million for one who's pretty good but still not going to take you to the playoffs?


The #10 pick for Robin Lopez straight-up. Can it be done? Is it worth doing? Would LMA be pleased?


Yes it can be done financially. Maybe it can be done talent-wise. It might be worth doing if you can't find any other centers or if you plan to make your big splash with a guard instead or if you believe in the Awesome Power of Meyers Leonard. Aldridge would be happy until he figures out that Lopez doesn't rebound, doesn't defend that well, has no face-up game, considers fouling a second religion, never passes the ball, and pretty much only blocks shots. His offense is efficient though. And he's cheap. In an ideal world he's my back-up center, not a starter. I might be able to get a back-up center with that 10 pick though, if I'm so inclined.


Every time I read a post about how getting multiple high lottery picks is the only way to arrive at contention, it depresses me. I don't want my team to suck, particularly not on purpose. I get especially depressed when I worry that it might be true. Thus, what would you think of transferring to a completely random lottery? In that case, picks would be random, so teams would have to find their success based on the quality of their front offices and decisions. Probably would never happen, but what are your thoughts?


I've long been a proponent of a two-tier lottery where the teams from 1-7 vie for the #1 overall pick and the teams from 8-14 settle out for those 7 selections. I'd keep the top three shuffle in each tier just as they have now. The worst teams would have a better shot at the best picks this way. I'd also weight it so that the very worst teams had a better chance of actually getting #1 instead of the 25% chance they have now. This way if you really sucked you'd be more sure of getting immediate help. With that help you'd be less likely to become a repeat customer in the lottery. Get in, get out, let someone else stink for a while.

I might also consider term limits of sorts, like you couldn't get a Top 3 pick for more than two years running. If you qualified the third year you'd be bumped down to 4 and the teams behind you would move up.

I suspect a completely random lottery would have the opposite effect of the one you're envisioning. No matter how much draft expertise you have, you can only work with the tools you're given. The GM drafting #1 is almost certainly going to do better than the GM drafting #14 even if that #14 guy is the second coming of Kevin Pelton and the #1 guy is Doofus McGoofus. A totally random drawing would take the tools out of the GM's hands and put them firmly in the realm of chance. The system would reward lucky, not good. You really, really don't want that 14th team that just missed the playoffs drawing first overall while the worst team in the league sits at #11. That all but guarantees that the worst team in the league will retain that designation the year following while the best team in the lottery punches through to the playoffs with their new superstar.

By the way, the 8th seed in the conference would also have something to say about the team right behind them in the standings drawing an ultra-high pick. Let's say the Jazz worked their tails off all year and managed to edge out the Suns for the last playoff seed in the conference after a grueling battle. As the 8th seed the Jazz get eliminated in 5 games and earn the 16th pick in the draft. Phoenix, finishing just one game behind Utah in the standings, gets vaulted to the #1 overall draft position in a completely random draw and gets the next LeBron James. Even if Phoenix got the #2 or #3 pick, what's going to happen to the standings next year? That ultra-high star selection is certainly going to be worth more than one game. Through no merit of their own the Suns are going to vault the Jazz in the standings and probably a couple other teams as well. The teams who actually bothered to make the playoffs all get screwed comparatively. Why would you want a low seed at all?

People sometimes advocate a random system because they think it would get rid of tanking. It wouldn't. It'd just shift where it happens. Instead of the worst teams in the league tanking in what are already meaningless games, teams would be tanking like heck to avoid the lower playoff seeds. When the team that just squeaked into the post-season starts uttering expletives instead of celebrating that's a black eye for your league.

You also have a basic issue of fairness in that the 13th and 14th teams in the lottery line basically have nothing to lose. They can only go up. The 1st team, with the worst record in the league, has a 13 in 14 chance of dropping. They can only go down. If you can't be league champion or at least in the Finals, the best spot in the whole league is to finish 9th in your conference. That's a weird reward system.

There are plenty of ways to fix the lottery, but totally random ain't it.

Send your Mailbag question to the address below with "Mailbag" in the subject line for lots of question-answering fun!

--Dave (