Today's Mailbag features a couple of potential guard additions to Portland's roster.
After recently reading Zach Lowe's column "The Courtship of Lance Stephenson" on Grantland, he mentions "and unloading George Hill's contract would give them some breathing space and the chance to search out a more dynamic lead ball handler." I think Hill would be a great fit as our 3rd guard. He gives us defense, length/size, solid ball handling, and three point shooting. Is there any conceivable deal (outside of our starters) that Portland could put together that would also make sense for Indy? If so, would you do it? Thanks!
Hill makes $8 million a year from here to the end of eternity (or, well, 2017). This is one of those no-man's land contracts we've been talking about, above the MLE level but below star status...the kind of offer you make to a promising young guy or the player who takes you over the top. The Pacers thought he might fit one or both of those descriptions when they traded Kawhi Leonard for him in 2011...perhaps a slight "Ooops!" moment. As it turns out, he's decent. The Pacers won't have a problem with him per se; they just might find themselves wanting more. Hill did the "fade away" this year, his scoring and assists falling simultaneously as he became less prominent in Indiana's attack. Depending on their summer agenda, I could see them moving him.
Depending on that same agenda, the Blazers might be able to offer a package centering around youth. If the Pacers went into retooling mode, they might bite. They could take an expiring contract, perhaps Dorell Wright, plus a young big. Thomas Robinson would fulfill the cap obligation in that scenario. Meyers Leonard or Joel Freeland would require a third player--likely Allen Crabbe or Victor Claver--along with. Will Barton and C.J. McCollum could also be plugged into this scenario. Somewhere in that mix of impending cap space and potential the Blazers might be able to hit Indy's number.
I could also see the Blazers being interested in Hill. He takes care of the ball, defends, does everything pretty well. He's not great in any single area but he won't hurt you either. His three-point shooting is a tad low for Portland's tastes but that could easily change given the shots Terry Stotts' system opens up. The fit could be great.
1. All of that goes out the window if the Pacers still want to be contenders. The teams would need to find a third party to take those young guys and give Indiana someone who would help immediately. They're trading their starting point guard, after all. None of the proposed players from Portland could fill that role.
2. Hill's longer contract doesn't fit Portland's pattern right now, but this isn't a fatal flaw. His contract would become the longest commitment the team was carrying without him being anywhere near the most important player. The environment would change next summer when Damian Lillard's extension came due, plus a whole bunch of veteran contracts. But the Blazers would still need to be sure that Hill fit into their plans long-term. They couldn't just rent him for a year.
3. Temporary dip or no, Hill's a starter now. Over the last two seasons he averaged 32-34 minutes per game for one of the best teams in the league, starting 76 games each year. He's 27, entering his 7th season and sitting in the prime of his career. How's he going to feel about returning to a back-up role? How many minutes will Lillard leave for him? Hill is listed between 6'2" and 6'3". He's probably not a combo guard. Lillard could switch off the ball when Hill plays but even then, minutes would be far more scarce than Hill is used to.
4. After the Blazers extended Lillard, they'd be dropping over $20 million on the point guard position between Lillard and Hill. Would that be the most effective use of that money, especially since they'd presumably be trading away a big player to get Hill when the cupboard was already bare?
I like this idea. Acquiring Hill would be a sign that the Blazers were moving beyond "pretty good", trying to rise to a consistent and elite level. But they'd need help from Indiana plus some careful cost-benefit analysis to make it work. It's not likely to happen but it's not the worst proposal I've heard.
One guy that no one ever talks about is Shaun Livingston. If he came off the bench, he could take Lillard off the ball and he can take it to the hole and shoot a little bit. He can post smaller guys, too. They would improve defensively when he comes into the game also. Imagine having 3 guys about 6-7 on that end. They could switch like crazy and it would add a new wrinkle to Terry Stotts' defense. His injury history is noted but he just had a great year and would probably be in our price range. On top of that, he'd be less harmful to the development of CJ than Mo. What do you think about Livingston? Why hasn't he been discussed more?
I really like the guy. I was hoping the Blazers might take a flyer on him a couple years ago when he was trying to re-establish himself and came dirt cheap. (Of course, all the teams that did take flyers on him ended up letting him go, so Portland probably wouldn't have been different.) I can see several advantages to fielding Livingston:
1. He's a true combo guard. He can play either position, ideal for Portland's situation. Plus he's 6'7". Wow.
2. He can get to the rim, a rare quality for Portland's roster right now.
3. Despite the injury and seemingly having been around the league forever, he's only 28. Health allowing, he should have plenty of mileage left.
4. Having been through his trials, he should be happy to be a significant contributor on a winning team. His role and minute expectations probably won't exceed what Portland can offer.
5. Neither will his salary expectations. He'll likely be available for the MLE. Brooklyn can't re-sign him for much more than $3 million per year. Plus Portland wouldn't have to trade a single player to get him.
He also carries a couple disadvantages. He shoots threes about as often as your grandma and makes them half as often. Also...another guard? Don't the Blazers already have 92 of those on the roster? The Blazers probably wouldn't need to carry Livingston plus Mo Williams, Crabbe, McCollum, and Barton off the bench. Getting Livingston would carry the opportunity cost of chasing a big man with that MLE money. The Blazers could open another roster spot by cutting (or not re-signing) someone else from the guard list but they wouldn't open up much cap space by doing so.
Despite that, snagging Livingston would be another solid move...2 for 2 in today's Mailbag! If the Blazers wanted to pursue this kind of angle they'd be better off for it. The main issue would be bolstering an already-full backcourt while leaving fewer resources for the impoverished frontcourt. But the Blazers will have a hard time filling every hole in the rotation with the resources available this summer no matter what they do. They have to do something, and either of these "somethings" would be reason for a sunny summer outlook in Portland.
We sure appreciate the Mailbag questions. They make off-season writing so much easier! Send them to the e-mail address right after my name in the next line, marked "Mailbag" if you please.
--Dave firstname.lastname@example.org / @DaveDeckard