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Portland Trail Blazers: Trades, Free Agents, Bench, and Contracts

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The Blazersedge Mailbag looks at Joel Freeland's position, Free Agent contracts, cap questions, and the significance of autographs, plus more!

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Hey! Look who's back! After a wonderful, mostly-relaxing 10-day jaunt around Oregon and Washington, I'm back and ready to catch up on Blazers news, NBA news, and Mailbag questions. I didn't look at the site more than twice in that 10-day span which is the longest we've ever been apart in 8 years. Did you miss me? I kind of missed you guys. Not being able to talk Blazers daily feels almost like being in an isolation cell. But knowing I was coming back soon, I did enjoy the chance to not worry about basketball or blogging. A huge thank you goes to Ben, Timmay, Chris, Sam, Dane, and Sagar for making that happen.

OK, enough of that. On with the show!

Hi Dave,

With Chris Kaman taking the backup spot at center, do you think Joel will do better in a power forward position or will he be used as the 3rd option behind Chris?

Don

Depending on injuries and quality of play, he could end up doing both. We won't know until we get through training camp at least. Even then the middle-bottom level of the rotation will typically change several times throughout the year.

My instinct paints the rotation thus:

Center: Robin Lopez, Chris Kaman, Joel Freeland, Meyers Leonard

Power Forward: LaMarcus Aldridge, Thomas Robinson, Joel Freeland

I don't think Robinson is necessarily outplaying Freeland at power forward but he has more developmental room and explosiveness so I suspect he'll get the earlier nod.

As you can see, most of the minutes will be chewed up before Freeland gets there. It doesn't really matter which he's better at until he beats out one of the players ahead of him. Then we can talk more about him making a difference.

Joel's playing time and position may also depend on meshing with other players. If he's playing alongside Lopez he'll need to hit the face-up jumper and be mobile on the court. If he's playing alongside Robinson he'll need to hold position inside. Freeland is capable of doing either, but he's not good enough to merit other players fitting in with him instead of the other way around. If his jumper isn't falling and the Blazers need to play a big center inside, expect Freeland's prospective minutes at power forward to disappear.

Dave,

Dwight Jaynes recommends in a recent post regarding observations from Summer League that the Blazers should do whatever they can to trade Meyers Leonard, Victor Claver and Allen Crabbe. Of course, that group won't generate a ton of trade discussion but with Crabbe and Claver in particular-what would be the repercussions of just releasing them to clear up two roster spots? Sure Paul Allen would have to pay contracts for two players not on the roster, but the Blazers could replace them with potentially two vets a la Leandro Barbosa, Elton Brand, Rasual Butler or Al Harrington.

Those players are just examples but 1) Could this be done and 2) In your opinion, Should this be done?

Thanks,
Rudy

In theory it could be done. The Blazers would have to pay the salary of the players they released but the roster slots would open up.

The problem is, the salaries of the released players would still count against the cap. Since the Blazers are over the cap and their exceptions are history, they wouldn't have cap space to sign new free agents. Their only available option would be to offer league-minimum contracts, which any team can offer even if they're over the cap. If one of the players you mentioned could be had for that low of a contract the Blazers would have to think about it. Mostly super-cheap players are super-cheap for a reason. You'd be trading one set of speculative players for another. Therefore there's little percentage in the Blazers making this kind of move unless some kind of miracle-bargain signing falls in their lap.

As far as trading Leonard, Claver, and Crabbe, lots of folks would like to explore that option. You should probably double-underline and bold-font the "that group won't generate a ton of trade discussion" clause in your question. Another team dumping salary is the best--maybe only--hope of getting any return for that trio. And even then, they only make $4.5 million combined. That's not all that much dumping for prospective trade partners. It could happen, but I'm not holding my breath.

Dave,

Currently, Jameer Nelson, Shawn Marion, Francisco Garcia and other quality role players are still available free agents.  [ed. written while I was on vacation, specifics have since changed]  Why didn't the Blazers go after these type of players, which most likely could be gotten on the cheap, who would in my opinion provide more production than the combo of Kaman and Blake?

Best, Trey

We need to define "quality role players".

I agree that in an overall, "rank NBA players from 1-450" way the players you mention would trend higher than Kaman and Blake. But if you re-define "quality" as "fitting the roster in skill, temperament, goals, and finances" Kaman and Blake may end up ahead.

Take Jameer Nelson. He's a former All-Star in need of a fresh start. But he's also been a 30+ minute player, his 3-point shooting hasn't been as strong as Blake's, and he needs the ball in his hands more than Steve does. If you're going to start one of the two you go with Nelson. But if you're looking for an offense-managing, catch-and-shoot capable back-up to Damian Lillard who won't mind when Lillard hogs 38 of the 48 available minutes and almost all the shots, you go with Blake.

Shawn Marion would be a more exciting MLE prospect than Chris Kaman was. But Marion isn't a center, isn't a three-point shooter, and is 4 years older than Kaman.

Consider also that the Blazers signed Blake and Kaman to disposable deals. Getting a bigger name might have meant committing to longer-term contracts. The Blazers were no doubt wondering whether possible extra utility would justify the extra cost.

It's a little bit like buying a used pickup to clunk around with and do odd jobs on weekends. You've got one selling for $2000 and one selling for $5000. Clearly the $5000 one is a better overall vehicle. It probably has lower miles, more amenities, all that good stuff. If you were acquiring your main mode of transportation for the next five years you'd have to go with that truck. But for the purposes you're putting it to--just clunking around now and then on weekends for a couple years--you really have to ask if the extra $3000 spent will do you that much good. Neither truck is new. Both will require repairs and babying along. Both will be super-high-mileage when you're done with them. Given that, wouldn't you rather keep that $3000 in your pocket and still get the truck you need instead of spending it and still not getting anywhere near the truck of your dreams?

Dave,

Recently, while at PDX, I ran into Lamarcus Aldridge. I was nervous but I asked him for a picture and he quietly but politely said yes (I was in my military uniform). However, while at a different airport today, I ran into Meta World Peace, asked him for a picture as well (this time I happened to be in civilians and a blazers shirt no less) but was somewhat politely turned down. I can't say I expect every athlete to pose for a picture everywhere they go, and so don't hold it against him, but do you think this is representative of how most athletes are? Are our guys special in that regard?

Ryan

I'm not sure that's enough data to reach a conclusion. The Trail Blazers are pretty down-to-earth guys, or at least portray themselves as such compared to the typical NBA vibe. I'd be more comfortable asking for an autograph from one of our guys than from, say, Carmelo Anthony. At the same time, plenty of other NBA players would gladly offer their autograph. LaMarcus would be within his rights to deny the request without earning the label of "jerk". What if he was late for a plane, was meeting family, or was just tired or having a bad day?

I find myself wanting to affirm that autographs and public adoration are part of the celebrity culture in our country. Without the idolizing these guys wouldn't be making millions of dollars. They have some responsibility to be civil and accommodating to their fan base. Whether the answer is yes or no, they should understand the request. At the same time they're human. Nobody should be forced to be at the beck and call of strangers every time they exit their home. If the "no" is given politely it should be received in the same way, without undue judgment.

So yes, I suspect the Trail Blazers are, on average, more connected to their fan base than most rosters are on average. Exceptions exist here and elsewhere. I don't think that the relationship should be judged solely on willingness to sign autographs, as one can be connected and still not want to stop and talk to multiple strangers about your job every time you venture out in public.

Dave,

You seem to be enjoying Twitter. I'm sure glad you're on now. I enjoy your humorous observations. Don't let anybody convince you to stop or only tweet about the Blazers! Some of the funniest stuff happens when you talk about other things. What's the best or funniest thing anybody's ever tweeted to you? What's made you laugh most?

Lucy

Some people do get edgy when I talk about anything but the Blazers ("Dance, Basketball Writing Monkey Boy! Dance!") but @DaveDeckard is a combination "Me and the Blazers Stuff I write" account while @Blazersedge will keep you up to date on everything published on site...strictly Trail Blazers related.

As far as humorous stuff, people have responded with way too many things to mention. I really liked the #NBAMusicians thread. The casual, witty back-and-forth is cool too. But to answer your question, here's one of the favorite things anybody has said to me, completely context free:

Those aren't weird pies! Those are great pies.

It doesn't get much better than that. Should be a t-shirt.

Keep those Mailbag questions coming to the address right after my name, marked "Mailbag" if you please!

--Dave blazersub@gmail.com / @DaveDeckard