Mail call! If you have Mailbag questions, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Here's the current crop!
Is Wesley Matthews' role as the 'team's heart' actually important if he gets a big free agency offer? How expensive is too expensive to keep him?
Matthews has a slightly bigger role than that.
Portland's defense went from spotty to decent last season. That happened with all hands on deck, including Matthews who is a reasonably good defender. Put a No-D shooting guard in the backcourt with Damian Lillard and the pressure on the forwards and center increases dramatically. The Blazers ask too much of Robin Lopez as it is. If they make him watch yet another lane to the bucket, force him to go out even farther to trap dribblers off of screens, well...you saw what happened to Portland's defense when San Antonio moved him around, right? That'd be every night if you let shooting guards roam free.
Portland's offense depends on spreading the floor and making the opponent guard five men. This is one of the arguments against picking up a guy like DeMar DeRozan, as great as his talent is. Let a defender shade farther in towards LaMarcus Aldridge's and Lopez's business and they have a tougher time operating. Clean looks and offensive rebounds--commodities on which the Blazers traded heavily last season--go down.
Matthews also ranks fairly high on any list of shooting guards in the league. Granted, the weakness of the position makes this the equivalent of "one of the highest-rated shows on the CW Network", but still. If you're replacing him, the question becomes, "With whom?" Most realistic upgrades aren't that much of an upgrade. Clearly preferable choices aren't attainable.
Sum it up and you have, "Not a perfect player, but pretty darn good for the Blazers...plus he has that 'heart of the team' vibe you're talking about."
If Matthews does get an insane offer next summer the Blazers first have to ask what they're going to do with the money they'd save by not signing him. In the current climate, "insane" registers somewhere between $3-5 million over market value. Will that $3-5 million buy the Blazers something better than Matthews or would it be better to just pay him? Keep in mind that the impending television deal is going to raise the salary cap. This may not create tons of new cap space for the Blazers but it will eventually make today's insane deal look relatively normal as all salaries rise in response to the influx of money.
If the Blazers think about letting Matthews go without making a counter-offer they then have to ask whether his replacement plays for them already. Dorell Wright has a little defense, a little three-point ability but he's a small forward. C.J. McCollum can provide the offense and the triples but can he hold down the position defensively? Will Barton has scoring ability but isn't proven beyond the arc or at the other end. The Blazers will be watching closely to see if these, or any other, players step up to the plate this season, making a potentially-expensive Matthews semi-expendable.
Failing that you look at potential trades. Would C.J. Miles be available from Indiana in a year? He'd be a bargain-basement replacement. Or do you go with super offense, hoping to balance out defensive deficiencies? You could plug a number of scoring guards into that slot and hope for the best. Most of them would cost as much as Matthews, though. Or you could hope to draft a shooting guard in 2015. That limits your selections with a low pick, though. It's not a bankable strategy, nor is waiting for that player to develop as Aldridge grows older.
I suspect we'll find that the number to make the Blazers give up Matthews is higher than expected because of his utility to the team, if not his overall quality as a player. Unless we see trades or major developments from youngsters in the meantime, it'll be hard to give up Wes next summer.
What do you think of a Blazers lineup that puts both Kaman and Lopez on the floor at the same time?
Spacing would need to be sacrificed, but assuming three point shooters surround the two, do you see Stotts going extremely big?
Never say never, but why?
I can see some advantage in rebounding, but how much space is there under the offensive glass? I can see how it could work with spacing, as Kaman can go outside. But if I'm an opponent I'm seeing two mostly slow guys whom I don't fear offensively. That's license to run the floor, play plenty of pick and roll outside, and shade towards whatever other scorers Portland fields. I could see schemes where this works but I don't see it becoming a major weapon for the Blazers.
I'm not interested in anything but more talent because that's the only way this team is getting better. Name one available guy the Blazers could gamble on to improve. I don't care about character. I don't care about salary. I just want a guy risky enough to get that could become the next building block for the Blazers.
Greetings Dave! Why isn't the NBA the most watched and most enjoyed sport in America? The NBA has the most amazing athletes, great arenas, and a strong nationwide organization. What do you think of these tweaks to spice up the product?
1. Increase the playing field: longer, wider, higher baskets, wider key, further 3 point line.
2. Keep the action going without all the stupid timeouts (mostly for commercials): Designate specific times for breaks, and use the hockey substitution pattern of "on the fly" (once a player leaves the court another may enter).
3. Modify officiating to enforce less contact, specifically, "no hands" defense: result will be more offense and more fluid action
Will these changes make professional basketball truly "the most beautiful game"?
As to why it's not the most-watched sport, it's a combination of things the NFL does well and national perception of the NBA.
Playing one game a week allows each Sunday/Monday/Thursday to become an event for NFL fans, gamblers, and fantasy leaguers across the nation. Keeping up with your team isn't hard. Every game feels important. You have an entire week to consider a bet, clear and limited choices about how to do so. It's the same with your fantasy roster. You can spend days evaluating particular matchups. 82 games and a frenetic pace of basketball doesn't allow the same gravity.
The NFL is set up so almost every team appears to have a chance in a given year. Those who don't could improve their fortunes in a relatively short time. The NBA is more measured. Teams can improve but the ceiling to elite status isn't made of glass, but steel. If you don't have LeBron James, Kevin Durant, or a Spurs logo you're not perceived as having legit chance at the title. Fans can invest for years without seeing major improvement. That's not seen as bad management (see also: Oakland Raiders), but par for the course. If you're a Bobcats fan, where are you going?
We could spend 6000 words on the NBA perception as rigged, too urban, "too black", too self-centered, too rich, watered-down and "not as good as it was back in the day". Those critiques aren't fair, but they still echo from plenty of lips.
On the plus side, when you start measuring world-wide popularity basketball has made great strides over the last two decades. That supports your argument that it's one of the more beautiful, easily-translated games. It bodes well for the future. How much further up can the NFL go? Professional basketball still has plenty of wiggle room abroad, perhaps in the states as well.
As far as your changes, I don't see how making the court longer would improve the experience. Players would tire quicker. One of the current complaints is that not enough action happens between the rebound being caught and the next offensive set commencing. Longer courts would create more dead time.
Wider courts could be interesting. It might eliminate some of those nagging "heel-out-of-bounds" calls on the sideline and open up the middle of the floor more. The obstacle I see here is eliminating rows of ultra-expensive seats on each side of the floor to accommodate the new dimensions. (I suppose it could become an excuse for every owner to demand a new arena simultaneously.)
Wider keys could be cool, freeing up space around the bucket. I don't think the three-point line needs to move farther out. If anything they'd put in a four-point line active only during the final 3 minutes of each half as a catch-up mechanism. #gimmick
I don't see timeouts going away or being scheduled rigidly. It's part of the flow. Plus fatigue makes the game uglier, not better. Nor do I see changing on the fly becoming practical. Seldom are entire lines substituted in basketball as in hockey. Can you imagine Rudy Gobert trying to catch up to an ongoing play? You'd lose 2 points every time you put him in. The league did shorten most timeouts in response to this critique and that's where it should probably stay.
"No hands" defense has also gone about as far as it can go. Ball handlers already have huge advantages. If you don't let big men touch each other in a crowded lane you're either going to have no defense at all or 92 billion fouls whistled. You know how you sometimes get a string of holding calls in football that you never see on camera until the replay? They grind down the pace and take away pretty offensive plays. And those are legit calls. If refs had to watch hands underneath from every player we'd see the equivalent of holding calls without end.
Remember to send your questions to email@example.com.
Added bonus: listen for an interview with Brian Wheeler on Wheels at Work, 620 on the AM dial in Portland, in the 3:00 hour this afternoon.
Also: Carmelo Anthony has overtaken Damian Lillard by 8 votes as we speak in Pounding the Rock's great 1-on-1 Tournament. If you care, better get over there and vote to keep your boy alive.
--Dave firstname.lastname@example.org / @DaveDeckard