The Mailbag questions were especially juicy this week, so let's get to them.
Lay it on the line. Would you trade Nicolas Batum before the deadline this year? I would never have thought of it but his performance makes me think of it. Why is he doing so bad?
Go with your initial instinct, not your new one. Batum is slumping but he's familiar with the team, they're familiar with him, and you'll still have a hard time finding any single player to check off all the categories he covers on a given night. The bar for trading him is still high even if his stats aren't.
Getting specific, can you find a player who...
...doesn't need the ball to succeed?
...can hit a three when called upon?
...initiates the offense when there's too much pressure on your point guard?
...racks up 5 assists and 5 rebounds a night?
...moves without the ball?
...can defend the opponent's best wing?
...is still in his mid-20's?
...makes a reasonable salary?
I can name you a couple guys like that but you can't get them in trade. Everyone else outside those two will change the offense. That's permissible but better done in the off-season, not with a 32-11 record headed towards the playoffs.
If Batum continues to slump, if this isn't just another one of his up-and-down cycles, and if his poor play ends up costing the Blazers, the summer is long enough to entertain every trade suggestion known to man. He'll be in the last year of his contract, a prime candidate for moving if the Blazers aren't sure about keeping him. My guess is they're as sure as they ever were and will wait this out. If they weren't, why didn't we hear about a harder pursuit of Jeff Green? That move would have eased reliance on Nicolas. But Green is in Memphis and Batum still dominates the small forward spot for Portland.
As for causes, I'm loath to speculate. As I just mentioned, it seems like we've had this kind of discussion for 6 years running. The dip is deeper this time, but Batum has always come out of it. I don't believe the mainstream chatter that this is entirely injury-related. His struggles started before his wrist got hurt. (Though injuries don't help, of course.) But absent input from Batum himself, we'd just be guessing. Speculation seldom turns out accurate, especially in complex, multi-threaded situations. At this point we should probably pass on the "Why?" and concentrate on "How long?" and "To what effect?" I'm willing to give Batum to the All-Star Break, at least, before trying to figure out definitive answers. Let's see if he's swung upwards by then.
Up until now I have been very hesitant to even take a small chance at disrupting our team chemistry, but after watching us go against (3) western conference playoff teams and lose them all this past week (LAC, SAS, MEM), I've finally moved into the camp that we need to make a move. Granted we didn't have our entire lineup, but even if we do, what if someone is having an off night? All that being said, what are your thoughts on Wilson Chandler? I like the blend of the offense and defense. I think we could really use an extra punch in the bench unit with Kaman being hot and cold (and mostly cold lately) offensively. I'm thinking something along of the lines of Thomas Robinson, and either Claver/Barton and a 1st rd pick, or Thomas, Crabbe and a 2nd. I think the window for the Blazers to compete for a championship is at least cracked and I think you have to go for it. It seemed like the Thunder were taking their time to let things marinate, but now they seem to be in desperation mode with the Dion Waiters and possible Brook Lopez moves. Thoughts?
Can the Blazers get Brook Lopez? Cuz that would be cool. (Except for the salary cap hit.)
I've gone over Chandler before. In general I like him. I wish his three-point percentage was a wee bit higher but it might improve with the open shots the Blazers get. He's no good in the mid-range but the Blazers don't value that shot anyway. His rebounding is good, his defense is decent, he's 27, and he's making less than $7 million this year. That's plenty to like and it wouldn't be a bad move.
I agree that the Blazers need to make a move at some point. My reasoning has less to do with immediate improvement and more with their surplus of youth off the bench, in particular at the shooting guard and power forward positions. A couple of those guys are going to leave no matter what. If the Blazers can solidify their roster for the next 2-3 years by using them as trade chips, that'd be a good move. There's plenty of the same left in the cupboard.
Thinking of the benefits of a trade over the next 3 years instead of the next 3 months slants the process towards compatibility, durability, and affordability along with talent. All three are desirable in any exchange, but if you think you're one player away from grabbing a trophy this June you're willing to compromise to make that happen. The Blazers don't need to make those compromises yet, which is part of the reason we've not seen a move prior to this. They don't have to be in a hurry; they do have to get it right.
You also have to wonder if summer will bring more possibilities than the trading deadline will. What if Chicago continues their pursuit of Carmelo Anthony and wants to dump salary? What if the Bucks give up on Larry Sanders entirely? What if the Magic decide to retool? The golden ticket here is a player who meets all of the above criteria and brings a new wrinkle and excitement to the team the way Buck Williams did in 1989 or Danny Ainge did in 1990. Those players are more likely to be available in July than February. For that, I'd be willing to wait.
With all the discussion on possible moves as of late, and the arms race that has clearly begun in the west, it has become clear that if the Blazers want to push for a championship they need to make a move. Even if the Blazers aren't to make a trade for Wilson Chandler, or any other of the popular targets it would be wise to do something. That all being said, what would you think about waiving Victor Claver in order to pick up a vet free agent like Richard Hamilton? Good ol Rip has been looking for a place to use his services and I think we could offer a good spot for him. At 36 he wouldn't offer much more than experience and a few solid serviceable minutes when we need him, but I feel like these sorts of additions are the ones that can help us come playoff time. Even if he didn't provide much of a spark in his play he could without a doubt offer valuable advice to CJ (and Barton)... If I could wave a magic wand, I would get Wilson Chandler for something like Wright, Trob, and a 1st rounder, then pick up Rip on vet minimum to round things off.... Opinions??
Rip Hamilton, eh? His three-point shot went up and down too often for my tastes. Even though he had some great distance-shooting seasons, he was the wizard of mid-range. I don't think he's young enough to get open for his comfort-zone shots anymore. I like the creativity and the general idea, but I'd probably pass on Rip.
Sub in Ray Allen or Jermaine O'Neal and you've got yourself a deal, though.
While I really like Chris Kamen as a bench player, I havent liked him as a starter. I find it actually bogs down the offense and the defense for sure suffers. Conversely, the bench suffers as well both in terms of chemistry and defense. So my question is this, IF Joel is going to be out for a little while longer, should the blazers put Meyers with the starters and move Kamen back to the bench where he can solidify the post for he second unit (which Meyers still cant do and LA CAN do for the starters)
The Blazers are between a rock and a hard place here. If Aldridge is out for any length of time, their space will also fill up with lava. There aren't many good answers to the predicament other than keep your feet moving fast and try not to get burned.
Your observations are dead on regarding the starting unit and bench. Expectations are lower with the reserves, the bar to succeed much more attainable. Moving into Portland's starting lineup is like moving from a non-speaking chorus part to becoming one of the stars of the show. You have to know more, do more, keep up. Chris Kaman's scoring and rebounding are brilliant off the bench, rich gravy on a mound of mashed potatoes. They aren't quite enough to make up for his shortcomings as a starter, responsible for the whole meal.
The obvious problem: the Blazers aren't suiting up anyone who would do better. Kaman has size, experience, can play in the paint, and he rebounds consistently. That's something. Leonard just posted a fantastic week but his shots came from outside, usually straight away. That's the repertoire of a power forward in Portland's offensive scheme, not a center. Put Leonard in for Aldridge and you might get results. Put Leonard in for Lopez and you'll miss defense (help and individual), intimidation, post moves, court awareness...it'll get ugly. Meanwhile Meyers will get zero shots in his wheelhouse, get beat up by flying elbows from behemoths, and his new-found confidence will ebb.
If I were the Blazers I would be doing the following right now, in this order:
1. Asking the doctor how long until Lopez gets back. Huh? Huh? Please, please, please?
2. Asking the same question about Joel Freeland.
3. If I didn't like the answers to 1 and 2, I'd put out the Bat Signal for Jermaine O'Neal, like, yesterday.
4. If all that failed, Kaman would be my starter as well. If I couldn't stomach that, my next guy at center might be Thomas Robinson rather than Meyers Leonard. Leonard would be my choice at power forward or as a bench center where the requirements are lesser and looser.
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