You never quite know when a disaster could strike. Otherwise, you'd avoid them at all costs. There's a sense of inevitability to them, some more so than others. Live in southern California, expect earthquakes. Buy beachfront property in Florida, anticipate hurricanes yearly. Fan of the Portland Trail Blazers? Expect to come home empty-handed in the big name free agency sweepstakes every summer. Then, opt for Plans B through E to push the team into the next season.
Okay, okay...so that's a bit pessimistic, but the opportunities for the Blazers to sign big money free agents have been pretty limited over the last 5-6 years. With most of the salary cap tied up in the starting lineup of Damian Lillard, Wes Matthews, Nic Batum, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Robin Lopez, it was incredibly difficult to pursue anyone above the upper mid-tier. In Neil Olshey's time in Portland he's pursued two big men of note, Roy Hibbert and Enes Kanter.
Hibbert fell by the wayside and re-signed with the Indiana Pacers (and fell off a proverbial cliff production-wise). Meanwhile, Kanter signed his big money deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder and became arguably the most valuable and productive bench player in the league.
If you're a Portland fan you're accustomed to "value deals." They've materialized via trade - Robin Lopez - and then there's the eye for talent and expected growth signings such as Wes Matthews' deal. Some were blown away by the offer, but by the end of his deal he was significantly underpaid for his production. So, while Portland may have missed out on some of the bigger names, they've done pretty well in their decisions.
It's been covered extensively but Al-Farouq Aminu, Mason Plumlee and Ed Davis represent both sides of that value deal coin. Plumlee was brought in on a draft day trade, while Aminu and Davis both signed incredibly cap-friendly (front-loaded) contracts that will only get more valuable as they go on. While those kinds of deals are crucial to team building, in all honesty they're probably the third most valuable building block to a franchise outside of drafting star talent, and there's a crucial element missing there: The acquisition of truly top-flight talent in free agency.
If history holds true and the Trail Blazers fail to land one of the marquee big men, Hassan Whiteside, Dwight Howard or Al Horford, what do they do then? It's no secret that Portland's biggest shortcoming is in the frontcourt. However, with options limited and more than a couple teams in hot pursuit of just three players, someone is going to be left without a date to the prom.
With that in mind, we have here a list of players who for the most part are serving as a Free Agency Disaster Preparedness Kit. The FADPK (Fadpick) offers Blazers fans the opportunity to save free agency in the event that their dreams are squashed and none of the premier big men opt to sign. However, instead of focusing on the center position we'll be taking a look at another problem...Portland is facing backcourt depth and punch off the bench.
Currently the Blazers don't have anyone on their roster with any real experience at the backup point guard, shooting guard, or small forward positions. Free agents Allen Crabbe, Gerald Henderson, and Maurice Harkless took the bulk of the minutes at the 2-guard and small forward positions and accounted for 65 percent of the total bench point production, while CJ McCollum played the role of primary backup point guard.
With so many questions there, it may behoove the Blazers to take a look at the free agent marketplace to shore up some depth if they aren't keen on bringing one or any of them back next season.
The first name on the list is Kent Bazemore. In prepper terms, Bazemore is your alpha strategy if the Blazers can't sign their big man of choice and they get a behemoth offer on Crabbe. At 6-foot-5 he may seem a bit small to slide over to the small forward position but he has a ridiculous wingspan, checking in at a shade under 7 feet.
He's actually built quite a bit like Crabbe, and his game statistically compares very well. Both are knockdown shooters on the catch and shoot, Crabbe at 42.2 percent and Bazemore at 39.3 percent - both on over three attempts per game. If you look at their season totals, they're incredibly similar in a lot of ways.
There are some differences in their games; Bazemore is decidedly more "explosive" athletically. He's also a more adept defender than Crabbe at this point. It's worth noting however that there's nearly a three-year difference in age despite only a year difference in NBA experience. This is where Portland may end up with a bit of a deal. If Crabbe is priced out of their range, perhaps Bazemore is the guy who can come in and fill the void at a lesser price. The numbers being thrown around regarding Crabbe have been as high as $15-17 million if you believe the rumors. Meanwhile, the price variance on Bazemore has been anywhere from $10 million all the way up to $16 million.
To be honest it's a little weird to see Marvin Williams' name here. After initially being labeled a bust coming out of college, he's put together a pretty solid NBA career. He's grown his game significantly over the last few seasons. He's become a plus defender, a capable shooter from distance, he's capable of getting his own shot if necessary, and he has positional versatility. If you look at nearly every advanced measurement Williams is coming off the best season of his career; PER, TS%, TRB%, and win shares all peaked this past campaign.
If the Trail Blazers feel they are unable to resign Harkless, Williams could be a nice alternative. Williams rates as one of the best spot-up shooters in the league, converting spot-ups into points 42 percent of the time. Couple that with his incredible effectiveness in the pick-and-roll game as the roll man where he rated above guys like Andre Drummond, Enes Kanter, and Steven Adams and you've got what on paper could be the perfect player to plug in at the stretch four position for Portland. Someone who can operate out to the 3-point line, is lethal in the pick-and-roll game, AND he plays good-to-great defense. Um, yes please! Of course there's a catch; there's always a catch. At 30 years old there's certainly going to be some regression. This is a disaster preparedness kit after all, we're not squirreling away five-course meals.
If the Blazers are in a gambling mood they could go after someone like Eric Gordon. Once ordained as the next big thing, injuries have derailed the career of the combo guard. Now 27 years old, he's in the prime of his career but there's a lot of questions surrounding his durability. Portland could definitely work him into the fray though. A three-guard rotation of Lillard, McCollum, Gordon would mean that two of the three would be on the floor at all times. No more trapping or blitzing Dame or CJ when the other is off the floor. Gordon is incredibly prolific in the pick-and-roll, and would blend right into the Stottsfense. Among qualified players, Gordon finished No. 7 in the league in points per possession (PPP) at 0.95 in the pick-and-roll as the primary ball handler. That's above both Lillard and McCollum.
The question here is twofold: What's he going to cost and how much of a risk is he? In the past three seasons he's played 64, 61, and 45 games - that means he's missed over 30 percent of the possible games. Our friends at thebirdwrites.com aren't all that high on Gordon's production-to-cost ratio.
"Gordon have had their moments over the years, yet they rarely were decisive difference makers. New Orleans could likely do better with their cap space than spend it on a couple of players who have proven they'll never surpass average production on both sides of the floor."
For the right price, would it make sense for the Blazers to pursue Gordon to round out the backcourt rotation? If we're talking disaster preparedness, he's probably more of a luxury item. Like Tabasco sauce in an MRE, it's really nice to have but it's not going to save your life. But man, Tabasco is really good on MREs.
Evan Turner and Josh Smith are at different points in their career arcs but they're very similar in their utility usage. Think of them as NBA Swiss-Army knives- they'll work in a pinch but they won't be as good as a tool designed for that particular job.
First of all, neither is that effective as a primary shooter. Smith has a sub-30 percent career average from deep while Turner is hovering right around 30 percent, with his best season clocking in a 36.5 percent. Not exactly enough to draw a defense. However, they both offer playmaking, ball handling, rebounding, transition offense, and defense. While Smith's defense may be more fixated on his reputation, Turner ranked as one of the best pick-and-roll defenders in league. Coupled with Avery Bradley they formed what may have been the best two-man unit in the league at absolutely blowing up opposing pick-and-rolls. Turner is also extremely effective defensively off-ball. Where Portland wings may have fallen asleep at time last season away from the ball (sventh worst in the league) Turner was fantastic at denying good looks regularly (fourth best in the league).
If you take a flier on Smith you're hoping that he can return to his form of the season before last where he helped spark the Houston Rockets to the Western Conference Finals. Otherwise, signing him is probably akin to storing food in the pantry that's going to go bad in a week. I mean, sure it's okay now but in two weeks what do you do with it?
Alongside Smith there are a few other free agents here who could serve as reclamation projects in Portland. While the players listed above are the bulk of the preparedness kit, the CYA (cover your assets), the remainder of the list is really a personal preference list with the exception of one. Gerald Green is a selfish choice thrown in solely because he's an absolute athletic freak and if the Blazers miss out on landing some game-altering free agent, I at least want to see 7-10 absolutely jaw dropping, gravity defying dunks. That is the price it will cost to gain my attention. However, he's not the "one" I'm speaking of.
I couldn't realistically make this list without including former Trail Blazers guard Jerryd Bayless. "Rex" has been on six teams in eight years, but in his time since he left Portland he seems to have discovered his niche. Last season in Milwaukee he shot over 43 percent from deep, stepped in as a starter when their point guard situation was up in the air, and provided top-notch defense in the pick-and-roll game. In a vacuum, Bayless probably fits best of all the free agent guards as Portland's third guard. He's capable of running a team for a short time, can create off the dribble for himself and others, and he's a reliable and even deadly option from the perimeter. Bayless could prove to be incredibly cost effective insurance in case either Lillard or McCollum miss a handful of games next year.
Coming off a contract valued at $3 million last season, even with the cap rising it's very easy to see Bayless as a player who commands $7 million a season - which in the grand scheme of things is only slightly more than the MLE in the coming years.
SBNation's Tom Ziller released a list of the Top 117 upcoming free agents recently. If the Trail Blazers are unable to land one of the premium bigs out there, who should they turn to? Does that alter how you feel about bringing back their own free agents? Who makes your list on your disaster kit? Who are you hoping the Blazers take in the bunker, errrr on the court next season?
Let us know below!