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Is Dwight Howard the Big One that Got Away for Portland?

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A reader wants to know how the Trail Blazers summer could have gone better. One suggestion predominates.

NBA: Orlando Magic at Atlanta Hawks Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Time for a Friday Mailbag! If you have a Portland Trail Blazers question, send it to blazersub@gmail.com.

Dave

Now that we are almost to the All Star Break, would love your opinion of what we did this past summer compared to what could have been, given how our other targets have also performed. For example, would you still want Parsons and Howard realizing that no ET, no AC and most likely no Mo? Pau Gasol with his injuries? Mozgov, Mahimi? Realizing that the guys who stayed at home for max or near max deals did so because of CBA rules (eg no Whiteside, no Derozan, no dummond), in all honest, what would have been the best , reasonable outcome from the summer.

Jeff (Blazergold)

Under those restrictions I’d say the following:

  1. Forget Chandler Parsons. We discussed his merits because the Blazers chased him and got spurned but I don’t think he was high on anybody’s wish list.
  2. I’ve been in the “Give Evan Turner Time” camp all year. His early play was painful to watch. He’s come around. Nevertheless, I don’t think we needed an injury to declare that he’s an awkward fit and spending $70 million on him may not have been the wisest move.
  3. Pau Gasol was just too old. He’s intriguing and I would have loved to have seen what his experience would have done for the locker room, but the Blazers needed 30-year-old Pau, not the 36-year-old version.
  4. Timofey Mozgov and Ian Mahinmi aren’t enough. They would have gotten lost in the sea of decent-ish big men without really transforming the team.

That leaves one name hanging out there: Dwight Howard. I was, and am, of the opinion that Howard would not solve Portland’s problems entirely. He came with risks. Either way, he’d have gotten them closer than they are now. He’s averaging 13.6 points on 64% shooting with 12.9 total rebounds, 4.3 offensive in 29.4 minutes per game. That blows away every frontcourt player in a Portland uniform. His blocked shots are down from his career rate but that still equals Portland’s best. Given the state of the team, there’s no basketball-related reason to avoid him. (It’s worth noting that the state of the team now and the state the team was perceived to be in last summer don’t share a common border.) Howard’s $23 million would be hard to swallow and would have taken some dancing to meet. However just on the face of it if you ask whether the Blazers would be better off now with Howard instead of Evan Turner and Meyers Leonard—or Turner and Moe Harkless OR Festus Ezeli OR Ed Davis—in no case does the “Turner-Player X” combo compare.

The problem in pinning your only real hope on a single free agent is getting that free agent to come. But as always, we’ll remind you that the Blazers didn’t just walk into that situation like Little Red Riding Hood. Missed opportunities over multiple seasons have conspired to leave the Blazers in “two-strikes, only-a-homer-will-do” situations. They’ve shown that they don’t have the bat speed or eye to avoid the strikeout. The simple narrative says Howard chose to go somewhere else. Aggregate free-agent wooing and decision-making records paint a more complex and bleaker story. That was, and remains, a bigger issue than Dwight working out better in hindsight.

Hi Dave,

A few years back you were in love with the idea of getting Mirotic. Seems he's available now. Are you still in love? Does he make sense? If so, what would you give up?

-Evan aka So Harkless (in Philly trying to pretend like the Sixers aren't creeping in on my time spent with first true love the Blazers)

Dear Dave,

I saw on SB Nation that the Bulls are looking to move Nikola Mirotic. I think he would be a solid pickup for the Blazers, but I don't know if the Blazers really have any players that the Bulls would want and the Blazers would be willing to give for Mirotic.

Do you like Mirotic? Who could the Blazers move to make the trade happen?

William

Dave-o

Chicago’s wanting to get rid of Mirotic finally I hear. Could the Blazers get him and how much would he help?

Bryan O

I shared three versions of this question to illustrate that I often get multiple inquiries even on relatively minor topics, let alone huge issues. Sometimes I also get asked, “Why haven’t you answered my question?” One of the simplest reasons is that I did, but it just came under a different name than yours. I’d ask if your question gets answered this way, you count it as yours. Predominance of a topic often spurs me to choose it so your e-mail still contributed.

In any case, I covered this topic a little bit ago but yeah, I’d do it. Defense would continue to be a problem but offensively I’d take the range and potential of Nikola Mirotic over most any Blazers frontcourt player right now outside of Meyers Leonard. I wouldn’t give up a high first-rounder for Mirotic but I’d give the Cleveland pick and Ed Davis. I’d also give Mason Plumlee, assuming the Blazers don’t plan to re-sign him. Plumlee might tempt Chicago too.

This is another issue, though. We can only talk about the Blazers getting Mirotic because his stock is falling. The Blazers don’t have the contract-to-talent ratio to trade for a guy who’s stock is rising without touching CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard. I like (not love, anymore) Mirotic but he’s not even going to come close to turning around the season. Nor will any mid-season trade the Blazers can afford. So why do it? Unless a low-hanging kumquat is dangling out there to be plucked, it might be better to wait until summer and try a more coordinated re-tooling.

Dave,

Trade deadline’s approaching. Who would you be saddest to see go?

Mike

I’m going to go off the board and say Terry Stotts. He’s not likely to be a trade-deadline loss but no team enduring a season like this leaves secure footing for their coach. I would mourn the complete loss of a Lillard-McCollum backcourt more, I suppose, but that won’t happen. Trading away one of them would be semi-sad but might be necessary. Everybody else on the team has to be considered available and I’ve already processed through my anticipatory grief about that. But Stotts has done as much for this franchise over the last five years as anyone. Obviously he couldn’t have done it without talented players but in the current light, Portland’s runs into the second round and the confidence with which his teams have played look even more impressive. This team wouldn’t be the same without Stotts on the sideline. (I know...for some of you that’s exactly the point.) I think at this juncture I’d mourn him the most.

Keep sending those questions to blazersub@gmail.com!

—Dave blazersub@gmail.com / @Blazersedge / @DaveDeckard