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Could the Trail Blazers Have an Ace Up Their Sleeve?

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Some are rooting for a sneaky trade, others just want to see Meyers Leonard regain his form.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers-Media Day Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

With training camp underway for the Portland Trail Blazers (and Carmelo Anthony safely in Oklahoma City now), fan dreams are turning to internal development and filling out the corners of the roster. Portland’s structural basics are set. Could a surprise contribution from inside or outside the franchise tip the scales? That’s the subject of this multi-question Blazer’s Edge Mailbag.

Dave,

If Houston is looking to dump Eric Gordon and we should know what bigs are part of future plans by mid season. Could we make a worth while mid season trade? I sure think Gordon would be a great fit in the Blazers back court rotation. What do you think?

Steve

Hi Dave,

Would do you think about Meyers Leonard for Matthew Dellavedova? He would certainly bring us a good PG backup, and we could clear up some of the logjam with the bigs.

Maybe his defense would become contagious and spreading to the entire backcourt. He has proven he can be a good floor general for the 2nd unit and hold his own with 1st units for the most part.

Would you do this? I would love to get your and the BE communities input on this.

Thanks Dave,

From: Commonsense Blazer Fan, aka "Gary"

Here’s the first thing you need to think of when considering adding guards: How expensive can the backcourt get? Keep in mind that the Blazers liked Allen Crabbe well enough to match the Brooklyn Nets offer for him last summer, paying him between $18-19 million per year. He shot three-pointers well. He was young. The only real problem with him was that contract. It proved untenable enough that they traded him away for nothing.

When considering guard additions in the current environment, talent and fit aren’t enough. You have to look at aggregate backcourt cost and availability of minutes.

Eric Gordon will make $13 million this season. Combining him with Evan Turner would leave the Blazers paying $30 million per year for their back-up guards. Add in Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum and Portland would shell out $80 million—about 80% of a normal team’s salary cap—for their backcourt. That’s minimum. The number would go up each of the next two seasons. Adding Dellavedova would be a relative bargain at “only” $77 million aggregate for the guard platoon. That’s not Crabbe-level insane, but it’s still pretty crazy.

Realistically the Blazers would get marginal utility from a fourth guard anyway. They need to keep Lillard and McCollum on the floor as much as practical. Turner is next in line. Acquiring an expensive reserve would mean paying a bloody fortune for 15 minutes per game. Given those restrictions, would either Gordon or Dellavedova give them that much more than Shabazz Napier or Random Replacement Player?

If the Blazers trade away Turner, all bets are off. But that’ll be hard given his contract. And to be fair, Turner is bigger and a better defender than either Gordon or Delly...qualities in short supply in Portland’s backcourt.

For all these reasons, I don’t see either player in a Portland uniform anytime soon.

@DaveDeckard Do you think that Leonard's training is trying to seize the open 4 spot, or trying be the first in line behind Nurkic?

@SchuckLaw

First of all, caveat emptor, especially when you’re buying off-season redemption stories. I have no doubt about Meyers Leonard’s resolve. His physical abilities have never been in question. He needs to put it all together on the floor consistently, constantly, and capably. That’s never happened. If this year will be different, he needs to show it.

Given that, Leonard will take any minutes he can get, anywhere possible. His actual role and position might come down to a couple questions. Can he hit a corner or side three, or at least face up from 16 feet at an angle? He’d prosper as a forward. Can he set a good high screen? At that point he can play center. I like him more at the center position myself but he has to be ready for either.

Effectiveness on defense will prove (or disprove) Leonard’s worthiness no matter which position he fills. Leonard can move and jump, but his quick-twitch reflexes are pedestrian and he hasn’t been an intimidating defender. Portland’s guards can get away with that because they score 20 per game. Leonard has no such luxury. He needs to make up for the backcourt, not exacerbate the problem they leave behind.

Health will be another critical factor for Meyers. He hasn’t been hearty and whole for a while now. If his shoulder’s good and his head is right, maybe we’ll see some of his promise regained.

A major renovation would be a tall order, but Leonard is 7’1. Here’s hoping.

If you have a Trail Blazers question, you can mail it to blazersub@gmail.com or tweet it @davedeckard. Some of you might be able to use 280 characters to do it too. Either way, we’ll do our best to answer.

—Dave / @davedeckard / @blazersedge / blazersub@gmail.com