NBA free agency 2020 is in full swing, and the off-season is plenty active with big names like Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Gordon Hayward in various stages of motion. Today Dia Miller and Dave Deckard are going to interrupt the barrage of free agency news with a special feature, the 1st Annual, “Not on MY Team” Team.
The qualifications for making the “NOMT” squad are simple: you have to be a demonstrably good player, maybe great. For whatever reason, the idea of you joining the Portland Trail Blazers also has to make us go, “Ewwww...no thanks.” We’ll list our teams by position, then ask for yours.
Also stay tuned at the end of this feature for an extra-special announcement!
Dave: So, these players are good. Admirable. Maybe All-League or even All-Time Great players. The NBA respects, fears, and loves them. Most GM’s would covet them. But not us. Even though we admit they fall somewhere in between good and otherworldly on the talent spectrum, we wouldn’t want them anywhere near the current Trail Blazers roster.
Who are they and why don’t they fit? Shall we start with point guards? Which good-to-great point guard don’t you want on this team?
Dia: this is going to be a tough one for me, simply because you know how much I hate to reject players. There are very few players I am vocal about not wanting on my team. Obviously, I have favorites, and some that I really don’t care one way or another about, but for the sake of this article, I’m going to channel my inner negative Nancy. Actually, the point guard position is the easiest one for me.
I don’t want Russell Westbrook. Ever. Ever ever. When his name started coming up as a potential trade, I held my breath and crossed all my fingers that we wouldn’t somehow end up with him. The guy has obviously had a good career. He was adored in Oklahoma, and he’s somehow managed to build a cult-like fan base that will defend him to the death on twitter. But the fact is, he is not the player he used to be. You don’t get the nickname Westbrick for making your shots. He’s hot headed and hasn’t been backing that up lately, and that’s not what I want to see in Portland. That, combined with the ongoing rivalry that fans have created between him and Damian Lillard, seems like a recipe for disaster.
Dave: I used to like Russ. This version, not so much. But I’ll go a step further and say Kyrie Irving. I know he’s got skills. I know he’s won a championship. At least Westbrook...I mean, his faults come largely from going super hard, getting tunnel vision, I don’t like it, but I can see it. Irving is just, ugh. I envision him coming on the team, wanting the ball always and forever, trying to supersede Damian Lillard, and just not caring.
Shooting guard is easy for me too. I brought up a facetious James Harden trade on Twitter the other day and it split the room. About 70% of the audience said, “NOOOO!” The other 30% cited Harden’s awesome, game-bending abilities and suggested the Blazers would be lucky to get him.
Personally, I’m in the “NOOOO!” camp. Too little defense. Too many playoffs fizzles. And that game! It’s like late-career Charles Barkley had a child with late-career Bernard King, and baby decided he could shoot threes. I acknowledge the raw talent and the inherent difficulty in doing what Harden does, but he’d break this team’s offense apart. Dame’s scoring and Jusuf Nurkic’s passing just wouldn’t matter. If you surrounded Harden with two Robert Covingtons and two Zach Collinses, maybe? As it is, no way.
Who’s your shooting guard?
Dia: I agree with you about Harden. I think he’s a solid player, which is evidenced by how hard teams are currently fighting for him (and the fact that he turned down 50 million dollars). But I don’t think he's right for Portland. I don’t necessarily have an issue with him, or even dislike him. But he needs the ball in his hands. I think Dame would end up giving it to him because that’s the kind of player he is, but I’m not sure that would be a good thing. Harden is solid, he’s talented, he’s skilled. I just don’t see him being the kind of player we like. I don’t think he would fit, and I think Portland fans would not be very accepting.
How about small forward? I’m going to go with Paul George on this one. How could I not after the trash talking that took place in the bubble? I wasn’t a big fan of his before that, but that pushed me over the edge. Again, a solid talent, but not someone I want to see on our team. I’m seeing a little bit of a pattern here. I’m predictable. Even if a player is talented and capable, if they don’t seem like they’d fit the culture the Blazers have created, I’m not taking them.
Dave: Auuuugh. Dia, no! I consider Paul George the archetype of what the Blazers need. I’d take him in a heartbeat. You can count the number of forwards I think would fit better on one finger. (Hint: His name starts with Khris and ends with Middleton.) But that’s ok. That’s why we do this! But seriously, if we can get Paul George and you say no, I’m going to head to my room and pout for at least 45 minutes. Maybe 48.
My “no-no” small forward is the guy who makes more money for doing less stuff than anybody in the league: Andrew Wiggins. As with Harden, I respect the scoring. Not everyone can do it. But this guy crosses the Michael Beasley line for me. Beasley has been my benchmark for desperation for years. If your team thinks signing him is a good idea, you’ve got problems bigger than he can fix.
There’s an asterisk or two. Obviously Golden State will need him more now that Klay Thompson will miss the season. We’re going to give the Warriors a pass, but most any other team that needs Wiggins is also a team Wiggins won’t help. He’s a walking paradox, and you’re going to spend $30 million per year figuring that out.
Let’s move to big forward. Who makes your list there?
Dia: Before I move on I just have to say this— if I were making actual choices for the actual team, they might be different. But from the perspective of my own fandom, where the people that they are and the personalities that they have matter just as much to me as their skill, I can’t justify Paul George. He might be a great fit skill wise. But I just don't like him. Welcome to my brain, it’s a complicated place.
As for power forward, I’m going with Kyle Kuzma. His first strike is that he is a Laker. His second strike is that he is a Laker. Seriously though, I just can’t handle him. If we are talking about players for our current roster, in my opinion we need to be bringing in defense, and Kuzma—well, he isn’t that. I have no problem with guys that know their ability and talk and can back it up. But every now and then you get guys that really love to talk themselves up, but they just aren’t playing in a way that constitutes the ability to trash talk that much. To me, Kuzma is one of those guys.
Dave: Kuuuuuuuuuzzzzzzz! But the Lakers would probably let him go for the right price!
OK, nevermind. I’ll make a confession. Once upon a time Carmelo Anthony would have filled this position for me. But that was old ‘Melo. This new, kindly-grandfather version is actually pretty cool. It just goes to show you that these things can change.
Nope, for me it’s going to be an old friend, LaMarcus Aldridge. It’s not because of 2015 hate either! When that all went down, I defended his right to choose as he did. I’m appreciative of the time he spent in Portland and how good he became. But it’s over. The reunion that many Blazers fans envision is based on 2013 Aldridge. It’s 2020. The expectations would be so high and the return on investment wouldn’t come close to matching it. If they brought him in as a center (which he is now...I’m only placing him at the four because that’s what Portland remembers) to back up Jusuf Nurkic for 22 minutes per game, maybe. But he makes $24 million and he’s a starter in San Antonio, so he wouldn’t like that. For me, it’s a no.
Which brings us to the center position. Which big man is anathema for you?
Dia: I have to admit, Aldridge was one that crossed my mind, but seeing as this is a Trail Blazers piece, I didn’t want to deal with the backlash in the comments. He is well loved in Portland, and for all the people who call me out for loving the guys we have, there are far more that can’t get over our past and want to keep bringing it back around.
For the big man, I’m gonna get a little controversial here. Hassan Whiteside. Now, I’m aware this is borderline cheating since he’s already on our team, but it’s our story and I can make up the rules as we go, right? Right. So Whiteside. The guy is super nice and fits in great, and he’s maybe my favorite to follow on social media. But his contract is huge, and while I don’t question his skill or ability, he drives me absolutely crazy. Of all the people I yell at during the games (the other team, the refs, the coaching staff, the players, my children...), he is the one I yell at the most. “Get your hands up! Don’t let him shoot that! Cover that guy! Why aren’t you moving! You look like you need a nap!” While he has incredible numbers, he seems to hit a wall during every game where he just, stops. I don’t know if he just runs out of energy or what but it’s a regular occurrence and I just can’t take it.
Dave: You stole mine! I suggested a couple years ago that the Blazers should take a swing at him. They did it later than I suggested, but full credit...they tried. But it’s time for this experiment to end. He’s a great shot-blocker, a fantastic player when he can stay in his zone. That zone is too small, his ability outside it too limited, and as you point out, he doesn’t do the little things to compensate. Sometimes looking good and being good are two different things. I wish him well and want him to succeed, just probably somewhere else.
What about you, readers? Who makes your personal “Not on MY Team” Team? Do you disagree with some of our selections or are you nodding your head right now? Share in the comments below!
And now, for the big announcement...
The two if us have enjoyed working together the last few weeks. We’re also aware of the hole left on Thursday where Tara “Team Mom” Biggs’ podcast used to lie. As it turns out, Dia’s takes on audio are just as distinctive as they are in print. If all goes well, on Thanksgiving Day you’ll hear the premier of “Dave and Dia”, a new Blazer’s Edge podcast. Danny Marang and guests will still be handling our usual Monday show. This will be in addition...and somewhat different. It would make us thankful if you’d make plans to join us, subscribe, and tell your friends. Who knows? We might even have reader guests on at some point. We want you to be part of the show and a big part of our community.