Monday, June 05, 2006

The toronto deal and other musings....

a lot of talk recently about a proposed trade of jack and the #4 to toronto for the #1. i think i'm in agreement with the vast majority of blazer fans (at least according to oregonlive's online poll) in saying no way. now, i must qualify this opinion by saying that i obviously am not privy to the scouting resources of an nba gm (or gm by committee in our case). maybe kevin pritchard truly is the next theo epstein-wunderkind, and he sees something in one of the top prospects that the rest of us don't. maybe he is absolutely sure, for instance, that tyrus thomas is as chad ford recently quoted randy livingston as saying, "...a hybrid between tracy mcgrady and kevin garnett." if this is the case, then we will just have to trust his judgement. after all, he does get paid a large chunk of money to make these kind of judgement calls. but from this casual observer's point of view, there doesn't seem to be enough evidence that any one of the top 5 or 6 players this year has enough sure-fire star quality to justify giving up a fine young prospect like jack just to move up 3 spots...

...in my previous post i discussed a trade with ny: miles, randolph or ratliff, plus the #4 pick for jalen rose's expiring contract, mo taylor's expiring contract and ny's 07 1st rounder). blogger extraordinaire dave emailed to point out that chicago has the right to swap picks with ny in 07. however, as i understand it, they can either swap picks in 06 or 07, meaning that if chicago keeps this year's #2, then ny's 07 1st rounder is still available. i know it would take a lot of pieces falling into place, but i still think that the chance at having two top 5 picks in 07, plus significant cap relief, would justify the risks of this move. your thoughts?....

...speaking of jajack; if toronto really has their sights on acquiring jack to address their point guard deficiencies (he did play college ball with chris bosh), how about one (or both) of our later picks, plus jack, for tononto's 07 1st rounder? if i'm bryan colangelo, the prospect of adding lamarcus aldridge and jack to their core of bosh and villanueva sounds pretty tantalizing. i could see that group of guys competing for the playoffs in the east in a very short time, with (i have to switch to ford-speak here) tremendous upside and an extremely high ceiling. my only hesitation as a blazer fan would be that toronto could conceivably make that turn around too soon, and we could end up trading two picks and a point guard prospect for a pick in the low to mid teens; definately not worth it. however, if the raptors did suffer through another rough development season, and we make the ny trade... okay maybe having the top 3 picks in the 07 draft is a little far fetched, but still...

...if we do end up keeping the draft pick this year, who's our # 1 guy? i scour the internet almost daily for juicy draft tidbits ("my name is joe, and i have a blazer problem." "hi joe."), and as far as i can tell, every single so-called expert has a different opinion on who the #1 guy is and who fits the blazers' plans best. now, i have already stated the limits of my expertise, but this is the internet, where you don't really have to know what you're talking about, so i'll take my best shot at rating the prospects as i see them, and how they relate to the blazers. i actually think that the 06 draft may be stronger than people think, although i still would be real tempted to go for the big score in 07. one thing that seems apparent with this year's crop is that they seem to be very grounded, solid work ethic, good head on their shoulders types of kids. roy, aldridge, morrison, thomas (i don't know much about bargnani), the common denominator in their scouting reports is their coachability and drive to succeed. now, drive alone doesn't always translate to greatness, but it is a crucial and often underestimated component.

Joe's Big Board
  1. lamarcus aldridge: with the recent decline/evolution of the center position, i think aldridge may be the proto-typical "new" nba 5. while he doesn't have the height or bulk of centers past, he does have a long wingspan, good defensive timing and footwork, and a solid foundation of fundamentals that should allow him to thrive in an up-tempo game. kind of like emeka okafor, but slightly more athletic. how nice would it be to see a blazer big man run the floor, finish above the rim, and defend the opposing teams best post player (and no, joel pryzbilla doesn't count. i love him to death, but c'mon. next to amare or dwight howard, he looks like chris dudley). i think this is the safest pick for the blazers, as he fills a desperate need in the middle and provides, hopefully, a piece of the championship puzzle, if not necesarily the star piece.
  2. tyrus thomas: ok, yesterday i had thomas at #5 or #6, and i'll admit the chad ford piece had a lot to do with changing my mind. i know all the arguments for or against thomas, that we all fell in love with one game when he kinda ate aldridge for lunch. i know that he also disappeared at times during the season. i know about his upside and "nuclear athleticism". what i didn't know much about was the drive and mentality. ok, so obviously the kid is soundbiting, and livingston is on his payroll, but the quotes sounded very reminiscent of dwayne wade to me. wade's mentality, mcgarnett body... maybe i should move him up to #1
  3. brandon roy: roy gets the nod here over bargnani simply because i don't know much about bargnani, whereas i've watched roy's college career from just down I-5. roy has that most old school and elusive of skills- a floor game. remember guys who had floor game? danny ainge, james worthy, joe dumars, dare i say it... nate mcmillan. i loved those guys. i'm ecstatic to see players like tayshaun prince, josh howard, raja bell, even ginobli redefining the position of ultimate role player. even new superstars-in-waiting lebron and d-wade are showing the benefits of having a complete game; they are complete players. where will roy rank in this new guard? hard to tell, but i'm guessing better than most people think.
  4. andrea bargnani: i base all my bargnani opinion on unreliable internet scouting reports and the occasional italian highlight real, so i won't pretend i know more than i do. i do know this: dirk nowitzki just dropped 50 on the suns. that's 5-0. dallas is in the finals. if bargnani turns out to be the next nowitzki every team that doesn't draft him will look like jackasses. i hope the blazers have good scouting. no matter what, i would definately take him over...
  5. adam morrison: frankly, i wouldn't have morrison in my top 5, or even my top 10 or 15, but i have included him over the likes of rudy gay and patrick o'bryant because i am running out of steam and want to address the stache issue before i sign off. if the blazers draft morrison i will personally drive to one center court and flog kevin pritchard with a sack of dead cats. please god, no... anybody but morrison. now understand, i like adam morrison. i rooted hard for the zags. i dig spokane, and mark few, and the new west coast powerhouse. one of my best friends went to gonzaga. i will even go one record as saying that if the blazers don't draft the stache, and he turns into the next larry legend, and leads atlanta to eleven championships a la bill russell, i will never, ever fault blazer management. i would actually love to see morrison become a dominant, throw-back player, evoking memories of pistol pete and jo jo white (is jo jo dead? somebody please let me know). but if i were being paid buckets of money to make hard decisions, i'd have to pass on the kid with the #4. i simply don't think he will be able to get his shot off nearly as easily against the new breed of designated perimiter defensive stoppers like tayshaun, quentin ross, bruce bowen, etc... as a matter of fact, i think the evolution of the perimeter defensive specialist will hurt guys like morrison more than anyone. with the new hand checking rules, super quick guards will be much harder to stop than designated shooters like morrison who can be neutralized with physical, off the ball position (and that's the key word, position) defense. i know the kid is hard nosed and aggressive, but bruce bowen or ron artest would have him reduced to tears by halftime. this is not loyola marymount and pepperdine, this is the nba. i see morrison as the poor mine's mike dunleavy or wally szerbiak (i know its not spelled right, i'm too lazy to look it up), who in turn are a poor man's larry bird, which makes morrison a homeless man's larry bird (if you haven't already, check out bill simmons' page 2 column where he explains his definition of the "homeless man's" designation. simmons is the best sports columnist working today by about five hundred kabillion miles. seriously, who even comes close? canzano couldn't clean bill's sheets)....
...alright, i'll quit ranting, but while i wish ammo well and hope he lives up to the billing, i'd rather pick gay, o'bryant, shelden williams, ronnie brewer, randy foye, cedric simmons or tiago splitter if i'm the blazers, in somewhat that order. i think shelden is my draft sleeper. remember when the bulls traded elton brand for chandler and curry. if not for the mind-numbing incompetence of isiah thomas (see my previous post), that goes down as one of the worst big time draft trades in history. maybe not mchale and the chief for joe barry carrol, but close. even now, would john paxson trade the #2 and chandler for elton? gee, let me think about that one for about a nanosecond. the knock on elton at the time was that he had a "limited ceiling". that's the same knock on shelden. while he may not turn out as good at sir elton, i would personally take his draft rights over carlos boozer's contract...

...well i guess that's enough for tonight kiddies. i'd like to thank dave and both of the members of my immediate family whom i forced to read this blog. i won't forget you when simmons calls me to new england to enter the holy temple of the sports writers and eat of the fatted lamb......

Friday, May 26, 2006

Well, i suppose things look pretty dire if you're a portland trailblazers fan these days. the ownership situation is in turmoil, the gm is a lame duck, the team just finished with the worst record in the nba, its highest payed players are malcontent, fragile, or just plain not that good. and then to top it off, the draft lottery drops a truckload of fresh pig entrails on our collective front yard, dropping us down to the fourth pick in a lottery charitably described as weak. could things be any worse? seriously, would anyone really be surprised if nate mcmillan simply said, "to hell with it, keep your 5M a year, i'm taking my shirt-buttoned-all-the-way-up-with-no-tie act to tnt, or garfield high school!"? HOWEVER, i for one think that things are not as bad as they may seem. if blazer management (as the schonz used to say on the radio, "whereverrrr you may be!") can just keep their heads while the team suffers through another horrible season without pulling any super boneheaded moves (see daves posts in blazerthoughts about b level players), we just might be able to position ourselves to look pretty good in 07.
first order of business is to call isiah thomas. right now. having zeke run the knicks is like having that friend who, in spite of a nasty coke habit and a questionable record, has some kind of aura about him (or her) that makes rich people trust them to do things like run nightclubs, and when you're sitting at the viper room at 4am drinking free don julio margaritas you're feeling just a twinge of guilt, but what the hell, you better get while the gettings good because he'll probably get fired for dipping into the till. (interesting side note, i actually went to the viper room, and it registered an 8.7 on the unintentional comedy scale, but that's another story). so here's my plan: offer zeke ratliff, miles, and brian skinner for jalen rose and maurice taylor and their bloated expiring contracts, plus draft pick consideration, either one or both of ny's 06 or their 07 first rounder. ok, look at this for a second: if larry is still there, he would like to have a theo ratliff to come off the bench and spell promising channing frye for 20 minutes a game, and he may be just egotistical enough to think he can turn miles into the next tayshaun prince. after all, he did pretty well with his last talented-but-troubled blazer cast-off, turning rasheed into the missing piece of the pistons championship puzzle. it's also well known that isiah has a thing for miles. he may be the only gm in the league who would take on miles. plus, other than a potential draft pick, what's ny giving up? even letting rose and taylor walk won't put them within a sniff of the salary cap, so why not get something? i'm not sure teams will be lining up to trade solid young prospects for jalen rose's expiring contract.
from the blazers perspective, yeah, rose and taylor don't exactly hark back to the years of clyde and buck williams, but so what? we need to rid ourselves of ratliff and his 40 games a year and miles and... well, where would i start? anyway, this move would accomplish two very significant things:
First: as dave at blazer thoughts has eloquently stated, you cannot build a team around b level talent. you need to bring in your star player, establish a style around him, and then complement him a mix of young prospects and solid veterans. i like zach randolph (though i wouldn't cry if he were traded) but he is not the star to build a team around. how do the blazers get a franchise player? unfortunately, these kinds of players very rarely are traded, and if they are it is usually late in their careers, or for a similar caliber player. the days of building a team through blockbuster trades is probably over, for better or for worse. john canzano can babble on all he wants about vince carter, shaq or jason kidd, but give me a break, would any of those guys have carried us to a championship? even to the finals? i don't think so. in terms of free agents, even if the blazers were under the cap, it is equally rare for superstars to bolt to free agency. quick, name the biggest free agent signing of last year... larry hughes? free agency is a useful tool to aquire role players who are attracted to playing for a solid franchise with an established or emerging star. so it appears that the only viable option for the blazers to get their star is the draft. which brings us to our current position at the four spot. i know that this draft has taken a lot of heat for not having the big superstar prospect. however, i would be willing to bet any amount of money that at least one player of this draft, and not necesarily the first pick, will go on to be an all-star. how do i know this? look at history. look at every draft since 1980. there's ALWAYS a star in there. take a weak draft, say 1986. brad daugherty was the no. 1 pick for the cavs, followed by boston's tragic pick of len bias and the warriors' usually crappy pick of chris washburn. washburn, bias, roy tarpley, not to mention the gregarious john salley, the surly walter "don't call me marion" berry and the outright psychosis of dennis rodman, 86 was truly a dangerous and demented year in draft history. however, throw in nate mcmillan, chuck person, kevin duckworth and jeff hornacek and you have at least a few all star teams. so this year, you draft whoever you feel is the best player, then play them. at this point, it seems that no one really knows who's going 1-3, so take the best of what's left and give them chris paul-type minutes. if it's aldridge, great! start him at center and see if he can cut it. is he the next dwight howard? let's find out. if it's bargnani, super! stick him in at the 3, the 4 and the 5. if boris diaw can play center, why not a 7 footer who can handle and shoot from three? rudy gay, brandon roy, anybody but adam morrison please god.
of course the real prize comes in 07. let's just say for kicks that isiah is far gone on a sterno binge and he agrees to give up the knicks 07 first rounder, reasoning that once he fires larry and takes the helm his "steet cred" will immediately put in check the egos of starbury, franchise, crawford, miles, etc... riiigghhhtttt! obviously, the blazers are going to suck again, so we could conceivably be watching the 07 ncaa championship game, featuring defending champion florida with joakim noah and his 22, 14, and 6bpg, versus ohio state and greg oden's 32, 12 and 4. does anyone else remember the 84 ncaa championship between georgetown and houston? imagine watching that game and thinking, we have a shot at not just one, but both of these guys! (insert pained expression as you remember what really happened in the 84 draft)
by my calculations, with help from hoopshype.com, even after picking up team options on telfair, jack, khryapa, and webster, keeping dixon, signing two high lottery picks and spending 7-8 M on free agents, we could enter july of 07 with a roster of:
point guards: jack 1.2M, telfair 2.6M shooting guards: webster 3M, dixon 2.9 small forwards: khryapa 1.9M, bargnani (or rudy gay or brandon roy with martell sliding over to the 3) 3M power forward: z-bo 13.3M and oden or noah 5M. that's 8 roster spots, at about 33M, leaving 7 open spots and roughly 25M plus exceptions to fill them. you may point out that i have omitted steve blake, travis outlaw and pryzbilla. this is not a value judgement, i'm simply going with who we have under contract.
the point of this rambling screed is this: the blazers are going nowhere until they obtain a centerpiece talent to build around, and then have the cap flexibility to surround that talent.