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, 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.