In recent years, at about this time of the off season, we've
had some healthy debates. Normally these discussions were centered on
the NBA Draft. Afterall, that's how this team was built. And, we will
continue to talk draft picks, but as I've mentioned, I'm not nearly as
interested in the draft this season, and I can't imagine you are
either- at least as much as you've been in the recent past.
time we're talking free agency, sprinkled with just a little draft
talk. Although right now, even when we talk draft, we're talking more
about what the Trail Blazers are going to do with their picks, rather
than who they're going to take. That's not to say they're not going to
select someone, because they most certainly are, but they also have
picks to sell or use in trades, and that's a very valuable thing this
season, in this economic situation.
words, it's a seller's market if you have picks, and a buyer's market
if you're under the salary cap. The Blazers find themselves in the
enviable position of possessing both luxuries. So, what do you do? Who
do you target, and how big a splash are you going to attempt to make?
thing we all have to remember is this Portland team won 54 games just
as it is. That doesn't mean you rest on that, but it also means that
major adjustments probably aren't necessary. I am finding that fans are
split when presented with the options here. It does sound like the
majority of people are all for making a move that doesn't compromise
the core of this team, or that disrupts the amazing chemistry that's
been created here.
I do get that you have to
seize opportunities when they are presented, and have to be confident
and even bold when working toward the future. Obviously, Kevin
Pritchard and his staff have been very courageous in the past, and have
rolled the dice at times. But, it's one thing to take chances when
you're rebuilding, and a another to risk what you've built once you've
arrived. In short, you've got a lot to lose now, and that hasn't been
the case in the recent past.
The one thing
that is very clear during this summer- there will be huge opportunities
out there. If there ever was a time to strike, this is probably as good
as it gets. That doesn't mean you have to jump on something just to
make a move, but if there's a no-brainer sitting in front of you,
pounce on it.
Last season, at the trade
deadline, just about everyone expected Portland to be an impact player
and pull the trigger. They were in possession of a huge expiring
contract (Raef LaFrentz's), but in the end there just wasn't anything
that made total sense. As I've said before, it probably would have been
the easier route to make a deal just to make one. I think it's clear
that they made the right move by not making one.
however, things are a bit different. The Blazers are going to be
somewhere between 6.5 and 7 million under the cap, and could
potentially be over 9 million under if they wanted to make a couple of
other moves with current players. That's good flexibility, and doesn't
even take into account the draft, and the fact that the Blazers have
picks number 24, 32, 38, 55, and 56. They also have a 3-million dollar
trade exception which was acquired in the Ike Diogu/Michael Ruffin
trade at the deadline.
What this all means is,
outside of the cap room, you've got the ability to make unbalanced
trades. In other words, they'll be able to make trades that are
unbalanced, taking more back than they send out. Being under the cap
gives you this option as well. If two teams involved in a trade are
both over the cap, then the 25% trade rule is invoked. The trade
between two teams can be no more than 125% plus $100,000 of the salary
given out for the trade to work under the terms of the CBA. If you're
under the cap, which Portland will be, the same rules don't apply. That
is what we talk about when we say Portland has flexibility.
can't tell you how many times people approach me with trade ideas. As
you know, I've got nothing to do with this, but I do like the
conversation and debate. Mostly, people talk about who they want to
trade for. The conversation usually slows down when we realistically
start talking about who Portland would have to give up. It's the
age-old problem- everyone wants the moon and doesn't want to give up
anything to get there. Or, they way over value pieces the Blazers have.
a trade happens, expect it to come on draft day. If history has shown
us anything it's that the Blazers don't sit still very well on this
annual sports holiday. Having an owner so deeply involved in the draft,
so educated about the process, and so willing to part with the
resources to make things happen doesn't hurt either.
for the free-agent market. I almost feel like we should look at the
free-agent market and the draft totally separately this year. I don't
usually feel that way, because there are always the sign-and-trade
options that go hand in hand with both options. But, because Portland
has the picks, and is also under the cap, we can take separate paths
As far as specific players go?
Judging every player like we would a stock, the market certainly gets
hot and cold on individuals with every passing day. For a while all I
got from fans were questions about Andre Miller, who could have been
had at the deadline. He can be had now. For various reasons, I haven't
heard you talking as much about him lately. The possibility of landing
Jason Kidd has also been hotly debated. But, without a doubt, the
player who has seen his stock rise to record levels as of late has been
Hedo Turkoglu. The reasons are obvious, and now he's playing under a
huge spotlight in the NBA Finals.
Magic fans don't want to hear this right now, and I don't blame them,
but Turkoglu, as important as he's been to the Magic's success this
postseason, won't be back in Orlando next season. He's going to opt out
of his contract that is paying him 6.8 million this season. He's
scheduled to make 7.3 million next year, but can and will do better. He
is now the hot free agent in this market.
teams projected to be under the cap right now include, Memphis (19.7
mill under), Detroit (19.6 under), Atlanta (17.8 under), OKC (17.1
under), Sacramento (13.7 under), Toronto (11.6 under), Portland (9.8
under), and Minnesota (7.8 under). Keep in mind, not all these teams
are going to use all of their space, as many, like OKC have players who
will be coming up on big pay days in the near future and they've got to
plan for that. And, these are only projections, as teams like Portland
would have to not exercise conditional guarantees to get to that 9.8
number (notably, Outlaw and Blake).
Turkoglu, there are only thought to be about three or four teams will a
realistic shot at landing him- Detroit (who's going to spend its money
on Carlos Boozer most likely), Sacramento, Memphis, and Portland. And,
it's thought that Turkoglu will likely be seeking a deal that will pay
him a starting salary of about 10 million per season. Do some simple
math there and you see that the Blazers are right on the edge of being
in that battle.
In my opinion, the Blazers
will likely be outbid in this sweepstakes, but that doesn't mean they
couldn't still land him. Turkoglu will want to go to a contender, and
of that short list, only Portland fits the bill. He'll want a clear-cut
starting role, something he could have in Portland. And, like all
players, he wants to part of a winning environment, play in a great
atmosphere, and live in a great city.
the question for you. Is this the guy? Am I correct in feeling that he
is on the top of your wish list? If he's not, who is?