Jun 03

Who's on Your Wish List?

By mikebarrett Posted in: Blazers, TravisOutlaw, SteveBlake

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.

This 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.

In other 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?

The 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.

Now, 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.

I 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.

If 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.

Now, 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 this year.

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.

Orlando 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.

The 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).

Concerning 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.

Now, 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?


  1. Actually, believe it or not, he isn't. The top of my wish list is Steve Nash. He wants out of Phoenix (depending on the day), they want to go a different direction, he is a running PG, great at getting to the basket and a great passer. The only weakness is he is a defensive liability, but Portland has a strong defensive post. I think Portland could get him for a fairly good price since he only has a couple years left as a great PG in the league. I also think you have the core here in Portland that would be willing to do what it takes to get him and win in the post season.

    by RipCityRevival on 6/4/2009 1:28 PM
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