Roland Tran's Blog

Roland

Feb 04

Not the way we intended

By Roland
Prior to the 2010-2011 season, the Portland Trailblazers were a team with a balance of youth, athleticism, size, depth and expiring contracts coming off back to back 50 win years. Fast forward to 2011 and 50 games into the regular season, the Trailblazers are 0.5 games behind 8th place in the Western Conference. While it is understandable how the Blazers have reached this point - mainly injuries to Brandon Roy/Greg Oden; poor 3 pt shooting and the lack of credible backup pg and sf, one can't help it but opine why this Blazer team can't repeat w/ 50 wins like the Blazer teams last and two season's ago. The answer is simple, this isn't the Blazer team of last season or two seasons ago. The buck can attributed to higher level personnel - coaches and general manager.

Before the '10-11 season opener the Blazers traded Martell Webster for Luke Babbit (#16th pick) and Ryan Gomes (Gomes would be waived shortly after), the termination of GM Kevin Pritchard shortly replaced by Rich Cho, and the trade of Bayless to NO for a future conditional first round pick (protected through the first 7 selection). As is, it's not a stretch to say that on this day of February 2011, things have not gone the way the Blazers intended. In order to move on and embrace the future, one must acknowledge the past and to do so the Blazers must examine, understand and take the proactive actions to ensure that misguided decisions don't become a recurring theme. Put simply, the Blazers must learn from the lessons of past mistakes. 

Martell Webster was traded for the #16th pick Luke Babbit, a sharp shooter from Nevada, and Ryan Gomes, who would later be waived. Babbit was expected to make an immediate contribution to the team as a solid shooter (40% from 3pt, 50% for 2s and 90% from ft) and a player who can play the 3 and 4. Since his draft, Babbit has played insignificant minutes and has spent a stint in the NBADL. Meanwhile Webster, who plays the 2 and 3 for Min, is averaging 10.6 ppg and 3.2 rpg in 24 min of play; similar numbers he was posting for Portland. The lost of Webster leaves the Blazers lacking another shooter, athlete and wing defender - shooting and guard defense being current shortcomings of this year's team.  Suffice it to say, things have not gone the way the Blazers intended trading away Webster.

The deal involving Jerryd Bayless to NO for a future 1st round pick was to make way for Armon Johnson, the thought to be pg of the future, who impressed head coach Nate Mcmillan and his staff in camp and the preseason games. Bayless was later dealt from NO to TOR in part of Stojakovic's salary dump. After a promising start, Johnson has regressed and is currently in the D-league. The lost of Bayless (a 2008 #11th pick) leaves the Blazers devoid of a scorer who can run the point. With the teams propensity for injury - the Blazers certainly can use Bayless's ability to create his own shot and for others. 

The underlining lesson in the deals Portland made leading to the exodus of Webster and Bayless is that of wishful thinking (betting on the potential of Babbit and Johnson) at the cost of depth, stability and versatility. Let's first examine the cost. While no one can prognostic the rash of injuries to Brandon Roy and Greg Oden; one can prepare for them. Having Marcus Camby and Joel Pryzbilla account for GO. And of course Webster and Bayless would account for B Roy. Unlike Camby and Pryzbilla who mainly play the 5, Bayless and Webster (both with at least 3 yrs of quality experience) play the 1, 2 and 3 respectively. In addition both are still young and have plenty of potential. 

Now onto the rationale behind such moves starting with the deal involving Webster. #16 pick Luke Babbit was thought to come in and make an immediate impact as he is a solid shooter who can play both the 3 and 4, according to coach Nate. Two major red flags were overlooked when making this decision. First is the glaring and obvious lack of athleticism and defense. Second was that Babbit plays in a weak conference so his collegiate performance has to be seen as overrated. When was the last time an unheralded college player from a weak conference enter the NBA and made an immediate impact. Even if Babbit was a diamond in the rough, it would take at least years before he developed into his potential. 

Jerryd Bayless was traded to NO for a conditional first round pick and to make room for Armon Johnson. Johsnon got off to a good start and seem destined to be the Blazer's future starting pg. He ran into a stretch where he played lost and confused and never seemed to recover relegating him to a permanent seat on the bench and eventually the D-league. Although Patty Mills, Johnson's replacement, has performed satisfactory, he lacks defense and is hardly any teams premier choice as a backup pg. The managerial failure of placing such high hopes on rookie Armon Johnson rests w/ the coaching staff and GM Rich Cho's hyper value and assessment of preseason games. The best solution would have been to let Armon develop and compete with Bayless as the backup pg. Should any scenario occur during the season - Roy staying healthy, Bayless not fitting in or Armon playing superb; then that would be the optimal time to make a deal involving Bayless. Chances are the Blazers would have gotten more in return if not the same (the way NO is playing that pick will be in the late 1st round at best). Bottom line, sending Bayless off prior to the start of the season was just way too premature and leaves the Blazers w/ less not more options, a poor decision on behalf of Rich Cho.  

All in all the decisions leading up to this year by the Blazers have been poor to average at best. The draft being a disappointment would be an understatement Mr. Allen would even admit (E Williams, A Johnson and L Babbit). Rich Cho's first on the job decision, a major one at that, would also be a disappointment - an understatement Mr. Cho would even admit. However at the end of darkness is an inevitable light either through high drafts via extreme inferiority or quick corrective action from lessons learned. Three expiring contracts and deep pockets of Mr. Allen translate to the Blazers procuring players and draft picks in fashion that allows them to rebuild and contend provided the right action is taken. If so this team will be ever so malleable and ultra competitive in a league that is evolving day by day - making them Trailblazers indeed!

Next Story: Getting equal value

6 Comments

  1. i have to disagree with the reasoning behind the Bayless trade. we had three sg's other than Bayless, all of whom can play the point (Brandon, Rudy and Wesley). yes, it was expected that they would Brandon would be healthy, which turned out not to be the case. Bayless is not a true pg, which portland wanted. we drafted Armon, and had Patty in camp. we were logjammed at both guard positions (not to mention sf). Bayless was more traded to lighten the position and make it available to sign a big man, which we were in need of until the projected returns of Greg and Joel.

    by Kassandra on 2/5/2011 11:26 AM
  2. I agree wit you that there was a logjam at the 2 guard position and that Bayless is not a true pg however the same can be said of Brandon, Rudy and Wes. While Rudy and Brandon have played the point in the past, Bayless had the most recent experience at it on a daily basis. Patty was expected to be released after camp but the surprising play of Armon and Bayless rift w/ coach Nate's system led to his exit and thus the deal. In Bayless you have a guard that can create offense (1 on 1) for himself and others. We don't have that with Rudy and Wesley.

    I completely disagree with your other analyses of our sf availability. We are scarce at this position. Wes is undersize at sf and outside of Nic we have no one else. The injuries to Oden and slow return of Joel and recent ailment to Camby are just beyond belief. I doubt that Bayless's exit had anything to do w/ conceived plans to bring in another big which should have been considered. It was more just to free up room for Armon and get a high pick with neither coming to fruition.

    by Roland on 2/5/2011 2:55 PM
  3. What are your basing your "Babbit was expected to make an immediate contribution" opinion on?

    by sarahhecht on 2/5/2011 8:57 PM
  4. Coach Nate said this post draft. I'm paraphrasing but it was something like this: Babbit we feel is a guy that can make an immediate impact. He brings the same kind of things Martell brought offensively in addition he can also slide to the 4. He needs to work on his D though.

    by Roland on 2/5/2011 9:42 PM
  5. under ideal circumstances, which we had planned to have at this point in the season, we would have Dante' backing up Nicolas, with Luke serving as the third sf. Dante's true nba position is sf, not pf or center, which he has been forced to play this season (and part of last). Wesley was expected to back up Brandon and slide over to sf when we went small (Rudy is the same height as Wesley and he had done that for much of his first two seasons). by saying another big, i was talking about pf, not center. it's well known that we were looking for a back up for LaMarcus, in addition to Jeff. the point is, do you have any actual evidence that Jerryd was traded to make room for Armon, or is that your opinion?

    by Kassandra on 2/7/2011 4:58 PM
  6. Whoaaaaaa... and let me follow that up w/ whooooaaaaaaaaaa. Dante was drafted out of Villanova last year as a pf. He played ALL of last year as a pf. Dante is an undersized pick and pop pf. He was never (up until this point) or has ever been a sf or w/ the ability to play one ie he doesn't handle, he doesn't slash, he doesn't shoot from distance, doesn't drive, etc etc. Greg and Joel were due back by Dec meaning we would have had a surplus of bigs - Greg, Joel, Camby, Lamarcus, Dante and Pendergraph (at the time); 6 players for two spots. Dante would server occasional duties at the sf due to his quick lateral abilities on defense but on offense he was a demerit for he could not post up sf and could not stretch the court w/ his limited range.

    Inductive reasoning is my basis for the Bayless analysis meaning it is opinion based on facts or my interpretation of them. Bayless was the expected backup pg to Dre (prior to the season) due to his satisfactory play last season - specific observation. Armon impressed coaching staff in camp and preseason and the basketball rift between Bayless and Blazer coaches mounted - another specific observation. Bayless was sent away because the Blazer brass (GM and coaching staff) felt Armon could adequately perform as the backup pg to Dre - generalization. Had Armon not played well or at least outplayed Bayless during camp and/or preseason, the Bayless deal most likely doesn't transpire - another generalization.

    I'm not saying that Armon being the backup pg was the sole reason but it is a significant part of the reason. The other part was that the conditional 1st round pick from NO would be a high one (#9-#15). Since both of these expectations did not transpire, the Blazers must access the rationale for these decisions, understand and correct the fallacies in making these decisions so they don't reoccur.

    by Roland on 2/8/2011 5:35 PM
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