Kassandra

Jul 01

   
It's that time of year again; the time when leaves dance in the summer breeze, when kids are playing kickball in the street and when NBA teams are consumed in the race to sign free agents.

July 1 is the first day when teams can speak to free agents -- restricted and unrestricted. They can sell players, attempt to entice players, negotiate with players and even come to verbal agreements with players. No contract signings can occur until 12:01 a.m. July 11 eastern time (or, 9:01 p.m. July 10 pacific time).

The big news this morning is that Blazers General Manager Neil Olshey and President Larry Miller have met with Indiana center Roy Hibbert and have come to a verbal arrangement for a maximum contract (reported to be $58.4 million over four years). With Hibbert being a restricted free agent, once he were to sign Portland's offer, the Pacers have three days to match it. If they choose to do so, they would retain Hibbert.

Think of it as the Pacers being in the same situation as the Blazers when it comes to Nicolas Batum. Given that, it might be a good time to review and analyze the potential situations of Portland's current free agents and the likelihood of them being retained by the team, beginning with the frenchman.

Nicolas Batum (restricted) -- Several moves could be determined by whether the Blazers sign Nicolas, especially for the price for which he would be signed. Sources say Minnesota has already offered him a reported $50 million over four years. Nicolas is reportedly going to meet with the Timberwolves this week. Olshey has stated Nicolas is one of the main building blocks for the team. While the Minnesota offer is somewhat toxic, it's my feeling that if Nicolas signs it, the Blazers will match it. Timing could be the most important key to that, however, as re-signing him after signing its other free agents targets will prevent the Blazers from going over the salary cap, according to the league's collective bargaining agreement.

Jamal Crawford (undrestricted) -- Jamal could have exercised his player option for the second and final season on his contract, yet decided against it. It was an up-and-down season for Jamal and there were certainly some highlights. On the other hand, there were some lowlights as well. He never really seemed to fit in with the core of what the Blazers were trying to do. Under previous head coach Nate McMillan, it almost seemed as if he was playing an obligatory number of minutes based on his previous status in the league -- even when he was having a poor shooting game. He shot .927 from the line last season, but he was a defensive liability. I don't think the Blazers have much interest in bringing him back. Most fans seem to not have a problem with that.

Raymond Felton (unrestricted) -- Do we even need to answer this one? He was brought in to give us solid, quality and consistent play at point guard. It never happened. He had a handful of memorable games, but that's it. It seems to the fans that he was never fully recognized as the team's floor general; so much so that he was taken out of the starting lineup for several games toward the middle of the season. There were also reports he was disruptive in the locker room. Whether those reports are true and the degree of which if they are, Raymond underachieved in what will be his only season in Portland. Calling for fans to come confront him at his apartment in the Pearl District didn't help endear him to them either. Even had the Blazers not selected a point guard with the sixth pick in the draft (Damian Lillard), Raymond will be playing in another jersey this season. That seems to be just find with all in the BlazerNation.

Jonny Flynn (unrestricted) -- The backup point guard acquired from Houston on trade deadline day probably didn't have a whole lot of time nor opportunity to fully show what he can do, but there are many fans in his corner. He played 18 games, averaging 5.2 points and 3.8 assists in 15.6 minutes of action (including one start). Jonny was a bit inconsistent and he's defense fell short on several occasions. That being said, he possesses a terrific work ethic and exemplary character. My gut feeling is that Jonny is unlikely to return unless the team fails to bring in a veteran at the point to mentor Damian. In that event, and if he hasn't been signed, Portland could look at Jonny to fill the roster. It should be noted that a some teams are said to be interested in Jonny, including the Cavaliers and Lakers.

J.J. Hickson

J.J. Hickson (restricted) -- Many fans want to see J.J. back in a Blazer uniform -- and why not? He's never averaged more minutes, points and blocks per game than at any other point in his career than in his 19 games (10 starts). He was able to team up with LaMarcus, then step up admirably when LaMarcus sat out the final 10 games of the season. He was literally a highlight film for the Blazers during those final 10 games. Portland did not extend a qualifying offer to J.J., but that doesn't mean he can't be signed later on in free agency. My feeling is that the team would like to re-sign him, but has higher priorities in re-signing Nicolas and landing a big-name free agent (i.e. Hibbert) or two.

Joel Pryzbilla (unrestricted) -- If there is a Blazer fan who does not personally like Joel, I haven't met them. Joel's contributions to the Blazers usually don't show up on the stat sheet. His experience is invaluable, he's vocal, a wonderful leader and great teammate. On the court, he's an exceptional defender and few big men set a better pick than he does. He would be an excellent mentor for eleventh pick Meyers Leonard and could probably be signed for the veteran's minimum. All reports say he would like to return to Portland. Given a full training camp, we very well could see the Joel of a few years ago, prior to his leg injuries. The decision to re-sign Joel might just be highly contingent on the outcome of the offer to Hibbert. If somehow the Pacers don't match the Blazers offer and Hibbert comes to the Rose City, it's unlikely Joel would want to sign if it would mean he would be the third-string center.

Craig Smith (unrestricted) -- Few players have become favorites with fans more quickly than Craig. The "Rhino" made an immediate impact with fans with his banger mentality, gregariousness and even referring to himself in the third person on twitter and in interviews. When he started getting minutes, the BlazerNation was impressed and confident we'd found an effective backup for LaMarcus. Then, for some unexplained reason, his minutes were cut. Personally, I couldn't tell if he'd done something to upset McMillan. After all, we had a guy getting it done. After the coaching change, Craig began to get some minutes for a few games. Once again, however, his minutes were cut as the team began looking at other players. Craig could be a valuable guy, but my feeling is that if the team was looking at other players over the last several games last season, they weren't looking at Craig. I believe the Rhino has played his last game as a Blazer.

Hasheem Thabeet (unrestricted) -- Yes, he's underachieved over the first three years of his career. However, he's the tallest active player in the league and did some nice things on the defensive end in the limited time he spent with the Blazers last year (15 games, three starts). Hasheem is not going to light it up night after night, but he could be a serviceable backup at center, or perhaps as an insurance policy should the other centers become injured. He could also be an asset if the Blazers wanted to feature a taller lineup. Likely it would only take the veteran's minimum to sign him. Hasheem probably has not been in a situation in his career where he could properly improve his abilities. Portland could possibly serve his purposes there. Re-signing Hasheem could also be contingent on what happens with the effort to bring Hibbert here. I would almost call it a longshot that he is re-signed; It has been reported today that Oklahoma City has interest in signing Hasheem, as well as Dallas.

Hasheem Thabeet

As it stands now, the Blazers have seven players under contract: LaMarcus, Wesley Matthews, Elliot Williams, Luke Babbitt, Kurt Thomas, Nolan Smith and Shawne Williams. The latter has submitted his papers to the NBA to exercise his player option for next year. Next year's roster could also include some familiar, yet new names in Joel Freeland and Victor Claver, who were previously drafted by the team and who have been playing in Europe the past few years. Additionally, last year's second round pick, sharpshooter Jon Diebler, reportedly will be in training camp after spending last season playing in Greece.

The Blazers could sign any of these players, none of them or any combination of them. There's also the possibility of a sign-and-trade involving one or more of them. As we in the BlazerNation are well aware of, the Blazers have a seemingly endless list of options this off-season.

~ KMM

In Kassandra's Words features blogs throughout the year. Comments and questions are welcome and encouraged. Seasons begin and end; players come and go; our Blazers are forever. Please follow on twitter: @PDXKass
     

10 Comments

  1. since i was on twitter adn u pimped out your lbog a few times i figured id look, my issue withsome of the news aroudn th league is its all centers attacks roy and asik im nto happy if hibbert comes to blazers if pacers lose him, id prefer blazers to rebuild then waste all that money on a summer frenzy idk too early to judge but this sounds liek a blood bath asik roy batum sounds liek a alot of toxic offers to me

    by jamie (guy) on 7/1/2012 6:41 PM
  2. stupid thing sorry didnt say my comment published and nwo i cant delte them

    by jamie (guy) on 7/1/2012 6:43 PM
  3. i took care of the other comments. i was having issues commenting on some other blogs earlier. i would absolutely welcome Hibbert to portland. he's a game changer and, in my opinion, one of the two best centers in the league and only getting better (he's much more consistent than Bynum). even if we get him, we still have some dollars to throw around for another player. i'll tell you, Hibbert is worth it. hopefully the pacers don't match our offer.

    ~ KMM

    by Kassandra on 7/1/2012 6:49 PM
  4. what pisses me off as you knwo im a pacer fan but last year everyone sayign pacers didnt deserve to be in the playoffs last year becuz there record was not a winnning one, and those same ppl now want half the team for the blazers, im loyal to both teasm so pacers stay pacers adn blazers figure your own stuff out, bird built that team from scratch blazers turn, they said they got there point great get batum get asik since hes cheaper which means fighting houston and bulls get a wing player to back up nic and goran and with the rest hickson and fill the roster subpar cheap talent, blazer fans might hate it but but u aint a fan if you cant take the beating, it was hard watchign the last few gaems of the season but i watched them and moved on when they lost

    by jamie (guy) on 7/1/2012 7:01 PM
  5. what are you talking about? the pacers were 42-24 and the third seed in the east. they definitely deserved to be there. i know Collison's name has been mentioned around here, but the only player i'd really want is Hibbert. like i said, he's a game changer. Asik has already agreed with houston on a new deal. at this point, that avenue to us is pretty much a dead end. Luke is Nic's backup, and Shawne Williams is under contract now as well. also, Victor Claver might be coming over and he can back up Nicolas. as far as talent is concerned, we should be just fine. these things just make us stronger.

    ~ KMM

    by Kassandra on 7/1/2012 7:18 PM
  6. Nice blog Kass. I personally think we'll be saying good bye to a vast majority of our Free Agents. I was talking with you earlier about how I think this team needs to build around the picks and LaMarcus and be done with Batum and Wesley. If we signed Batum and Wesley, that'd leave us little room for a bench, but would give us a decent starting lineup. Honestly, if we had Aldridge, Batum, Hibbert, and Lillard as our starting lineup, the only weak spot is with Wesley, who gets $34. We either need to say good bye to Batum or Wesley, I don't think we can keep both if we seriously want to compete. We're already paying Aldridge max, will be paying Hibbert max, and eventually, especially if they're good, our draft picks will want those big contracts. We can't afford to be overpaying Batum and Mathews when we could live with getting a bit weaker in those positions but having the extra depth to make up for it. With that lineup, Batum and Mathews would likely be the 4th and 5th options. Paying $84 for that, especially when they're not great at producing, is doom.

    I wouldn't be surprised to see Batum go. Teams are heavily interested in him and we're either overpaying him or we're letting him go. The safe bet would likely to let him go. I expect Wesley to be traded eventually as well, unless he vastly improves. He needs to, or else he's gone. Lillard is a scorer. Aldridge is a scorer, and Hibbert has averaged around 13pts per game. That leaves little room for Mathews.

    Will be interesting to see what happens on July 11th.

    by Herr on 7/2/2012 7:47 AM
  7. Kasey, I hope this makes you understand why you are my number one source for all things Blazers. I think we will sign one or two of these guys and I hope Pryzbilla is one of them. He brings so much heart and inspiration to the team that I would hate to see him go. I hated when he was traded the season before the last. In my opinion Pryzbilla is Mr. Blazer. If We sign Hibbert or do not sign Hibbert I think we will still try to sign Batum. I like Thabeet but I do not think he will be back especially if some other teams want to sign him and please no Felton or Crawford! I would not mind if guys like Smith and Flynn came back but like you wrote and told me over the weekend it does not look like it will happen. Signing Hickson would be great since he played well for us last season. Thanks for clearing up the free agents. Your blogs rock!

    by Angi on 7/2/2012 9:17 AM
  8. @Herr: i know what you're saying. i still think Nicolas brings too much to the blazers to ignore. Wesley ... well, frankly, he's underachieved to what we need. with last year's shortened season and all, i thought Wesley had the opportunity to be the most consistent, active player on the roster. that was far from being the case. he would be all right as a backup at half his price, or if he were designed to be the fourth or fifth option. i don't dislike him personally, but there's got to be a better option for us at the 2. right now at that position it would be Wesley, Elliot and Will. that's not even to factor in factor in Diebler, who we basically have stashed away. i see both of these guys staying if we don't sign Hibbert. right now, that seems to be the key to everything at this point. the question is, who would replace Wesley and/or Nicolas if one or both moved on. This almost is going to seem like a wild idea, but if we have LaMarcus and Hibbert up front, and we lose Nicolas, Luke might be able to step in. we probably wouldn't need him to crash the boards any more than he already does. while his defense isn't the strongest part of his game, it's getting better and we know he can knock down the jumper when he gets consistent minutes. If we lost Nicolas and were unable to draw another piece to replace him, we've got Luke, possible Victor Claver and still have Shawne Williams. that's not the strongest tandem at sf on paper, but it's an interesting prospect i agree we need some depth. hopefully Meyers and Joel Freeland can provide that up front. i'm not too worried about pg depth. Nolan will only get better as a backup and i imagine Lillard will start opening night. if we're going to be apast-paced team, which it seems we want to be, then Elliot would be a great guy to have flying down the court as a starting sg. i really think that's where we're headed eventually, so why not make that change now when we're still building rather than later when we're really serious about making our playoff runs.

    ~ KMM

    by Kassandra on 7/2/2012 11:51 AM
  9. @Angi: you already knew half the blog after looking over my shoulder as i was writing parts of it, but i'm glad you added your take on what we may or may not do on the free agency market. i fully expect to see a couple of additions of guys who did not play for us last season. most likely, other than Hibbert, it would be guys at sg or sf -- or perhaps a veteran pg to show Damian the ropes. i'm like you; i do expect to see one or two of these guys back on the roster next year (no, not Felton or Crawford!). then again, we should be aware that other teams are already talking to some of our guys, so we may not have the chance to keep any of them. in fact, the only two players on this list i've not heard mentioned in free agency so far are the Rhino and Felton. it's ironic, but depending how things go, Craig might just end up a blazer next season. as far as i'm soncerned, Felton can be reduced to dribbling off his legs out of bounds in pick up games in the pearl district (though i'd prefer him move to another city). we'll know quite a bit more in about 12-1/2 days! again, thanks for commenting, my AnGela!

    ~ KMM

    by Kassandra on 7/2/2012 11:59 AM
  10. Great post Kassandra. That's kinda sad if Rhino doesn't stay, but yeah, I think he deserves minutes, so if he can't get them here, then I wish him well. Yeah, definitely ok with Felton leaving. Funny though, I commented on a Lillard video that was circulating on draft day, showing his highlights and I commented after we chose him, that I this meant Felton was gone and another Blazer fan said he questioned that sentiment. He thought Felton was almost a sure thing to return. Guess he hasn't talked to most of us!

    Should be an interesting few days until the moratorium is lifted, if not earlier!

    by Anees on 7/2/2012 7:50 PM
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