Evaluating Our Own Free Agents
By Kassandra Posted in: Blazers, Cavaliers, CraigSmith, damianlillard, ElliotWilliams, HasheemThabeet, JamalCrawford, JoelPrzybilla, JonnyFlynn, KurtThomas, Lakers, LaMarcusAldridge, LukeBabbitt, Mavericks, meyersleonard, NicolasBatum, NolanSmith, Pacers, RaymondFelton, royhibbert, Thunder, Timberwolves, WesleyMatthews
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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
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.
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