The Portland Trail Blazers wasted no time in revealing their plans for the free agency period of 2012, offering a max contract worth a reported $58 million to Roy Hibbert on July 1st. It seemed like the right move for team that both needed a center and had a lot of money to commit to a couple of good young players this summer.
Unfortunately, though not unexpectedly, the Indiana Pacers will reportedly match that offer to Hibbert, meaning the young all-star center will likely be staying in Indiana for the next four seasons.
It isn't the first time the Blazers have swung and missed on a big prize like Hibbert. A couple seasons ago they tried the same tactic with Paul Millsap of the Utah Jazz only to have the Jazz match Portland's offer.
While Blazers fans should be disappointed to not get to see Hibbert in the starting lineup next season, it's reasonable to wonder how much worse off the team is, if at all, by having Indiana match the offer.
There are a couple intriguing points that come to mind with the roster that is already assembled.
It's already been stated that LaMarcus Aldridge doesn't really want to play center full time, but what if the Blazers start him at power forward but then move him to center depending on match ups or in close games?
We saw how effective it was for the Miami Heat to play Chris Bosh at center in the NBA Finals this year, and Aldridge seems to have a similar effect for the Blazers.
In addition, lets not forget that the Blazers drafted Meyers Leonard, a center out of Illinois, with pick No. 11 in this years draft. Presumably, the didn't make the pick just to grab their long-term backup center.
I haven't heard anything for sure one way or the other, but it seems reasonable that Leonard was the insurance pick for the Blazers this year. Draft him and then go for Hibbert, but if that doesn't pan out, you still have a guy with a reasonable chance at being a long-term starter in the NBA.
There really aren't any other centers for the Blazers to go after this summer in free agency, and next summer's crop doesn't really look too promising either. Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum are the big unrestricted names, but after that there are just a bunch of average guys.
So, barring any trades, it looks like the Blazers will just have to stand pat with what they have for now. But that might not be such a bad thing. I'm predicting that things will work themselves out for this team if management will continue to exercise patience in building a team the right way.
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